Late May is the time of year when a garden begins to get a personality. A few weeks ago, we had only a few tiny little plants popping up above the dirt, and now we have full rows of plants and enough weeds to keep us busy for the remainder of the summer. Not busy in the fun way, either; late May is also when we remember how much work gardening can be.
While the weeds are the most obvious issue with our garden right now, they’re not the only problem, and they aren’t the most harmful. Cosmetically, they’re kind of an eyesore, but they haven’t choked out any plants and they aren’t numerous enough to pull a significant amount of nutrients from the soil. We’ve lost a few plants to crows (though we’re taking measures to prevent more damage from birds), but even that isn’t our biggest problem. Right now, the biggest problem we’re facing is insect damage.
I’ve talked about pollinators often enough that you guys know how I feel about them. Neonicitnoid pesticides aren’t even an option for us; anything that kills damaging pests could also kill our honeybees. Still, we have to do something. Our beans are already damaged and I don’t want the trauma to spread to any other plants, so we’ve decided to turn to an old, trusted method of organic pest-deterrent: homemade garden bug spray made from hot peppers!
Hot pepper spray is available in stores, but it’s expensive. Especially considering that it has to be reapplied frequently, the price of commercial hot pepper sprays can be prohibitively high. When my husband informed me that we needed to do something about the bugs in our garden and that we’d run out of the hot pepper spray we used last year, I decided to see what I could come up with myself. After lots of research and poking around, I came up with this:
Homemade Hot Pepper Garden Bug Spray
- gloves (like these)
- mask/dish towel (a mask like this works)
- goggles (something similar to this)
- five gallon bucket (found at hardware stores or online here)
- food processor (find a great one here)
- cheese cloth (find it here)
- garden sprayer (like this)
- 2 cups hot peppers, chopped (I used habaneros)
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 head of garlic
- 3 tbsp dish soap
- 4 gallons water
First, let me make it very clear that you need gloves for this project!
How do I know this? Because I didn’t use gloves and I now consider that to be one of the most terrible decisions I’ve ever made. I don’t eat much spicy food and have next to no experience with hot peppers, so I vastly underestimated the burn of these little plants. My fingertips were still sore two days later, and let’s not even discuss the whole putting-in-my-contacts incident. (It was bad. I wore glasses for a long time after that.) Just take my word for it and wear the gloves, okay? Also, consider goggles and some kind of mask. I clipped a dish towel over my face, so it doesn’t have to be fancy, but this stuff will absolutely irritate your throat if you don’t protect yourself.
Having warned you fairly, I feel okay to give you the rest of the instructions:
- First, chop up your peppers and measure the two cups of them. Don’t worry about getting them finely chopped, but make sure that they’re small enough that you can get an accurate measurement.
- When they’ve been cut up, put them in the food processor with the garlic cloves (a whole bulb’s worth) and cayenne pepper and puree them. Add water as necessary to keep the food processor working properly.
- When you’ve finished pureeing them, put them in a five gallon bucket and pour four gallons of water over them. Cover the bucket up and let the concoction sit for about 24 hours.
- Strain out the hot peppers (it works best to pour the liquid into another five gallon bucket and catch the peppers in cheesecloth or a very small strainer) and add in the three tablespoons of dish soap. This might seem like a strange addition, but soap will help the spray spread out over and stick to the plant leaves.
- Once you have everything mixed and all of the pepper chunks out, pour the hot pepper spray into your garden sprayer. If you don’t have a garden sprayer, keep it stored in your bucket and pour it into a spray bottle as you need it.
You’ll need to coat your plants with this well, and make sure to re-apply every few days. Twice a week is ideal. Make sure you aren’t applying in the heat of the day, though–hot pepper spray is best applied in the evenings.
IMPORTANT: Do not to put the spray on edible parts of produce. You do not want this strong spray on your yummy garden food.
Note: This pepper spray will not hurt birds if they are nibbling at your sprayed plants. Birds cannot sense capsaicin, and will often eat hot peppers and seeds.
Hot pepper spray is a proven, natural pest deterrent for the garden. If this is a product you’ve used for years, it’s worth trying to make your own. It’s inexpensive, simple to do, and it doesn’t take long. I plan to keep our homemade hot pepper spray around for the rest of the summer, and I’ll definitely make more next year.
Do you think you’ll try out this recipe?
If you have other all-natural insect deterrents share them below.