Many home plant pest problems can be easily solved by using a little insecticidal soap. It is easy and inexpensive to mix up your own organic insect killer at home. You will be saving money on pesticides and won’t have to worry about dangerous chemicals on your food.

This recipe works best on soft-bodied pests like aphids, thrips, white flies and spider mites. These are among the most common garden pests. Insecticidal soaps kill insects by entering the pest’s respiratory system and breaking down internal cell membranes. It is only effective when it is wet, so aim well. After it is dry it will not harm your beneficial insects. For heavy insect infestations, it is best to spray your plants again in a few days.

Here’s a really simple recipe for insecticidal soap.

1 tablespoon of soap

2 cups water 

Mix thoroughly and add to spray bottle. Spray directly onto the insects on your plants. 

Be sure to check the label on your soap first. The key to this recipe is to use regular dish soap, not detergent or anything anti-bacterial. You can also use pure liquid castile soap. 

You can super-charge your organic insecticidal soap to make it stick to hard-bodied pests like fleas. It also damages the protective waxy coating on insects. Add either one tablespoon of mineral oil or a vegetable oil to your mixture. Sunflower or olive oil will work well, any vegetable-based oil will break down faster in your soil. Oil will help the mixture stay on these pests so the soap has a chance to begin working. But it will also stick to your ladybug beetles so be careful where you are aiming. 

Some plants (especially ferns) are sensitive to soaps. Do not use a soap mixture on ferns. New growth on plants may be too tender for soap, so apply sparingly art first. Plants under stress may have a bad reaction to any insecticide. Plants that are under stress from drought should be soaked with water the day before you treat them. You should always test your mixture first on just one leaf on your plant. If it is fine the next day, your solution should be OK to use. It is better not to spray your plants in the middle of the day. Full sun (especially on hairy plants) can turn the water droplets into little magnifying glasses which can burn the leaves.  

Many garden pests like to hide underneath the leaves of plants. For best results aim upwards and get under that foliage. Aim directly at those bugs. You may need to spray your organic pesticide again in a few days if you have a heavy infestation of pests.

Making your own insecticidal soap is a great way to save money on your landscaping budget and keep your vegetable garden organic at the same time. 

Laura Zinkan is a writer in California. She cultivates a gardening site at http://www.theGardenPages.com with plant profiles, growing tips about succulents and native plants. She also cooks up http://www.MomsRetro.com where you can find retro art and kitchen tips for busy cooks. 2009 by Laura Zinkan. Article may be reprinted if author credit is given with a website link. All rights reserved.