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Gardener shares their at-home concoction for a pest-free garden: 'Insecticide never feels safe enough to spray on my vegetables'

"I've done this for years and it works so good!"

"I've done this for years and it works so good!"

Photo Credit: TikTok

An affordable, home-made, chemical-free insecticide made with only three ingredients — and it actually works? Yes, please!

The scoop

TikTok gardener and educator Potted Gem (@potted_gem) posted a video of a recipe for a chili and garlic spray to keep pests away naturally.

First, she chopped up a cayenne pepper and several cloves of garlic, which she then minced in a food processor. After soaking the mixture in water for 24 hours, she strained it through a fine mesh sieve and bottled the resulting liquid. "Freeze the extra, [and] spray once a week," she wrote. Couldn't be easier!

@potted_gem Organic insecticide for your vegetable garden #growyourownfood #insecticide #organic #insects #growfood #pottedgem #garden #plants #howtogarden #pestcontrol #gardentips #organicgardening #mealybugs #aphids #gardenhack #kitchengarden #pepper #garlic ♬ Feeling Good - Michael Bublé

Potted Gem lists several species which can be treated and kept away using this spray, including aphids, mealybugs, mites, caterpillars, army worms, cutworms, beetles, slugs, mosquitoes, and flies.

"That probably helps with rodents too," one person wrote.

How it's helping

Several people wanted to know whether or not the chili spray would endanger their local pollinators. Capsaicin, the heat-causing compound in cayenne peppers, is indeed toxic to bees and other insect pollinators. So in order to protect the bees, somebody suggested a simple solution: "Just make sure to spray at night."

And fortunately, capsaicin is flavorless and harmless to most birds. In fact, many people like to mix some cayenne into their birdseed to keep squirrels out of their birdfeeders.

There are numerous other creative ways to keep your vegetable or herb garden free of both insects and pests. From using basil's naturally repellent scent to spraying neem oil, using physical barriers, and even attracting beneficial insects which naturally keep pests in check, the list is endless.

And maintaining a healthy garden isn't just good for pollinators and good for the plants – it's good for your health too. Using gardening to build a deeper connection to nature has been repeatedly shown to decrease stress and increase optimism. Additionally, skipping the dangerous chemical pesticides to opt for a home-made solution creates a safer environment for everybody. 

It's also good for your wallet – and the planet. Growing your own food helps to save money on produce, as well as reduce the demand for fruit and vegetables that are mass-produced, industrially farmed, and globally shipped — all of which have an environmental cost. In fact, up to 30% of the average household's carbon footprint comes from food. 

What everyone's saying

"I've done this for years and it works so good!" another commented. "Just don't spray into the wind," they joked.

Others were grateful to have a more food-safe solution to their pest problems. "Insecticide never feels safe enough to spray on my vegetables," one wrote. "I needed this."

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