Monday, February 12, 2018

Using Insecticidal Soap in Home Gardens

Home gardeners are always on the lookout for ways to control garden pests like spider mites and aphids that are both inexpensive and non-toxic – the “holy grail” of garden pest control. Often, folks turn to home brew recipes that either don’t work or in some cases actually injure the very plants they are trying to treat.

The good news is that there are a few commercial products that satisfy the criteria of inexpensive and non-toxic, AND, actually work, for these important garden pests. The very first tool in this category (cheap & non-toxic) that every gardener should have is a fresh container of Insecticidal Soap concentrate. The “fresh” part is very important as we’ll see below.

Insecticidal Soap is a highly refined liquid soap that is generally diluted to 1-2% just prior to use. It should be applied with a small hand-pump sprayer. It is very effective against a variety of garden pests (see the product label for a complete list) but especially soft-bodied, early-season pests like aphids and spider mites.

Insecticidal Soap is NOT the same as dish soap! Dish or laundry soap can kill delicate garden plants. Also be warned that stale, old Insecticidal Soap can be toxic to garden plants so be sure to use only fresh concentrate to mix up your solution. To ensure fresh concentrate I generally purchase a new container every spring and discard unused concentrate in the fall. Leftover concentrate can be used as a regular soap to clean the greenhouse, outdoor furniture, and so forth.

Insecticidal Soap is no more toxic than ordinary liquid soap, is relatively inexpensive, at least compared to other garden insecticides, and works. Just be sure to follow label instructions and DON’T use old concentrate!

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