Simple Soap Sprays Work!

Simple Soap Sprays Work!
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In the 1990's a study was done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture using simple soap spray. They took sunflower and safflower oil--use either one--and mixed one cup of the oil with one to two tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap-- I've always heard Ivory was the best to use--and then mixed in one cup water. Place this in a spray bottle and finely mist the bigger seedlings and transplants. It's amazing that this simple spray reduced the amount of pests so effectively! It helped with whiteflies, aphids and spidermites. They did find that the spray damaged squash, cauliflower and red cabbage plants-so stay away from those. Also, it should be reapplied in about 2 weeks.

I have been using the oil/soap/water sprays for years. Our aphids are really a problem here in the desert southwest in the spring and again in the fall. To be really effective we have to use the spray every 5 days (3 times in total) to interrupt the egg cycle (for egg baring aphids - we get a particularly pesky one that bares live and can crown a plant in 2 days if you don't catch it). The first spray catches the adults, the 2 the new hatchlings (cause the spray does not damage the eggs usually), and the 3 one catches any leftovers.

I like to use Dawn (I figure if it was good and safe enough for the Exxon Valdez birds it is okay for my garden). You have to keep shaking it to keep it mixed, getting the undersides of the leaves. I try to be careful and not hit any beneficial insects because it can kill them too. Our sun is so intense with the oil and water droplets causing sunburn, I recommend that the plants not be sprayed until twilight or at least wait until the sun is off the plants in late afternoon.

The good news this year is although the pesky bug population is up, so are the ladybugs in gardens where no one has used chemical sprays. New-to-organic gardens occasionally have problems understanding that the ladybugs and fellow beneficials need something to munch on to draw them to your garden.

Catherine uses 1 teaspoon each vegetable oil and Dawn dish soap to one quart of water, or 1 tbsp. each of the vegetable oil and Dawn dish soap to a gallon of water. Visit her website here.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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