A Journey to Zero Waste Living

Bugs Be Gone!
Low Waste Recipe for Warding Off Garden Pests

Above: My basil plant started to flourish after spraying it with my homemade pest repellent.



Next month, I am moving from a house in the suburbs with a spacious yard to a small apartment in the city with a cute little balcony. Because my move falls right in the middle of gardening season, I decided not to plant outdoors this year. In July, I will use my new balcony to grow some plants in pots. But I really miss the abundance of tomatoes and cucumbers and herbs that constantly covered my kitchen counters. Growing my own food has been one of the most exciting, frustrating, and rewarding hobbies I have taken up since switching to a zero waste lifestyle.

In my first year as a gardener (2017), I was somehow able to rescue my plants from transplant shock, soil nutrient deficiency, severe winds… But the biggest, most frustrating issue I had was bugs: aphids, beetles, and slugs were nibbling on the leaves of every plant. I posted in an online forum to ask for help on how to deter pests naturally. A few gardening gurus and a friendly organic farmer helped me save all my plants except one–my green pepper plant couldn’t be saved. R.I.P.

Even though I am not gardening yet this year, I know many of you are growing your own food outside. And I know many of you are battling bugs like I did. Try this recipe and be amazed! Not only did it deter the harmful bugs but it also kept away the squirrels, rabbits, and deer. I didn’t put up any fencing because the spray was enough to keep out all the critters, big and small. From my research, the smell of the essential oils is what deters animals like squirrels or rabbits. Mind you, I live in the suburbs outside of a large city, so I can’t guarantee this will work if you live in the country or a forest. 😉

The best part about this spray is that it’s safe for you and your family and it won’t harm or contaminate your food. It will kill some of the small bugs that are causing trouble and safety deter larger animals. But insects like bees–which are essential for pollination!–won’t be harmed or disappear from your garden. My adorable, 80-something year old neighbors, Al and Linda, always said, “Beware of the squirrels!” Looks like I outsmarted the squirrels.


Above: My janky spray bottle, made with supplies I had at home.


Garden Pest Repellent

I call this recipe ‘low waste’ because not everyone can get castile or dish soap in bulk (package free), so there will be a plastic bottle to recycle. And essential oil bottles are difficult to recycle despite being glass.



  • 32oz / 1 liter bottle with spray cap
  • 1/4 cup castile soap or dish soap (unscented soap or a soap scented with pure oils: lavender, tea tree, peppermint, or orange)
  • 20 drops wild orange essential oil
  • 20 drops peppermint essential oil
  • Water (enough to fill bottle)



  1. Fill the spray bottle 3/4 full with fresh water.
  2. Add soap and essential oils.
  3. Shake well to combine.
  4. Fill any space left in the bottle with water and shake again.
  5. Before spraying, trim off any dead portions of the plant.
  6. Shake bottle and lightly spray both sides of the leaves, around the base of each plant, and around the perimeter of your garden. Don’t spray directly on the developing fruit/ vegetable.
  7. Spray plants 2 – 3 times over the course of 2 weeks (Keep an eye on the plants and don’t overdo it. I sprayed too much on the third spray and leaves started to brown.)
  8. Leave 3-4 days between each of the first two-three sprays.
  9. After initial treatment of 2-3 sprays, wait 3-4 weeks. Then spray plants and garden perimeter as needed (approximately once a month) or after a heavy rainfall.
  10. Store bottle with repellent in a dark cabinet when not in use.


P.S. This spray is great for killing ants. I sprayed it all over the kitchen last fall when I had an ant infestation, and it helped a lot.


Comment and let me know if this spray works for you!


Do you have other tricks for keeping bugs or critters out of the garden?


You can see in pic #2 that I didn’t have a spray bottle. I used a glass flip-top bottle. I stuck this old plastic nozzle (it came from an empty bottle of my housemate’s glass cleaner) into the flip-top bottle before each use. The nozzle piece didn’t screw onto the bottle, but this contraption got the job done.

I just finished a container of apple cider vinegar and this old plastic nozzle screws on perfectly! So now I do have fully functional, glass spray bottle and I didn’t spend an extra penny



2 comments so far.

2 responses to “Bugs Be Gone!
Low Waste Recipe for Warding Off Garden Pests”

  1. Polly says:

    I will definitely try this. Bugs haven’t been an issue yet, but those dang squirrels and rabbits are determined to hop the 2 foot fence I put up! Thanks for this!

    • janefrancescrosby says:

      Hey Polly! Definitely let me know if the spray works for you! Some other recommendations I got for warding off larger animals were 1. surrounding the perimeter of the garden with a sprinkling of ground cayenne pepper or hot pepper flakes, 2. using a spray of vinegar and peppermint oil around the perimeter of the garden (not on the plants), or 3. sprinkling fresh coffee ground around the base of your plants/ the perimeter of the garden. Squirrels don’t like the smell of peppermint or coffee, and the pepper will burn without harming them. You could also let Lunch Box be your garden guard, but maybe she’s an indoor cat? 🙂 If you want to bust out the big guns, I recommend looking up ‘Hot Pepper Tea for garden’! I didnt need to get that serious, but other gardeners swear by it. Good luck!

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