Essential oils in the garden
More and more gardeners and homeowners are turning to natural products when it comes to their gardening and landscaping needs. Chemicals found in weed killers, fertilizers and even potting soil can cause health problems. At this point I think everyone in the U.S. has heard about the roundup cancer lawsuit. It’s opened a lot of peoples eyes about the products they use. Limiting exposure to these chemicals and using them correctly when you do use them is important. Many people are limiting their exposure to them by finding more natural alternatives, like essential oils, when it comes to spraying things in the garden.
What can essential oils do in the garden?
- They can repel harmful insects and pests
- Fight fungus and bacteria
- Attract pollinators
- And even kill weeds.
I’m going to break down each of these uses and go over which oils are best for the job, but first I wanted to talk about application methods.
The most common way to apply essential oils in the garden is via a spray bottle. You should use a fine misting spray bottle made of glass or medical grade plastic. This is because some essential oils can eat away at plastics and leach the chemicals from the plastic into your essential oil mixture. Yuck. The size of the bottle you use will depend on what you are using it for and the frequency you will be using it. Below I have recipes that sight a 4 oz and a 16 oz bottle, but you can adjust the recipes to fit what spray bottle you have on hand.
Another application method is to add the oil(s) to cotton balls and place them where needed. This works well for oils you don’t want on your plants but need to keep pests away.
Finally there is the method of soaking a string or cloth strips in diluted essential oil and staking them near your plants. This also works well to keep pests away without the essential oil coming in contact with your plants.
Repelling harmful insects and pests
Below are some of the best oils to use against unwanted bugs. You can make a spray bottle using one or a few of the oils below or soak cotton balls or string/fabric strips in the mixture and setting them up around the garden. It’s best to dilute these oils especially if they are going to be sprayed on your plants. Dilute with water and if using in a spray bottle let the mixture sit for a few hours, and shake before each application.
- Ants- Peppermint, Spearmint, Cinnamon or Orange
- Aphids- Cedarwood, Peppermint or Spearmint
- Beetles- Peppermint or Thyme
- Caterpillars- Peppermint or Spearmint
- Cutworms- Thyme or Sage
- Fly’s (common fly, carrot fly, green fly etc..)- Oregano, Clove, Basil or Cinnamon
- Mosquitoes- Lavender, Lemongrass, Oregano, Clove, Basil
- Moths- Cedarwood, Lavender, Peppermint, Clove, Basil or Spearmint
- Plant Lice- Peppermint or Spearmint
- Slugs and Snails- Cedarwood or Cinnamon
- Spiders- Peppermint
- Ticks- Lavender, Lemongrass, Sage or Thyme
- Weevils- Cedarwood, Patchouli, or Sandalwood
Deterring bigger pests is possible with essential oils as well. The goal is to have the scent strong and along the fence line and entryways to help deter your bigger pests. The cotton ball or sting/cloth method of application will work well in this instance. Especially because you want the scent to be strong enough to deter them. You’ll want to use caution with high concentrations of essential so they don’t come in contact with your plants and possibly damage them.
- Cats- Citronella, Eucalyptus, Lemon.
- Deer- Peppermint, Lavender, Basil, Rosemary and Black pepper
- Dogs-Black pepper
- Rabbits- Peppermint, Lavender, Rosemary, Oregano, Tarragon, Marjoram and Lemon balm.
- Squirrels- Peppermint, Lemongrass, Thyme, Cinnamon, Clove.
Fighting Fungus and Bacteria
Fungus is the #1 cause of disease in plants. Common oils to use to combat Fungus and Bacteria are Peppermint, Tea Tree, Oregano, Basil and Cinnamon. Make a fungus suppressant spray by adding 25 drops total Tea Tree and/or other oils you choose to a 4 oz spray bottle and top off with water. Let the mixture sit for a few hours and shake before using. It’s best to use this mixture at night as sun exposure with the Tea Tree mixture may cause foliage to burn.
Basil essential oil also supports your plants general health so it’s a good one to add in whenever you’ll be spraying plants.
Butterflies, bees and other pollinators love the scent of certain essential oils. Making an attractant spay will help lure these guys to your garden and allow them to pollinate your other plants.
- Rosemary-Bee’s, Butterflies and other good bugs.
- Lavender-Bee’s, Butterflies, and other good bugs.
- Orange- Bee’s, Butterflies and other good bugs.
Make a pollinator attractor spray by adding 8 drops Lavender, 8 drops Orange, and 3 drops Rosemary to a 4 oz spray bottle and topping it off with water. Spray on plants that need a visit from some pollinators.
As a Weed Killer
The most prominent weed killing essential oils is Clove. It’s so affective it can be the only oil you use to make a natural weed killer spray. Other oils that can help boost cloves killing power are Wintergreen, Cinnamon and Summer Savory.
Now you might be thinking ‘Didn’t she just list Clove and Cinnamon as fungus fighters to spray on my plants?’ Yes, I did. While a little amount can help clear up or ward off fungus on your plants, a higher concentration of oil can kill them instead of help them. There can be too much of a good thing, which is why I recommend smaller amounts and dilution when spraying essential oils on plants you plan to keep alive.
To make a natural weed killer combine 10 drops essential oil (Clove or a combo of Clove and the above suggestions) and 1 cap full of liquid castile soap in a 16 oz spray bottle. Top it off with distilled white vinegar and shake to combine. Spray anywhere you don’t want plants growing. Just make sure not to spray too close to your good pants!
What oils should you keep on hand?
So what oils should you keep on hand for using in the garden? There are 8 superstar oils that will cover all the bases for your natural gardening needs.
- Peppermint– Is a Rockstar for deterring pests and fighting fungus.
- Clove– Deters pests, fights fungus and kills weeds.
- Cinnamon– Also deters pests, fights fungus and killed weeds.
- Lavender– Deters pests but attracts pollinators.
- Basil– Deters pests, fights fungus and helps support overall plant health.
- Cedarwood– Deters pests, including some critters that don’t mind other oils.
- Rosemary– Pest deterrent and pollinator attractant .
- Tea Tree– The king at fighting fungus.
For more information about essential oils check out my essential oil page.