Homemade Pest Repellent Spray and Salsa Dancing

I wish my yard were buzzing with wasps.* Yes, wasps. Some species are predatory and feed on harmful garden insects. Others are parasitic, laying their eggs on aphids, caterpillars and other bugs. When the larvae hatch, they destroy their host–hopefully a cabbage moth caterpillar or an aphid! I haven’t seen any wasps in my garden yet (many parasitic wasp species are quite small) but unfortunately, I have spotted aphids, cabbage moths, flea beetles, and asparagus beetles. I try to keep calm when I see huge chunks missing from my broccoli transplants, or notice how pock-marked and scabby my arugula seedlings are getting. I remind myself everything’s gotta eat; I try to respect the delicate balance of the food chain; and admit some plants will simply get sacrificed, but many will pull through… blah, blah, blah…

And then I concoct a pesticide.


herbal tea base (in the jar), repellent spray (in the spray bottle), vegetable oil, dish soap

This spray will suffocate bugs upon contact, but I use it mostly to keep them from landing on plants in the first place.


I’m not sure who’s eating my broccoli? Slugs? I know the cabbage worms aren’t out yet…


Arugula seedlings attacked by flea beetles. This is my THIRD planting–they decimated the other two. Small brassicas (like arugula) are esp. susceptible to flea beetle. Once the plants get bigger the beetles are less likely to affect the plant.

Now then, let’s get on to business… Here’s my recipe for Homemade Pest Repellent Spray

  • 8-10 cups water
  • combination lovage, oregano, thyme (This is what I use because I have an abundance of it in my garden. I think rosemary and sage would also work.)
  • 3 tablespoons, or more, of freshly minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 1 drop dish soap
  • Submerge as many herbs as you can in the water (to make it as strong as possible). Bring tea to a boil, add fresh minced garlic, cover pot and remove from heat. Let steep for 24 to 48 hours. Strain solids from the tea and add oil and dish soap. Pour into spray bottle and spray all over broccoli leaves and stems, taking care to cover the undersides of leaves (if you want to keep moths from laying their eggs there).  Reapply after rain.






cutting up lovage, thyme, and oregano for the tea

homemade spray with broccoli

homemade spray with broccoli

*** These asterisks make segues so much easier***

My parents offered to take our girls last weekend, so I thought Stan and I might tackle the garage and get it cleaned out. Maybe even plant beans or turn our compost pile. Stan had different plans. At 5:30, Friday afternoon, he called to ask if I’d paid the Mastercard bill. When I said yes, he told me not to plan anything for the weekend. The next morning we were on the dance floor at a salsa workshop in Saskatoon. I found out he’d registered us for a full day at an International Salsa Congress–including workshops, a show, and social.

Can you see us? We're the couple on your right.

Can you see us? We’re the couple on your right.

While studying the schedule posted outside the ballroom, I wondered aloud if we should start at the intermediate level. Maybe we’d be bored in the beginner’s class? Stan didn’t think so. After we found a spot at the very back of the room, a man standing on the stage said something about getting loosened up, in a thick Spanish accent. The music started and electrified the sea of hips around us. For the next two hours, I kept checking in on Stan with my eyes (our instructors insisted we change partners every few minutes). From across the room I tried telepathy: I promise I will go down every single aisle of Princess Auto with you after this.

In the middle of the second workshop, we reached a tipping point. Cross-body leads we could barely handle, but not lifts. While the instructor explained, “The lady wraps her leg around the man’s thigh and then he picks her up and spins her like this…” we were quietly picking up our water bottles and heading towards the exit. In twenty minutes we were stroking shiny canoes in an outdoor adventure store. Thirty minutes later, we bought one.** The owner happened to notice our matching registration bracelets while he helped us secure the canoe to our car rack.

“What have you two escaped from?” he asked

Stan grunted, while pulling the ratchet straps, and I answered the question.

“An International Salsa Congress. You know… dancing…”

It seemed so out of context in that parking lot, and with our lives, in general. I wear rubber boots; not stilettos. Stan turns wrenches; not lycra-clad strangers. But that’s what I love about him–he’s adventurous enough to paddle the backcountry and show up at a Salsa Congress!

Oops, I made a mistake labeling the last picture. Those are just some world cup champions who tried to teach us. Here we are, looking slightly apprehensive before our first workshop.


Have a great weekend, whether you’re a dancer, gardener, or neither!

Waiting for wasps,


*Beneficial wasps are attracted to tiny, nectar-rich flowers like chamomile, sweet alyssum, lovage, and thyme.  Certain species are also available for purchase (to control pests) but I’m hoping they find my little plot on their own.

**This sounds a lot quicker than the process really was. Stan has been researching canoes for months? years? as we’ve outgrown our cedar-strip one. I guess it took a Salsa workshop to push him over the edge.


4 thoughts on “Homemade Pest Repellent Spray and Salsa Dancing

  1. I love that you’re equally comfortable at a canoe shop and a salsa dancing workshop!! (Well, I guess I should take out the word equally)!! Glad you had a great weekend together. We loved having the girls.

  2. Hey Tricia…I still smile when I remember your dancing in Chicago at North Park:) I have been working on my garden here and just wondering what herbs do you find overwinter best in the garden? I have a wishlist of things to buy during the year end sale at the greenhouse…grape vines, cherry tree, herbs etc. Thanks for your help. Lana

    • The Chicago reference made me laugh—thanks for sparing everyone the sordid details:)
      Here’s what over-wintered in my garden this year: bunching green onion, mint (chocolate and regular–I’m trying lemon this year), lovage, lemon balm (possibly my favourite tea), rosemary (this one is hit or miss), sage, thyme, oregano, chives. Lot’s of herbs will self-seed if allowed to flower and form seed heads (chamomile, cilantro, borage, bachelor button), or you can let these dry up and then shake the seeds out in the area you want them for the following season.

      Depending on the micro climate of your yard, you might be able to keep ones that aren’t supposed to come back after winter, esp. if we get a heavy snow before the cold snaps. My lavender didn’t come back (it didn’t even do much last summer, and it was a warm one) but I know people grow it in our climate.

      Have fun shopping! I’m sure your yard is beautiful.
      Nice to hear from you,

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