This year, we planted a vegetable garden and have been in constant amazement at the miracle of life happening in our back yard. I was so enthralled with my first full-grown snow pea, that I had to take a picture of it to share with you. However, in addition to the life that is our plants, there is other not-as-welcome life: the inevitable garden pests. Critters with teeth have been nibbling and insects have added decorative holes to our greens. Wanting to keep to our commitment of maintaining a natural garden, we refuse to buy pesticides, and have planted thing like marigolds and hot peppers, which are supposed to deter interlopers. However, it became apparent that we had to take a bit more aggressive action, so I pulled out the neem oil, which I keep in stock for the production of some of my bath and body products. Neem oil is extracted from the tropical neem tree. I had read a while ago that it is a very effective insecticide, miticide and fungicide, and is listed as okay for use in organic production. According to Plant-care.com, neem oil has the following features: Broad spectrum insecticide/fungicide/miticide controls insects and mites including whitefly, aphid and scale, Controls fungal diseases including black spot, rust, mildew and scab. For indoor/outdoor use on ornamental plants, flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs and fruit and nut crops. Mountain Rose Herbs says that it biodegrades rapidly in sunlight and within a few weeks in the soil. Neem oil has very low toxicity to humans and pets, but it is not recommended for internal use. I had also read that rosemary and lavender are effective pesticides, plus they smell better than neem, so I decided to include the in my natural pesticide. Here is my recipe: Mix 1 gallon of water with 2 tablespoons of neem, and 1 teaspoon each rosemary and lavender essential oils (I used organic version of all the oils). You can also add a couple of tablespoons of phosphate-free liquid dishwashing soap. Mix thoroughly and pour into a spray bottle. Spray over every part of your plants, mixing frequently to keep the oils and water from separating. By the way, these Sprayco spray bottles, which I buy at my local family-owned hardware store, are made in the US from recycled materials and provide jobs for handicapped individuals.