Naturally Pest Free Gardens

June 2009
They say that spring moves up the coast 15 miles a day. Sadly, this beautiful time of change is also heralded by the drift of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides from commercial and private spraying. People spray their homes for wasps, towns aerial-spray for mosquitoes, and farmers spray their crops. Being outside on a beautiful, sunny spring day doing yard work can invariably means breathing in some of these drifting chemicals. Nobody can attest to the prevalence more than people who are chemically sensitive, like I am. Sometimes it feels like there is almost no place on earth you can go to escape them.
 
You can keep your own garden pest-free naturally, and make do without pesticides. Lots of people do, and we're not overrun by bugs and weeds or burdened by dying lawns and gardens. Quite the contrary. The truth is, a few bugs won't hurt most plants.
 
I can't think of another situation where acting on common sense makes more sense than in coping with garden pests. Hosing bugs off a plant is often all that is needed. For those times when a little more is required, try some of my formulas for all-purpose garden pest sprays. There are many ways to use garlic, onions, strong-smelling roots, and spices for killing and repelling bugs. These ingredients have been used as effective repellents for centuries. The following recipes can be adapted to what you have on hand, so you don't have to run out to the store. Mix and match ingredients as needed.
 
Some Hands-On Garden Pest Tips
--Pick bugs off the plant.
--Place paper collars around plant stems.
--Wrap tree trunks in heavy paper such as poster board and then brush that with a sticky substance like honey. The bugs will get stuck.
--Broken eggshells are a deterrent to many bugs, who don't like to walk through them.
--Vacuum bugs off with a vacuum cleaner.
Soap is one of the all-time best folk formulas for a pesticide. It disrupts the insect's cell membranes, killing the pest through dehydration. Dr. Bonner's peppermint liquid castile soap has worked well for many of my friends.
 
Garlic Spray
Garlic has amazing pest repellent qualities, keeping many different kinds of insects and other pests that can destroy your favorite plants at bay.
 
1 head garlic
2 cups boiling water
2 cups room temperature water
 
Peel and mash the garlic. Place it in a pint mason jar and cover with boiling water. Screw on the lid and let set overnight. Strain. Freeze 1 cup of the infusion to use another time; put the rest in a spray bottle with 1 more cup of water. Spray on infested areas.
 
Variations
Soapy: Add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon liquid soap to the garlic infusion before dividing the batch in two.
Spicy: Combine any of the following in the garlic infusion -- scallions and onions, horseradish root, ginger, rhubarb leaves, cayenne and other hot peppers. Add 1 teaspoon liquid soap.
Oniony: Combine an onion and a few hot peppers with the head of garlic in a blender with enough water to cover. Strain. Freeze what you don't use.
 
Washing Soda
Most pests don't like washing soda -- a caustic, alkaline mineral.
 
1 teaspoon washing soda
1 teaspoon liquid soap
1 gallon water
 
Combine ingredients in a pail and stir. Pour some on infested areas, or put a few cups at a time in a spray bottle. Keep this in a covered container, and its shelf life is indefinite.
 
Dormant Oil and Soap Spray
This is a popular spray for orchards. The oil suffocates insects.
 
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon liquid soap
2 quarts water
 
Combine ingredients in a pail. Transfer 2 cups to a spray bottle. Spray infected areas.
 
Soap Spray
Soap is used here as an insecticide. It kills pests by dehydrating them.
 
1-2 tablespoons liquid soap
1 gallon water
 
Combine ingredients in a pan. Transfer 2 cups to a spray bottle. Spray infested areas. Do not use more than 2 tablespoons of soap; too much can kill the leaves. Note: Detergent will not work, so make sure what you're using is real soap. Liquid vegetable-oil soap called castile soap sold at health food stores is best.
 
Banana Trap
Next time you peel a banana, save the peels!
 
1 cup vinegar
1 cup sugar
A few chopped banana peels
1 gallon water
 
Combine ingredients and leave in open bowls or jars around the garden. Insects attracted to the smell will drown.
 
Variations
Beer: Substitute beer for water. Molasses: Substitute 1/2 cup backstrap molasses, 1 package active dry yeast, and 1 gallon water.
 
Animal Repellants
Sometimes the larger pests can wreak havoc with your garden. Here are some hands-on tips for keeping them away from your plants:
--Hang aluminum pie pans from trees. They shake and shift with the wind, startling animals.
--Hang soap bars from trees to ward off deer.
--Wrap dog or human hair in cheesecloth and hang near the garden; this will deter many predators.
--Grow deer-resistant trees and plants. They usually don't like mint, basil, oregano, lavender, lemon balm, rosemary, thyme, juniper, cypress, sunflowers, globe thistle, Echinacea, chicory, lilac, jasmine, mulberry or magnolia.
--Build wire cages around bulbs to protect them from deer and mice.
--Moles don't like castor oil, so place bowls filled with 1/2 cup castor oil and 2 cups water around your garden.
--Grow mint if you have a problem with mice. They don't like it.
--Make a spicy hot pepper infusion spray to deter squirrels.
 
Enjoy the growing season months knowing that you aren’t polluting your home, neighborhood, and the Earth!
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