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Natural Garden Care

Jun 29, 2010 12:08AM ● By Erin Frisch

Natural Garden Care

Tend your Garden Organically

Luci Wilson, garden consultant from Peaceful Valley Farm, a California-based supplier of organic farming and gardening supplies, recommends gardeners keep a “garden first aid kit” on hand in order to target problems when they are new and more manageable. It’s much better to use just a little spray on a beginning infestation than over the whole garden. “The key thing is to be observant with plants,” advises Wilson. “Watch what they are doing and how they are behaving and they will give you a lot of signs about what they need.”

Garden First Aid Kit

Insecticidal Soap: There are many organic versions available that kill soft-bodied pests such as aphids and mites. Do not apply when it is over 90 degrees or in full sun. You can make a milder version by mixing 2-3 tablespoons of a mild biodegradable dish detergent with 1 gallon of water. Homemade soap sprays may burn plant leaves so spot test first before applying.

Horticultural Oil: Again, look for an organic version. These oils suffocate insects at all stages. Careful, some of the heavier grades can clog the plant pores as well so spot test on a few leaves. Sesame oil can also be used in a pinch.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt): Used for organic gardening since the 1940s, Bt is bacteria in a powdered form that kills only leaf-eating caterpillars, leaving all other animals and insect stages unharmed.

Liquid Kelp Solution: Derived from the seaweed, this solution provides a combination of trace minerals, natural growth hormones, and B1 vitamins. Diluted and applied on the leaves or the soil, it is an excellent remedy for stressed plants. Wilson waters all her transplants with it to reduce transplant shock.

With the liquid remedies, be careful not to apply in extreme heat or sun, since this can also lead to damaged leaves.

Turn to your Pantry

You can mix up some effective insect sprays from common ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, according to

  • Make a mix of 1 teaspoon dishwashing detergent, 1 quart water, and 1 cup vegetable oil. Shake well and apply every 10 days to kill aphids, spider mites, and other insects on contact. Use it on eggplants, cucumbers, carrots, celery, peppers and other vegetables. It may cause tip burn, so test it on one plant first.
  • Add one ground-up garlic bulb or large onion to 1 quart of water with 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper and let it sit for at least one hour. Use a strainer to put the liquid into a spray bottle. This is an effective remedy for many types of chewing and sucking insects.
  • Use your blender to make a spearmint spray with 1 cup each of green onion tops and chopped spearmint leaves, 1/2 cup water, the juice of one lemon, and 1/2 cup chopped hot red peppers. After blending put mixture into 1 gallon water with 1/2 cup dishwashing detergent. Mix 1/2 cup of the final product with 1 quart water for spraying.
  • To kill aphids, mosquitoes, and onion flies, soak 3 to 4 ounces of chopped garlic bulbs in 2 tablespoons of mineral oil for one day. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of fish emulsion in a pint of water and add it to your solution. Stir. Strain liquid and store in a glass container. Dilute 1 part solution to every 20 parts of water and spray.
  • Crushed eggshells are great for getting rid of soft-bodied insects including snails and slugs. Snails and slugs want to avoid the sharp jagged edges of the shells, so sprinkle crushed eggshells liberally on top of the soil around garden plants.

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