Natural Remedies to Eliminate Common Garden Pests
UPDATED May 15, 2014
By WeatherBug Meteorologists
Nothing is more frustrating that seeing the hard work you put into your garden be ruined by pests. The good news is common garden pests can be prevented, and simple homemade remedies can help you fight off the damage.
The easiest way to prevent insect damage in your garden is to discourage them from coming in the first place. Pull out any weak plants, as they may already be infected or will attract damaging insects. Pull the plant and dispose of it away from the garden area. Minimize insect habitat by clearing the garden area of debris and weeds which are breeding places for insects.
Homemade remedies are inexpensive and, best of all, you know what is going into your garden. Many homemade sprays have been used with good results to control harmful insects. They usually involve noxious (but non-toxic) ingredients such as garlic, cayenne, stinging nettles or horsetail which are diluted in water and blended to be sprayed on the plants. Here are a few simple formulas:
Soft-bodied insects (mites, aphids, mealybugs):
Mix one tablespoon canola oil and a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. Spray plant from above down, and from below up to get the underside of the leaves. The oil smothers the insects.
For lawn or garden grubs, there is a natural remedy called milky spore. The granules are spread on the soil and cause the grubs to contract a disease that kills them. This natural control affects only the grubs, leaving the beneficial organisms, like ladybugs and praying mantis, unharmed. Milky spore multiplies over time and will sit inactive, waiting for grubs to infect. One treatment is said to last 40 years. The grubs are actually the larvae of Japanese beetles. So, when you kill the grubs you kill the beetles, so no more need for those unsightly green hanging beetle catchers!
Mites and other insects:
Mix two tablespoons of hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper with a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Let stand overnight, then stir and pour into a spray bottle and apply as above. Shake container frequently during application.
Earwigs, slugs, and other soft-bodied garden pests:
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth over plants and around edges of garden beds. Diatomaceous earth comes in the form of a chalky powder, and is the natural fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. The diatoms particles are very small and sharp - but only harmful to the small exoskeletons of insects, slugs and snails. Insects cannot become immune to its action, as it is a mechanical killer - not a chemical one.
Mix two tablespoons of baking soda into a quart of water. Pour into a spray container and spray affected areas. Repeat this process every few days until problem ceases.
Mix equal parts milk and water and spray on infected plants. Three treatments a week apart should control the disease.
Insects and fungal diseases:
Combine one tablespoon of cooking oil, two tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Pour into a spray container and apply as above.
Insects on fruit trees:
Lime sulfur and dormant oil, available at nurseries and garden centers, can be sprayed on the trunk and branches of dormant fruit trees. This concoction will suffocate insect egg cases. Because the oily spray is heavy compared to the other water-based sprays, you`ll need a pump sprayer. These are fairly inexpensive, and are available to rent from some nurseries. Only use this method while the tree is dormant, however, or it can kill the tree.
First, secure any open food sources, especially the compost bin. Sealed compost bins, such as compost tumblers, are recommended if you have rodents in your garden. As a deterrent, soak a rag or cotton balls in oil of peppermint (found at most health food stores), and place in areas of rodent activity. Place under an eve or under a cover that will keep the rain from diluting the peppermint. Rodents are allergic to peppermint and will avoid it. This method is also effective at deterring rabbits.
Story image: Aphids on a plant stem, courtesy of Luc Viatour and Wikimedia Commons.
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