Many principlesof organic gardening – using manures and compost, and taking measures to deter pests and diseases rather than simply destroying them with chemicals – are familiar to most gardeners. But gardening organically involves looking at the garden as a whole. You must take into account the condition of the soil and the climate. You can then make decisions about the need for improving some aspects and altering others to produce the most fruitful and healthy plants as beneficial bacteria releases the nutrients for plant use.
Using Other Organic Controls
There are several different types of organic treatments available to gardeners, but availibility may be limited.
Insecticidal Soaps Use these for effective control of aphids, spider mites, thrips, leafhoppers, scale insects, mealybuggs, and whiteflies. Insecticidal soaps are made from fatty acids produced by animal or plant sources. The soaps are not selective in their action, however, and last only approximately one day.
Copper-based sprays Copper-based fungicides are suitable for use on edible crops. They control a range of plant diseases, including potato blights, celery leaf spot, apple canker, bacterial canker and leaf spots on fruits.
Sulfur Use sulfur to control diseases such as storage rots and powdery mildew on ornamental plants and fruits.
- Spraying – Always use a good-quality sprayer to apply a control, and be sure to wash it out thoroughly between applications. Never keep leftover solution for future use.
- Protecting Bees – Never allow spray to drift onto open flowers, especially blossoms, or you may harm visiting bees. Spray at sunset if necessary.
- Harvesting Crops – It is usually safe to eat most crop plants fairly soon after an organic control has been applied, but always check the product label carefully for preparation details.
Homemade Bug Remedies
- Finely chop a dozen or so garlic cloves, and dump them in for ounces of mineral oil. Soak the cloves in the oil for a day or two. Strain the mixture, and add three or four drops of regular dishwashing liquid. Then dilute it with about a half cup of water, and pour into a hand-held or tank sprayer. This is an all-purpose spray for all sorts of pests, but it’s a nonselective spray, which means it will kill beneficial insects as well as bad bugs in your garden.
- Put a cup of chili peppers such as jalapenos in a blender or food processor. Add four cups of water, and puree the mixture. Then strain the stuff, and pour it into a sprayer. Again, you’ve got a nonselective spray, so use it to target only the harmful insects. Be extremely careful to not get this spray in your eyes or even on your skin.
- Another insect eliminator is nicotine, Put a package of chewing tobacco in a quart jar of water, and let the jar sit out in the hot sun for a day so that the tobacco has a chance to steep slowly. Then strain the mixture into a sprayer. This mixture is poisonous and can actually be absorbed by the skin, so be careful. It can also be absorbed by the leaves of plants, so don’t use it on food crops.
- The USDA recommends mixing together dishwashing detergent and cooking oil to get a powerful control for aphids, whiteflies and red spider mites. First, make a concentrate by adding one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap with one cup of vegetable oil. When you’re ready to spray, add one or two teaspoons of the oil and soap solution to a cup of water. Pour that into a sprayer and shake well.
- Another homemade pest control uses plain old isopropyl or rubbing alchohol. A cotton ball soaked in this and wiped over leaf surfaces will kill a number of bugs such as aphids, mealybugs, red spider mites, scales and whiteflies that are notorius for attacking houseplants. To spray an entire plant, add one cup of the alchohol to one quart of water, and spray away.
- If you don’t want to bother mixing these home remedies to get rid of your bug problems, consider using a more high-tech approach, a hand-held vacuum. Pay particular attention to leaves, especially the undersides, where bugs love to hide