Natural remedies for garden pests
Instead of reaching for toxic chemical products to control garden pests, go for the sensible option and spray your plants with natural remedies for bugs.
We all know garlic was used as protection against witches. Well now we can use garlic as a deterrent against unwanted garden pests.
When sprayed onto plants, garlic acts as a deterrent, encouraging insects to move on to more appetizing plants. Unlike many other types of insecticidal garden sprays, garlic can safely be applied to the leaves of plants. Pop a clove of garlic into a blender and add a cup of water and puree until finely blended. Recycle an empty household cleaner spray bottle and add the garlic puree and then fill up with water. Shake well and then spray onto plants.
Not only great for the compost heap, eggshells also act as fertilizer and pest repellant when added to the bottom of holes before planting. The next time you plant vegetables, crush a couple of eggshells - not too finely - and add them to the bottom of the hole. The sharp edges will deter cutworms, and crushed shells around the stem of plants will deter slugs and snails.
Snails and slugs also dislike sand, lime, or ashes, so the next time you have a wood braai, apply ash to the base of plants that are under threat.
Available at your local nursery or garden centre, Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilised remains of diatoms, single-cell organisms. The glass-like nature of diatomaceous earth makes it one of the oldest forms of insecticide. The sharp surfaces cut through the insect cuticle and the insect dies of dehydration. Diatomaceous earth kills slugs, snails and ants, but only apply to problem areas to avoid killing worms and similar garden-healthy occupants.
As an annual treatment for lawn and garden, there's nothing like manure for boosting growth and flower production. Organic manure and fertiliser is available at your local Builders Warehouse or garden centre and can be dressed onto the lawn or mixed into flower beds. By adding nutrients to the soil you increase the strength of the plant, and a healthy plant has a better chance at fighting off disease.
Having recently done research on pure soap [Castille soap] it seems there is more to this soap than we know. The gentle vegetable oil-based soap makes a gentle and effective insecticidal spray for the garden. Simply fill up a spray bottle - a recycled household cleaner bottle - with water and a tablespoon of peppermint castile soap, you can rid your plants of aphids and whiteflies.
Aged balsamic vinegar in a spray bottle is an ideal herbicide for problem weeds in between bricks and pavers in a driveway or path. Simply spray the vinegar on the plant and it will wither
away. The acetic acid in vinegar is what kills off the weeds, so the higher the percentage of acetic acid in the vinegar, the better. Vinegar used for culinary purposes is relatively low (5%) in acetic acid, so repeated applications will be necessary when using it as a natural weed killer.
Another natural solution is to pour hot water onto unwanted weeds.
Although not entirely garden pests, fleas are attracted to your pets and are then brought into the home. Have a bottle or Cedar oil - aromatherapy oil - handy at home. Put a few drops on a soft cloth and wipe over your pet's coat once a month to control fleas. You can also add a few drops of cedar oil to pet bedding and rugs.
Fleas detest cedar oil, as do bed bugs - but don't be tempted to rub yourself down with oil, rather apply a few drops to a cloth and wipe down the mattress occasionally. The same applies to Rosemary oil.
Cedar oil also protects against moths, so add a few drops to a potpourri sachet and pop into your closet or chest of drawers.
When establishing a vegetable patch or herb garden, be sure to plant marigolds as well. This plant is a natural insect repellant and will protect its surrounding neighbours.
Did you know that bananas protect your roses from aphids? Try placing a few dried banana skins just below the surface around your rose bushes.
Bananas are also rich in potassium, which is a vital nutrient for gardens. Add banana skins to your compost heap and mix them into the soil with a garden fork. Burying dried or cut-up bananas peels a few centimetres deep around the base of your rosebushes to deter aphids. Bananas also attract birds and butterflies, so be sure to hang some out on a bird feeder.