Elena K, Hometalk TeamHometalkerOzone Park, NY
I love Spring! After the cold winter, I can finally get to work in the garden. Seeing plants growing and flowers blooming makes me happy – Until it turns into a bug house, that is.
Luckily, I have a secret weapon (or rather, three) right on my pantry to keep these pesky pests under control.
STEP 1: Prevention
Before diving into how to make the sprays, let me emphasize how important is prevention. The best way to avoid-or minimize-insect damage is to prevent a pest attack. Follow these easy steps to discourage unwanted visitors.
1. Remove infected plants or trim infected areas as soon as possible. Dispose of them in a bag. Once you’re done close it and put it away from the garden, then clean your tools to prevent other areas to get infected.
2. Use good soil. (See my last tip at the very end.) Mulch and fertilize regularly.
3. Minimize areas attractive to insects by clearing debris and weeds, and using new mulch.
4. Rotate crops and mix your plants, especially with edibles. Insect pests usually favor specific plants. By rotating you’re more likely to avoid a re-infestation if the pest has over-wintered in the same area.
5. Keep your foliage dry: water in the early morning hours, and if possible at the base of the plants. Wet leaves encourage insect damage and fungal diseases to spread.
6. And finally, disinfect!
STEP 2: Gather Your Ingredients
I know it sounds funny, but bear with me to discover the wonders of garlic, hot sauce, and soap in the garden.
Turns out garden pests (and insects in general) don’t have a taste for garlic-y, spicy food. So much the better!
So get to your pantry-or take a trip to the supermarket-because we’re going to make three pest-control sprays in a breeze.
- 1-2 teaspoons of Liquid soap (Ivory or dish soap) or Bronner’s, ideally organic
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1-3 teaspoons of hot sauce or better, cayenne pepper
- 1/4 quart of water
- Spray bottle
The BASIC SOAP SPRAY is useful with a wide variety of garden pests, including aphids, scale, mites, and thrips.
Why does it work? The soap dissolves the outer coating or shell of the insects, eventually killing them.
Making the SOAP SPRAY is so easy!
SOAP SPRAY STEP 1:
Grab 1/4 quart of tap water, room temperature or slightly lukewarm, and add 1-1.5 teaspoons of liquid soap, preferably biodegradable. You know the soap may end up in the soil, right?
TIP: Dish soap is usually more concentrated, so a little less than a teaspoon may suffice. You can also use Bronners soap-my favorite-if you have it handy or even Ivory soap.
If you’re not sure how concentrated your soap is, I suggest you start with less than 1 teaspoon per quart and not to use more than 2 teaspoons.
SOAP SPRAY STEP 2:
You can also add a teaspoon of oil.
The oil will smother the insects, eventually killing them.
TIP: Canola or mineral are ok, but my favorite are organic edible oils – almond or a light olive oil are good.
SOAP SPRAY STEP 3:
Close the bottle and shake it so the oil mixes well with the soap.
SOAP SPRAY STEP 4 (OPTIONAL):
To avoid problems, don’t forget to label your concoction!
Grab a pair of scissors, tape and a marker and write the ingredients and amounts.
You can also add a title-for example GARDEN SOAP SPRAY-and a date.
So everybody in the household knows what’s in there and where to use it.
SOAP SPRAY STEP 5:
Time to test your handy work!
TIP: Before you go out and start spraying, make sure you read “A Few Things to Keep in Mind” at the end of the post.
In a nutshell-because I know you’re dying to use it 😉
– TEST IT FIRST in a small area.
– Don’t use in full sun, a very hot day, or overspray.
– And make sure you apply ONLY to areas with pests, it’ll also affect good insects like ladybugs
(More, as I said, below.)
MAKING A GARLIC SPRAY > very similar to the SOAP SPRAY, except that it also has garlic.
Turns out insects don’t like garlic, so it makes a great repellent. Whiteflies, aphids, and most beetles will avoid plants sprayed with garlic oil.
This mixture works because the compounds in garlic (namely, diallyl disulfide and diallyl trisulfide) are irritating or deadly to many insects. The oil and soap help the mixture stick to plant leaves.
GARLIC SPRAY STEP 1 & 2:
To make this wonder, just put 2-3 cloves of minced garlic into 2 teaspoons of oil.
TIP: Feel free to crush the garlic instead of mincing it.
GARLIC SPRAY STEP 3:
Mix it well with a spoon and let it sit overnight. You’ll strain the garlic out of the oil the next day.
GARLIC SPRAY STEP 4:
Pour 1 PINT of water in your spray bottle and add 1 teaspoon of soap (about half if it’s concentrate, like a dish soap).
GARLIC SPRAY STEP 5:
Strain garlic out of oil and mix it with the soapy water.
TIP: To avoid spilling the oil-especially if the spray bottle has a narrow mouth-you can use a funnel under the strainer.
GARLIC SPRAY STEP 6:
Once you’re done, close the bottle, shake the concoction and label it: include ingredients and title/date in your label.
TIP: Don’t apply it on a sunny day or when the area is sunny – it may burn the leaves. It will also affect beneficial insects so apply only to infected areas
The last spray I want to share today is the HOT PEPPER!
The Pepper spray is great if you have problems with mites and whiteflies, but you may need to reapply.
It is the compound capsaicin, which causes the “heat” in hot peppers, that makes it work. Capsaicin is as irritating to insects as it is to us – have you ever felt the heat in your fingers when cutting a hot pepper?
HOT SPRAY STEP 1-3:
Simply mix up to 2 tablespoons of hot pepper sauce, cayenne pepper or chili powder; a few drops of (biodegradable) dish soap; and 1 QUART of water and let it sit overnight.
TIP: You can use measuring spoons instead of a teaspoon. Either way is fine.
CAUTION! The ground cayenne pepper may clog the spray!
Use a strainer with tiny holes and a very fine cheese cloth as well. You can strain the concoction a few times. Using a very finely ground pepper should prevent the problem.
Or, you can also use hot sauce or liquid cayenne pepper instead.
TIP: shake your spray bottle frequently to avoid separation and apply spray only to infested plants
Again remember to use it on a cloudy day or when the area is shaded
*** PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU SPRAY ***
A FEW THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
- You can start with a more diluted solution and increase amounts a little later. It’s always better to err in the side of caution.
– ALWAYS TEST SPRAY in a small area before doing a full application
- Don’t forget to spray under the leaves, where many insects like to hide
- Don’t spray on high heat or full sun-spray may burn the leaves! Try to avoid also spraying on distressed plants (for example, if they’re droopy or it’s very hot), as spray may cause harm.
- Spray in the morning or evening, before dusk.
- Reapply after rain.
- To maintain, you can reapply once a week.
As I mentioned earlier the best weapon in my arsenal is COMPOST!
It will add nutrients, improve the soil structure, and the number of beneficial microbes. Plus, it’s a great way of reducing waste.
So, instead of throwing all the organic matter into the garbage next time, why not start composting?