Pest infestations can destroy crops and have a serious impact on food supplies, and keeping garden crops safe should be a top priority. The good news is that there are many options that can be used to make gardens as unfriendly to predatory insects as possible. However, not every solution will work on every type of insect, so it’s important to take a multi-pronged approach when dealing with pests. Below are a couple of recipes that can be beneficial to most home-grown gardens in the United States.
Prevention is Key
The first step toward preventing bug problems is to make the habitat as unfriendly for them as possible. Removing debris, old mulch, pruning plants and removing weak or damaged crops will make the garden less desirable to invaders. It is also important to remember that certain insects are important to the health of gardens because they feed off of invasive species. If you see ladybugs, praying mantis, lacewings and nematodes, don’t panic. They are not responsible for killing your crops. Rather, they are eating up many insects that are.
Homemade recipes can either repel insects by making gardens smell bad or kill them after ingestion. One of the most universal options is to mix a tablespoon of canola oil to every cup of water in a spray bottle. Shake vigorously and apply to the leaves and stems of plants. The mixture serves to coat the insects and cause them to suffocate. Treatments will need to be applied on a regular basis to keep new insects at bay.
Another popular option is to chop an onion, bulb of garlic and a jalapeno pepper. Add the ingredients to a quart of water, simmer and let cook for an hour. You can also replace the jalapeno with some cayenne pepper instead. Strain the liquid into a spray bottle and let sit until it cools to room temperature. This can be used on plants that are attacked by leaf-eating insects, and the pesticide will be fresh for about a week before a new batch needs to be made.
Diatomaceous Earth or Boric Acid
These products are common and found almost anywhere where garden supplies are sold. They are a white, powdery substance that crawling insects ingest and die from. The particles contain sharp and jagged edges that cuts into the insides of insects. Since this is not a poison or chemical treatment, insects do not become immune. Sprinkle in areas where insects are known to gather or travel and see them quickly disappear.
Dormant oil or lime sulfur are also common products found in garden stores, but it is important to either get the powder and mix it with canola oil at home, or purchase organic products. Many prepared products contain kerosene or oil and can be harmful to plants as well as consumers. These remedies should only be applied when the tree is dormant, otherwise it will kill the fruit and cause serious damage to the tree itself.
These are just a few examples of a host of natural and safe pesticides to use to control destructive insect infestations in gardens. Remember that maintaining the garden and trying to promote populations of beneficial insects will be your first and best line of defense. However, applying these treatments will also go a long way to minimize damage caused by insects on your food supply as well.