Monday, June 30, 2014

10 Kitchen Solutions for Common Garden Issues

Whenever I have trouble in the garden, I like to try the least aggressive methods first. Similar to what is being seen with the overuse of antibiotics and resultant development of superbugs like MRSA, using chemical controls in a home garden can often lead to more serious problems later. 

Here are three reasons why I don't like to use commercial sprays: 
  • Money. Those bottles are pretty spendy, and they add up quickly.
  • Bees and other beneficials. Many commercial formulas are broad-spectrum, indiscriminate killers- wiping out both the good guys and the bad. 
  • If something kills 99.9% of anything, that remaining .1% is left to reproduce and pass along its resistant genes. Once that happens, the product that was just used will no longer work effectively against the survivors, and the problem will come back stronger than before. 
Any number of authors out there tout the benefits of natural remedies for your garden, but probably the most popular (and prolific) is Jerry Baker. He's written numerous books on how to concoct and use these less-toxic solutions around your garden. I can't say I agree with everything that he recommends using, and quite frankly I find the presentation a little hokey, but that's just a matter of my personal preference. By and large, however, he offers practical advice and is definitely worth checking out.

In case you don't have time to read a whole book on the subject- here are 10 items that are probably already in your kitchen, that can help you get a handle on some common garden issues: 

1. Garlic: Antifungal, Insect Repellant. If you grow roses, make friends with garlic. Regular application of garlic on roses can help keep aphids and black spot at bay; even just planting a few cloves around the base of your rosebush helps. To make a garlic spray, take 5 cloves of garlic and either chop them or use a garlic press to crush them into a measuring cup. Pour 1 cup boiling water over the garlic, and cover. Let stand until completely cool, then strain the liquid into a spray bottle. Mist affected plants early in the morning or late in the day, to avoid the possibility of burning the leaves in direct sunlight. The spray will start to lose its potency relatively quickly, so make up small batches as needed. 

2. Powdered Milk: Antifungal. The milk reacts with sunlight when sprayed on infected foliage, so this is one time where you do want to spray when the sun is shining. It can also be combined with baking soda, for severe fungal outbreaks. Ratio is 1 part milk to 3 parts water. (Plus 1 teaspoon baking soda, if desired.)

3. Dish Soap: Insecticide- aphids, thrips, Japanese beetles. Note: do not use antibacterial soaps or a soap containing detergents. Ivory Dish Soap, pure Castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) or Mrs. Meyers Clean Day soaps are good; baby shampoo also works. Make a spray using 1 teaspoon of soap to 1 pint (16 ounces) of water. Spray on leaves, let stand (out of direct sunlight) for about an hour, then rinse with plain water to reduce the risk of leaf burn.

4. Hot Peppers, Hot Pepper Sauce: Repels deer, rabbits and some insects. Try 2 Tablespoons hot sauce in 1 quart of water, sprayed on the plants. Some recipes suggest adding a drop or two of soap or oil to help the mixture stick to the leaves better.

5. Vegetable Oil: Can be used as a carrier/sticker in conjunction with other methods; by itself controls corn earworms. Squeeze a small amount of a light vegetable oil in the corn silk while the ears are still small; this will act as a barrier to the earworms.

6. Vinegar (white): Herbicide. Particularly effective when applied hot and/or with salt. Excellent for sidewalk/driveway/patio cracks where you want nothing to grow. Use full strength to kill weeds; add 1T salt to 1 cup white vinegar and pour hot into the cracks. Avoid spraying this mixture if possible, as it will burn any plant it comes in contact with.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar: Fungicide. Use diluted, 3 Tablespoons ACV to 1 Gallon of Water, applied with a sprayer. 

8. Table Salt: Kills slugs and has herbicidal properties. (See #6) Take note that the salt will persist in the soil, and may stunt or prevent new plant growth, so use with caution. 

9. Baking Soda: Fungicide, Powdery Mildew and Black Spot. Mix 1 Tablespoon baking soda to 1 gallon of water; add 2T of light vegetable oil as a sticker. Mix well before and during application to keep the oil from separating. Spray on affected plants, making sure to get the undersides of the leaves as well.

10. Eggshells: Ground relatively fine (not quite powdered) they help keep slugs at bay and add calcium to the soil as they decompose.      

Remember, you won't get the same "kill 'em all" results out of these solutions, but you will be able to knock out enough of the bad guys in order to restore balance in your garden.

Do you have any home remedies that you use to take care of trouble in your garden?

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