Friday, May 6, 2011

Organic pesticides

This is a subject I have had to come back to time and time again. If you garden organically you are bound to run into this problem sooner or later. There is some preventive things you can do and some you will have to employ as needed. I just had to paint my radishes with garlic juice, you could also spray them but my sprayer doesn't work with small amounts of liquid so I had to employ different tactics. Some things you can make yourself like the garlic juice, this is by far one of the easiest to do. If you have a large jar of (organic) crushed minced or diced garlic whether roasted or raw it should have a fair amount of liquid in the jar, that can be used as is for established plants or diluted up to 50% for seedlings. Do not spray this on in the heat of the day, for all pesticides sprayed on foliage it is best to wait for a cloudy day or first thing in the morning or late afternoon/dusk.
     A lot of your vegetable predators are active at night. Some show no mercy day or night such as  tomato and tobacco horn worms, when you spot these pick them off and smash them (or chuck them over a fence, or put the on a plate far from your garden for the birds) these guys can eat a whole plant in a day. I have found the best things that works for them is a combination of prevention and treatment. The hornworm is the caterpillar of the sphinx moth and they find a suitable host in the spring and lay their eggs they look like tiny green scales or bubbles on the bottom of the leaf, or you may find a clear bubble, that means the little bugger (pun intended) is somewhere on your plant chowing down. Also you can look for black frass (droppings) on the lower leaves and ground around the plant. If you see these eggs a forehand just pick them off and throw them away or smash them or put them in a tin on soapy water. When they first hatch (in four to five days) they are tiny and sometimes hard to spot but they are vulnerable to sprays.
     I like to make a spray of chili peppers and garlic juice it will not harm the plant and washes off of any fruits you have. Just boil either dried fresh or powdered chili peppers (hotter the better)  red peppers or cayenne peppers with garlic juice or fresh smashed cloves. Boil a few minutes just to leach out as much as you can, cool, strain and bottle in a unused (or used for food stuffs) sprayer. Be careful while boiling the steam from this can hurt eyes and mucous membranes, ideally do it on a hot plate outside or if inside use the hood range fan and do not stand over it and inhale! Sometimes you will get these little guys on your hot peppers, bell peppers, eggplants and potatoes use the same treatment. It also works for wireworms, cutworms, whiteflies, and slugs. This doesn't smell good but I have used it with success in the past and have not burned a plant yet. It does not break down in sunlight but will wash away in a hard rain just reapply after!
    Caterpillars have natural enemies to, braconid wasps prey on the caterpillars by laying their eggs (white sacs on the back and undersides on the caterpillars) on them and killing it, leave these be! The eggs will hatch and you will have an army of wasps to help with your pest control. Also birds love these types of bugs!  If you see birds in your tomatoes try to let them do their thing unless they are breaking your plants. I have never seen a bird eat one of my tomatoes yet.

     If you have a severe problem you can use BT bacteria on the soil, bacillus thuringienisis is one of the things they use in GMO foods. but in this case we are not altering the plant to make it produce BT we are just putting it on the plant so it is still considered organic. I would ONLY use this as a last resort though BT can kill more than horn worms. It washes away in rain, irritates skin, kills butterfly larvae and is more expensive than other treatments, and breaks down in direct sunlight!  
     If you don't want to make your own pepper spray you can also use insecticidal soap. This can also be used on plants right up to picking the fruits and it will not alter the taste after it has been washed. It can burn plants if used in the sun so take the same precautions as with the pepper spray. You can get it at any big store and a lot of small ones, you can go with ones that say organic in big letters across the top and pay more for them or you can go with the regular kind which is almost always organic biodegradable soaps but getting certified organic is hard and a lot of companies just don't fool with it. You can also make your own from Castile soap and water. I use Dr Bronner's which is also what I use on myself! They make an unscented kind but I think the addition of tea tree oil or lavender oil helps repel insects as well. Thin it down well and you will probably have to soak the sprayer head in warm water after every use since it tends to clog. 
      I have never used it but I have also seen neem oil used. It works to prevent the insects from maturing and only works on young insects from what I gather. I have also seen it used as a repellent though I can't speak to that having never used it. It is however considered organic but there is a warning to keep it away from your pets and it kills everything not just the "bad guys" also breaks down in sunlight and washes away in rain. 

     Seven (misspelled on purpose) dust is considered (by some) to be organic and effective. I also know it works well on fleas when applied to your yard. It also treats grubs, caterpillars, and beetles, and supposedly has had over 1,000 toxicology reports done and has been widely used for 50 years. BUT it kills honeybees and can leech into the soil wash down through the storm drains and  kill crustaceans. It is also illegal in several countries such as the UK, Denmark, Sweden and more. Also it is the same thing that caused the Bhopal indecent, and is as you probably gathered toxic to humans. 
      If you have issues with fungus there are a couple of natural things you can do, such as cornmeal. Spread it on the ground at a rate of 10- 20 lbs per 1,000 sq feet (you can do the math from there) and say buh bye to fungus and it will not kill your insects. Also good for the lawn sprinkle liberally in brown patches if your grass starts to return then fungus was your problem if not well keep lookin'! It also helps prevent damping off (seedlings dying in the ground for no apparent reason) and acts as a fertilizer and soil booster. It will also help with athlete's foot, toe nail fungus, and algae buildups in ponds. They also say it can be used for acne but personally I think it is the exfoliation that is helping and not so much the cornmeal. 

    You can also use baking soda, vegetable oil, and soap diluted in water to combat powdery mildew. It will prevent the spread but not kill what is all ready on there. 

   You can use garlic oil also called garlic barrier (Google it) which is different from garlic juice to help control, black spot on roses (fungus) , groundhogs from root veggies, and Japanese beetles.
    One that you CAN'T use on peppers tomatoes eggplants and any other members of the solanaceous family, but will work on the others for aphids, white flies and caterpillars is tobacco spray. Use 1 cup tobacco (top rolling tobacco is about 3.50 at sprawl-mart) and 1 gallon of water. let sit over night and strain and spray. It should be the color of weak tea if not let it step longer or dilute it down till it is.

   If you have cabbages and get cabbage worm or spider mites (not actually spiders) use two tablespoons of salt and one gallon of water and spray directly on plants. Wait until they are not in direct sunlight.
    You can also make a rather complicated and safe spray from red peppers, spearmint leaves, horseradish leaves and roots, a couple tablespoons of soap and half a cup of green onion tops boil it all in enough water to cover, strain add half a gallon of water and spray it on anything. It will keep outside of the fridge for about 4-5 days or a few weeks in the fridge. It will work on pretty much any plant as long as you don't spray it in direct sunlight. And pretty much any bug, if it doesn't kill them it should repel them.
   If you are having issues with slugs don't forget the tried and true beer in a pie plate, for those of you who are crying about wasting beer you can use the cheapest, stalest, left out over night beer for this so quit your belly aching. Just bury the pie plate with the rim level to the ground and add a couple inches of beer, when they go in for a drink they will drown. Works every time.

  Citrus peel at the base of plants is said by some to ward off insects.

  My absolute favorite way to control pests is specific planting. Plant basil, lemon balm, citronella, cilantro, geraniums, marigolds, dill, garlic, onions, lavender, bay leaf, mint (careful! this likes to take over), tansy, sweet woodruff, yarrow, rosemary, catnip, catmint, tarragon, pennyroyal (poison), santolina, sage, rue, cloves, eucalyptus, shoo-fly, feverfew, vetivert, wormwood (poison), lemongrass, thyme, pyrethrum,  chamomile (deer love this), marjoram, oregano, hyssop, savory, and any other strong smelling herb or flower. Just plant them alongside your vegetables and you have the benefit of fresh herbs, less insects and ground cover to help stop moisture loss and keep the weeds at bay. Some have small root systems  such as cilantro, basil, dill, garlic, onions, and thyme which will not crowd your garden and suck out your plant's food. Some will need to be planted in walkways to keep them tramped down and in check such as yarrow and rue. And some will have to be trimmed and fussed with a bit to keep them from taking over such as any type of mint, pennyroyal, geranium, chamomile and others. And some add back to the garden such as marigolds which balance the soil by killing nematodes that like to eat tomato roots. Your garden will be full of vegetables, herbs for eating, herbs for medicinal uses, and herbs that look and smell good. And not full of insects that like to eat your plants! Good luck! 

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