Pests are a normal part of every garden. They come and go with the seasons without really causing too much drama. In healthy gardens, they are kept in check by birds, frogs and lizards as well as beneficial predatory and parasitic insects. But keeping plants in good shape is crucial, because weak, sick and stressed plants are more prone to attack.
Cultural practices like crop rotation and companion planting further reduce the risk of attack. Traps and barriers can be used to protect vulnerable plants such as seedlings. As a last resort make organic sprays to cure particular outbreaks.
Snails and slugs
- Use barriers around seedlings (yogurt continers with the bottoms cut out).
- Pick snails off and kill them.
- Set beer traps. Half fill a jar with beer and lay on its side, in cool dark places where slugs and snails hang out.
- Coffee spray. One part really strong espresso coffee to 10 parts water, and spray the seedlings and surrounding soil thoroughly. The snails absorb the caffeine and die. Reapply after rain.
Ants, aphids, scale, leaf miner
- Spray with horticultural oil to suffocate the insects. Mix two cups of vegetable oil with 1/2 cup of liquid soap or detergent, and shake it until it turns white. Dilute one tablespoon of the concentrate to 2 tablespoons to a litre of water and spray affected areas. Reapply after rain.
Caterpillars and moths
- Pick off caterpillars and kill them.
- Molasses spray. Mix one tablespoon of molasses with a litre of hot water. Then add a teaspoon of liquid detergent and put in a spray bottle. Spray the leaves, top and bottom, about once a week. Reapply after rain.
- Vinegar spray. Blend of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Add a teaspoon of liquid detergent and put in a spray bottle. Spray the leaves, top and bottom to kill off grubs and bugs. Reapply after rain.
- Garlic fire spray. 3 garlic bulbs (about 6-10 cloves per bulb); 6 large or 12 smaller hot chilli peppers (or 1-2 tablespoon hot chilli powder) ; 1 tablespoon vegetable oil ; 3 squirts of liquid detergent (approximately 1 dessertspoonful); 7 cups water. (Use about 3 cups in the blender, and top up with the rest later). Put into a blender and vitamize well, then strain through muslin, or a coffee filter. Put what you need into a spray bottle for use and keep the rest in sealed jars, well labeled. Reapply after rain.
- Always label containers and keep out of reach of children.
- Remember, even natural sprays should only be used as a last resort, because they can also harm beneficial insects, some of which help keep pest insects under control.