5 tips for eco-friendly pest control
What’s the first thing you reach for when you see a bug in the house or a pest in the garden? If it’s a chemical spray, liquid or powder you could be doing more harm than good in terms of protecting the health of your family, plants and the environment.
Fortunately, there are natural alternatives out there that can keep those bothersome bugs at bay.
1. Alcohol spray
This will ruin the party for aphid, mealy bugs, scale insects, thrips and whiteflies. Alcohol can damage some plants, such as African violets and apple trees, but can be used on plants with heavy, waxy leaves that won’t be easily burned. It pays to do a test spray on a few leaves first then wait a few days to ensure the solution won’t destroy the plant. The recipe? Mix one or two cups of 70 per cent rubbing alcohol with a litre of water. Pop it into a spray bottle and away you go.
2. Tomato leaf spray
Plants like tomatoes and potatoes have water-soluble toxic compounds in their leaves that may not kill the enemy, but certainly call in reinforcements to do the job instead. The good bugs follow the smell of the smell, see the bad guys and gobble them up. Put these compounds to work by making your own spray to protect plants from aphids by soaking one or two cups of chopped tomato or spud leaves overnight in two cups of water. Strain the solution through cheesecloth or fine mesh, add another two cups of water and spray it wherever those pesky aphids are partying.
3. Garlic oil spray
Garlic will destroy pests such as aphids, earwigs, leafhoppers and whiteflies. Just soak 100g of minced garlic cloves in two teaspoons of oil for 24 hours. Add half a litre of water mixed with a squirt of dishwashing liquid, stir thoroughly and strain into a glass jar for storage. When you want to use it, dilute one or two tablespoons of the concentrate in half a litre of water and spray away. Also handy when vampires come calling!
4. Herbal sprays
Aromatic herbs may smell great to us – but garden pests hate them. Try making sprays from thyme, sage and rosemary to prevent caterpillar damage on cabbages and nasturtium tea to protect fruit trees from aphids. Catnip, chive and marigold solutions will stop most leaf-eating pests. Simply mash one or two cups of fresh leaves with two to four cups of water and allow them to soak overnight. Strain the solution through cheesecloth, dilute with another two to four cups of water and a squirt of liquid soap, then spray to your heart’s content.
5. Hot dusts
Why don’t ants eat out in Mexican restaurants? Because they can’t stand chilli. Or black pepper, dill, ginger and paprika come to mention it. Hot dusts sprinkled around the base of plants repels ants, which often protect aphid colonies. Just grind up your ingredients of choice with a mortar and pestle then sprinkle around onions, carrots and cabbages in the veggie patch as well as around the base of plants that tend to be attacked by aphids.