Organic Gardening Arsenal

I’m still battling aphids and other pests in my garden. In the process I’ve developed quite an arsenal of organic sprays and other treatments for killing and repelling insects and fighting fungal diseases.  Here’s just a few of them (hat tip to “How To Garden Advice” for a good number of these recipes and suggestions):

Bug Spray 1 (Insecticide)

  • 2 cups water
  • ½ tsp dish soap

Mix & mist directly onto plants. The soap causes aphids to dehydrate and die.

Bug Spray 2 (Insecticide)

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp dish soap

Mix & mist directly onto plants. The oil will clog aphids’ pores so they suffocate and die.

Bug Spray 3 (Plant diseases)

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/8 tsp liquid soap
  • 1 quart water

Puree garlic in 1 cup water. Add remaining water and puree again. Strain & add soap. To use , mix 1:10 with water and mist directly onto plants.

Bug Spray 4 (Repellent)

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • Seeds from 2 hot chili peppers (jalepeno, Serrano, etc)
  • 4 cups water

Boil together for 40 min. Cool and strain. Mist directly onto plants. Keep in fridge when not in use. This mixture repels insects.

Bug Spray 5 (Insecticide)

  • 2 tsp neem oil
  • ½ tsp liquid detergent
  • 1 quart water

Use warm water if possible. Mix the warm water with the soap first! Then slowly add the oil while stirring vigorously. Fill the mix into your sprayer. Keep shaking or otherwise agitating the mix while spraying. Use the mixture within eight hours.

Bug Spray 6 (Insecticide)

  • Diatomaceous earth

Mist powder directly onto plants. Slugs and caterpillars are cut up by the sharp edges and die.

Bug Spray 7 (Repellent)

  • 1 handful basil
  • 1 quart water

Steep basil in water in fridge for one week. Strain. Mist directly onto plants as a repellent.

Bug Spray 8 (Plant diseases)

  • Vinegar

Fights fungus diseases, some insects, and kills weeds

Bug Goo

Mix equal parts mineral oil, liquid soap, and petroleum jelly. Spread on plants to trap insects.


Other Odds & Ends Ideas for Organic Insect Control

(again from How To Garden Advice)

Aphid lions are attracted to borage. Aphid lions are one of the friendly insects in your garden, dining on many other pesty garden insects.

Canola oil:
Smothers insects

Cinnamon powder:
Is an antifungal and repels ants

If you have a problem with cutworms, try sprinkling cornmeal around the plants. They eat the cornmeal, but can’t digest it.

Essential Oils:
Use 10 drops of a very fragrant essential oil like mint or pennyroyal mixed with 1/8 tsp liquid soap and 1 qt water.  Use as a preventative measure, by spraying on the leaves of plants that are most likely to get attacked by insects.

Fireflies are very heavy eaters of some of the most pesty garden insects (larvae, mites, slugs, snails, cutworms, etc.).  You can attract fireflies by leaving an area near your garden that’s not mowed (and that isn’t treated with chemicals!).

Petroleum Jelly
To keep ants from eating your plants, spread a thick layer of petroleum jelly (even Vicks will work!) around the plant’s stem or trunk

White Flour:
If you have a problem with cabbage worms or grashoppers, go out in the morning while there is still dew on your plants. Sprinkle them with flour. Then the next day, wash off the flour and the dead bugs.

Helpful Little Critters:
Salamanders, toads, turtles and lizards all help your garden by making meals out of insects. Attract these garden friends by leaving small piles of rocks or wood for them to hide in.

Most snakes are quite harmless and are even helpful in your garden, in that they eat insects and rodents!

As much as spiders give us “the creeps,” they are so important in helping to keep the insect population under control in your garden. You can encourage spiders to patrol your garden, by building little shelters out of mounds of twigs or rocks. I’ve also heard of those who take terra cotta pots and turn them upside down in the garden, leaving them as “spider houses” around the garden.

Sugar water sprayed on plants infected with aphids, scale, whiteflies or mites, can attract ladybird beetles (who will eat these pesty critters for you). Spray the sugar water onto the plants, but don’t spray any on the ladybird beetles.

Why are my friends so gross?

I was digging in one of my raised beds the other day and found a giant white grub — nearly 2″ long with a dark brown spot on one end, and 4 or 6 claws on that same end.  Grossed me out, but before I did anything to it, I did a little Googling to make sure it wasn’t anything beneficial.

At first, I thought it was the Japanese beetle grub, which eats plant roots.  So I tossed it into an empty plastic Folgers coffee can for later disposal and continued to dig.   I found another. And another. And another. The Folgers can was now half full of giant squirming maggots, and I could hear the damn things scrabbling at the sides and bottom with their little claws desperately trying to get out.  Worse, I estimated I had only gotten about a quarter of them out of the bed, if I was lucky.

Back to Google to learn how to organically nuke the suckers.

Turns out further research was a good thing. According the the University of Arizona, as of July 2011 the Japanese beetle has not yet come to Arizona. What I found are actually Bumble Flower Beetle larvae, which are beneficial.  They tend to pupate in horse manure and compost, which is what makes up about 2/3 of the “soil” in my raised beds (the other 1/3rd being rotting straw).

So I dumped the squirming coffee can back into the garden soil, took a shower, and had a drink. They may be beneficial but … ew.

Seriously, that is one ugly bug.

First Frost

First frost of the winter:

Frosted broccoli
Frosted chard

Since I put in so much work, though, I’m trying a technique I heard about on the Survival Podcast: inverting a fish tank over the plants to act as a mini greenhouse.

Covered spinach
Covered chard

You can see in the last photo that I have quite a few spinach plants growing at this point. I decided to cover some and leave some uncovered. That’ll give me a decent idea of how tolerant the spinach is of low temperatures.

Plus I ran out of fish tanks.

Basil Frittata

Monday night had an even harder frost than Sunday night, and my basil plant finally gave up the ghost. I suppose I should have covered it, but it was going anyway, so I wasn’t too distressed. In retrospect, though, I probably should have checked to see if basil is a perennial or annual. If the former, I could have brought it inside for the night

Poor dying basil plant

I pulled off all the still-good leaves (about 2 cups worth altogether), sauteed them up with a bit of olive oil, and add a scrambled egg to make a basil frittata. Warning: you need to really like basil  to enjoy this!

Added the egg, covered and cooked on med-low heat until cooked through.
Sauteeing basil leaves

Basil’s a lot like chard or kale in that you need to cook it longer than, say, spinach, or else it’s pretty tough.

Fall Garden Update

Well, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, my garden is finally growing again. I think the major problem was that I planted the greens far too early, when it was too warm for them to germinate.

The carrots are getting to be decent sized, with the largest being the size of about a small-medium grocery-store carrot (based on the top of the carrot which I can just barely see). I’m leaving them for at least another month, possibly longer.

The sugar peas have not only blossomed, but I actually have a couple of pods. That’s about 2 1/2 months after my original planting.Haven’t figured out why some of the plants are all dotted with white spots and lacy holes, though.

Peas ‘n Carrots
Sugar pea pods

After sitting for 2 months (!) as a tiny 1″ sprout, the giant chard is finally growing in leaps and bounds. In just a couple weeks, it’s quadrupled in size. Whew!

Fordhook Giant Chard

The broccoli did the same – an itty-bitty sprout that never got any bigger. It’s finally starting to grow, albeit not by much.

Broccoli — hard to believe this is considered “getting bigger”

The yams have been great. They were the one crop that did not give me any problems at all. That lush foliage all came from two grocery-store yams I put into the bed! I’m anxiously waiting for the tops to die off so I can dig them up and see how much they produced. But if nothing else, it does look pretty!

Yams – even if they don’t produce anything, I love that gorgeous foliage!

This is (I believe) a tomato plant that accidentally sprouted up from the compost area of one of the beds. I figure I’ll just let it go until something happens or the cold kills it off.

Accidental tomato (or possibly pepper … who knows?)

Finally, about a month ago, I got so frustrated with the bed in which I had planted the collards and bok choy (neither of which have ever sprouted) that I had scattered a bunch of spinach seeds in that same bed. Well, they’re sprouting up like mad. The initial leafing looks like two blades of grass (which is what I thought it was when I saw the first sprout), but if you look closely, the subsequent leaves are properly round spinach leaves.

Spinach sprouts
Spinach closeup

Oh, and after a rocky start, my spearmint is doing fantastically well. It’s interesting because initially after transplanting it had gotten very “leggy”: tall, skinny stalks with few leaves. I chopped down those stalks to about 3″ tall. When I noticed runners (shoots spreading out from the roots, just below the surface of the soil), I gently tugged them so that parts were exposed above the dirt. Now it’s nice and lush!

Beautiful spearmint — time for Mojitos!