Growing an organic garden is rewarding work. Eating fresh, healthy food straight from the garden lifts both the body and spirit. Unfortunately, many insects and other pests like to sample the fresh produce as well. I am constantly on the lookout for ways to keep pests off my plants without harming beneficial insects or the plants.
Recently, I read about two recipes from horticulturalist Estelle Bogoch-Stelmach. She instructs gardeners on effective, natural pest control strategies using common, safe ingredients. Most store-bought pesticides are chemical concoctions that indiscriminately kill insects, including beneficial bugs such as pollinators and insects that prey on the pests eating our produce. These pesticides also end up on the food we are growing and ultimately find their way into our bodies where their toxic effects continue. Most commercial pesticides are proven nervous system toxins and hormone disruptors.
Here are two pesticide recipes Bogoch-Stelmach uses, based on the principle that if they are made with ingredients we can eat, they are healthy enough to use:
The first recipe is an insect spray intended for soft-bodied bugs like aphids. If possible, try to find organic produce and spices, as well as natural versions of the hot sauce.
Pesticide for Aphids
- 1 large, very sharp onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp of hot sauce
- Dash of chili powder
- Dash of cayenne pepper
Bogoch-Stelmach discards the skin from the onions and garlic (good for composting), chops them into small pieces and places them in a blender full of water, along with the other ingredients. After blending the mixture, she strains it twice through a sieve to remove the solids, which can then be used as a soup base or composted. The remaining liquid can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one year; however, a fresh batch should be made for the new growing season.
Bogoch-Stelmach combines about two inches of the concentrate with one inch of biodegradable liquid dish soap in a spray bottle. She tops the bottle up with water to dilute the concentrate and make it easier to spray. The mixture can be sprayed directly on the pest or infestation.
The second recipe is a “dough” that acts as slug bait.
Slug Bait Dough
- ½ cup of flour
- 3 tbsp. of cornmeal
- ½ tbsp. of yeast
- 1 tbsp. of molasses
- 1/3 cup of water
She mixes the first four ingredients together and slowly adds the water to blend the mixture into a bread-like dough. The dough is placed in a sealable container or re-sealable sandwich bag and kept in a warm spot to rise overnight. She places the dough in a small deli container and cuts four 1 inch by 1 inch holes in the lid to allow the slugs entry. The entire container is placed in the ground so the lid is flush with the surface of the ground. The container and bait can be replaced each week.
It may seem like more work, but think about the alternative: driving to the garden center and shelling out money on toxic chemicals that damage both your garden’s ecosystem and your body.
Let your kitchen pantry be your laboratory for effective pest management in your garden. Oh, and just because it’s good enough to eat doesn’t mean you should.