Organic Controls
The Potting Shed


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True Garden Hospitality

Insects have a way of attacking both indoor and outdoor plants. One day everything is just fine and the next day the bugs have arrived by the thousands. The best way to handle the problem is to catch it before it becomes a full blown infestation. Often the easiest and most effective is to give the offender a cooling bath with a hard blast of water from the garden hose. This will usually send the little creatures on their merry way.

Hand picking is one of the best ways if the insect is large enough to pick up and remove. Japanese beetles are a prime example of pick-able insects. Drop the six-legged creepy crawlers into a pail of soapy water for a quick drowning. Or hold the pail under them and gently tap the branch or flower and knock them off into the awaiting bubble bath.

Invite the neighborhood slugs over for a beer bash one evening. Place a bowl or pie pan down into the ground until the rim is level with the dirt. Fill the pan with cheap beer. Slugs are not known for being beer connoisseurs - they are perfectly happy with rot-gut beer. They drink, they get drunk, and they drown. (I am talking about slimy garden slugs, not the guys; well, of course you can invite the guys, but just don’t tell them about the bowl of beer! Also you better serve this refreshment after the dog has been brought in for the night - apparently most dogs have a taste for beer too.) For those of you who prefer not to buy alcohol, try mixing yeast with water and sugar.

Slugs can also be put on a diet by using your egg shells. Place the eggs shells in a blender with water. Turn the blender on for a few seconds then pour the watery egg shell mixture around the slugs favorite meal this works just as well as a sprinkle of diatomaceous earth without the cost. They do not like to crawl over these abrasive substances.

Now, don't forget those caterpillars. They look like they could use a little appetite suppressant. No problem, Bt (Bacillus Thuringensis), a bacteria sprayed on the leaves of plants causes caterpillars to stop feeding! Just make sure you are using Bt on the bad caterpillars and not one that will grow into one of our endangered butterflies. Those ugly hornworms chomping on the tomato plants can be hand picked but the ones with those white rice-sized things all over their body - leave them alone. They are really great big nursery incubators for the parasitic wasps, one of the friendly good guys. Those nursery carriers can no longer eat and are dying a slow death.

Those ugly hornworms chomping on the tomato plants can be hand picked but the ones with those white rice-sized things all over their body - leave them alone. They are really great big nursery incubators for the parasitic wasps, one of the friendly good guys. Those nursery carriers can no longer eat and are dying a slow death.

When problems do arrive it is frequently when least expected. Unless there is a full range of chemicals on hand, which is not recommended, it is usually easier to head for the kitchen cupboards to mix a quick effective remedy. These homemade brews are simple to make, very inexpensive, and perform well.

General All-Purpose Insecticidal Spray

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid
  • 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of household bleach
  • 1 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol

Omit bleach and alcohol if used on succulent plants.
Add a few drops of hot sauce if spraying for mites

Place the mixture in a spray bottle and spray plants from top to bottom. Make sure to spray the undersides of the leaves where many insects hide. Repeat process every two to three days for two weeks. This is a contact insecticide; it must contact the bug to be effective. It may be used on indoor and outdoor plants. Use some common sense when spraying - no one wants bleach, alcohol, hot pepper sauce, or vinegar in their eyes, etc..

Nancy's Oriental Earwig Delight

  • Make a trap by putting vegetable oil and soy sauce into a ramekin (a small dish with straightish sides).
  • Grease the sides of the ramekin to make it slippery.
  • Place the trap on the ground in the garden and presto the earwigs will be floating upside down in no time!

Fungus and Powdery Mildew Spray

  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Spray plants weekly with this mixture as needed.

It is amazing how rewarding a little garden hospitality can be. By eliminating pests in a "friendly" manner, the door opens for beneficial insects such as lady bugs, praying mantids, green lacewings, assassin bugs, damsel bugs, stink bugs and parasitic wasps to lend a hand in controlling garden pests.

Remember that no garden is totally free of insects, nor should it be. Insecticides do not discriminate, and are lethal to both the insects that are unwanted and the ones that are very much needed. Show those unwanted insects a little true garden hospitality, a good soapy bath, an Oriental meal and a can of beer, "how sweet it is."


We would like to thank The Potting Shed for the above information. This online gardening magazine gives tips and tricks for organic gardening and much more. Please visit their website at www.vabch.com/gmb/potting.htm


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