Non-toxic solutions keep insects at bay
Someone ate in my bed of roses and I’m pissed.
Being away for a few weeks and knowing how quickly things grow in June, I was excited to come home and check out my garden. As I was looking over my precious petunias, to my horror, I discovered that pests had used my garden as a sideboard. Ravaged leaves, bare buds, stems clinging to their shoots for dear life. I was sick, which quickly turned into rage.
Although I am not a fan of chemical pesticides, when I saw the devastation they caused, all I could think was “Bring me the DDT”. To hell with the green, I’m going nuclear on these little SOBs.
Cursing the death of the faithful insects, I began rummaging around the shed in search of the stuff of a mother of all bug sprays. Luckily my husband took the pressure sprayer out of my hands and talked me out of it.
Vermin’s Revenge Cracked Down, I knew I could find non-toxic, civilized ways to deal with bug busts, but that would have to be investigated. First, I started to identify the various garden criminals based on the evidence left behind: shiny sticky residue (aphids), large leaf holes (leafcutter bees), etc. After much research, here is a list of homemade, “green” insecticides and deterrents to keep bugs away from your garden.
Free the ladybugs: These insects and others like the praying mantis are natural predators of garden pests. Ladybugs are especially fond of aphids, one of the most common pests. Beneficial insects like these can be purchased at garden stores or through catalogs. You can also grow plants that naturally attract these “good” bugs like lemon balm and dill.
Good old soap and water: Mix 1 cup of vegetable oil and 2 teaspoons of bleach-free natural dish soap with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray, coat the plants; also under the leaves. Do this out of direct sunlight during the cooler part of the day. This coat will smother existing insects and deter future insects from infesting.
Beer: My mother used to place shallow pans filled with beer in the garden. The insects find the beer much more appetizing than the leaves and plunge to their drunken death. (As if I needed another reason to love beer.)
Garlic: Many pests have an aversion to garlic. Put large chunks of several garlic cloves in a spray bottle filled with water. Leave to stand for several hours. Spray the affected plants with this garlic infused water as directed above.
Copper band and organic killer bait: Snails, although rare in the desert, accumulate around lawn edges and damp flower beds. To deter snails, wrap copper tape around planters and flower bed borders. When snails pass over copper, there is a chemical reaction with their slime which creates an electrical charge. Also helpful, organic products like Natria Snail & Slug Killer Bait are safe for people, pets, vegetation and wildlife.
Diatomaceous earth: Add this powder around affected plants. It’s a silica-based product that naturally causes many insects to dry out and die, but is not toxic to humans or pets (unless you have a tarantula like my nephew).
Sometimes it’s better to call in the pros. Scorpion infestation, hornet and wasp nests, grub worms – often best left to reputable pest control companies. Michael Leobold, co-founder of Green Wave Pest Solutions in Las Vegas, explains, “Pest control is not magic, which means that no single treatment will or should be the ultimate solution to any pest problem. . Applied products break down over time due to UV (ultraviolet) rays, bacteria, weather conditions and fungi, so having an integrated pest management plan in place with a professional is essential to maintain presence levels of parasites desired.
As for those leafcutter bees that have been nibbling on my rose leaves, there’s apparently no effective pesticide for them. Rather than eating the leaves, they use the pieces to make chambers for egg laying. They are also essential pollinators and should not be killed. (I know…but I still hate them.) The solution is to net the affected plants and seal up any openings where they dug.
Now you are naturally armed to keep these critters away from your garden.
Norma Vally is a seasoned home improvement veteran. her career includes four seasons as the host of the Emmy-nominated Discovery Home Channel series “Toolbelt Diva.” Columnist and author, Vally divides her time between Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email [email protected]