Category Archives: Natural Pest and Disease Control.

Controlling Slugs

One reason it’s so difficult to get rid of slugs is because they are hermaphrodites, which means they contain both male and female organs. Not only that, but they may alternate sexes at different times during their adulthood. Self fertilization is also possible, so if just one slug gets into your greenhouse, you will have an infestation in a very short time.

Slugs do have a purpose in that they eat dead and decaying debris in your garden, the problem is, they will also eat your plants, fruit and anything else they can reach; and slugs can climb up anything. Slugs look a lot like another garden pest, the garden snail, the difference being that snails have a shell on their back and slugs do not.

There are several ways to deter slugs, but as mentioned above, due to their extraordinary reproductive system, it is impossible to get rid of them completely. All you can do is slow down their numbers a bit.

Beer Traps: Almost every gardener has heard of using beer traps to diminish slugs; and it does work. Poor some beer in a shallow dish that is half buried in the soil around the plants they are devouring. They will crawl up the side of the dish and drown in the beer. Slugs are very attracted to beer. Once the beer trap gets too contaminated with dead slugs, dump it out. WARNING: be sure to dump it where other pets, especially dogs, can’t find it. They will eat the slugs and slugs can make pets sick.

Diatomaceous Earth: Is a powder you can find in most garden centers. It is considered safe to use around pets and on plants you will eat. It is made from crushed shells of crustaceans which cut the skin of the slugs when they crawl over it. Sprinkle it generously around plants you don’t want slugs to crawl up. You will have to replenish it every time you water.

Grass or Hay Mulch Works Very Well and Benefits Plants too: If you have a strawberry bed and the berries are being eaten by slugs, try putting grass clippings around all the strawberry plants making sure any berries are sitting on top of the clipping. Slugs don’t like decaying grass clippings because they create ammonia gas, but plants love it. Just be sure to replace the clipping with fresh ones when the old ones turn brown and are decomposed.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Devil’s Shoestring

Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Devil’s Shoestring: Tephrosia virginiana.

Devil’s shoestring got its name from voodoo and witchcraft. It was used to “trip up” the devil and keep him from your door.

There are about 19 species of this North American native weed and much confusion over how they look with many being called Devil’s shoestring and being described as a big clump of grass or more like a vine. This member of the viburnum family has a valuable natural insecticidal property to it. Although low in toxicity to animals, it is regarded as poisonous to fish. Wild turkeys however love to eat it.

Resembling a large clump of grass growing in the open and in light shade on limestone slopes and cliffs, the roots contain the popular natural insecticide ingredient rotenone and can be used by making a strong tea of them, straining it with a coffee filter and then spraying it onto infested plants with a spray bottle.

Also known as rabbit bean, turkey pea, goat’s rue and hoary pea, Native Americans used it for medicinal purposes and to poison fish. It prefers well-drained sandy soils. The photo above is known most commonly as goat’s rue.

Also read about how to get rid of thistles naturally in this month’s archived articles.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Hydrogen Peroxide.

Hydrogen-Peroxide-Kitchen-Cleaner-Maid-SailorsThe chemical compound H2O2 is more commonly known in households across America as hydrogen peroxide. It is similar to water — H20 — and when applied to the soil, breaks down into water and oxygen. At low strengths, it can provide an effective barrier to many of the pests that traditionally attack gardens. It is also an effective sterilizer for garden tools, plant pots and trays, and other items you wish to reuse in the garden without danger of disease.

Soaking seeds in a mild solution of hydrogen peroxide may prevent animals from digging them up and eating them, and may also keep worms and insects from attacking them. Spraying leaves consistently after rain can discourage pests from eating leaves and fruits, and does not leave a harmful residue on edibles. You can even spray hydrogen peroxide into a hole before planting to protect the roots of the plant. A good solution is 1 ounce of 40 percent strength hydrogen peroxide per gallon of fresh water. This may also work as a preventative for blights, mildews and other diseases.

Root rot is caused by a variety of opportunistic fungi that attack the roots of plants, usually in environments with too much water and too little oxygen around the plant roots. This weakens them and makes them susceptible to attack, whereas increasing oxygen levels and decreasing water can reverse the problem. You can combat root rot, which causes slimy root systems and dropping leaves, by watering plants with hydrogen peroxide rather than water. The substance breaks down into one water molecule and one available oxygen atom, increasing the amount of oxygen around the roots.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Tulip Fire (botrytis blight).

tulipfireA common disease in areas that get a great deal of rain in the spring. Spotting and collapse of the stems, leaves and flowers is usually accompanied by brownish gray mold. This fungus will stay in the soil and infect next year’s flowers as well.
Once plants are infected, they should be pulled and burned. Do not plant tulips in the same spot year after year. Dig up the bulbs of healthy plants in the fall (or get new bulbs) and keep them in a cool, dry place over the winter. In the spring, start a new tulip patch each year.

Preventing Ants from Taking Their Aphid Harvests into Your Orchard Trees.

ants_aphidsAnts will protect and actually harvest aphids to serve their food supply. The ants eat the sticky, white, sweet substance secreted by the aphids and so the aphids are literally harvested by the ants and protected for the food they offer. Ants will collect aphids and put them under leaves for future food storage use.

One gardener I recently talked to found a clever way to prevent ants from taking their aphid harvest up into his cherry trees. He put a non-drying adhesive or sealing compoundaround the base of the trunks of his trees. The ants would get stuck in the compound and not go any further, however, ladybugs, who feed on aphids were not disturbed by the sticky barrier. The ants would drop their aphid cargo at the base of the trees and the ladybugs would eat them up.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Catnip

cat-catnipCatnip naturally contains an oil that is an insect repellent called nepetalactone. Fresh catnip when steeped in water and sprayed on plants will send flea beetles scurrying. Freshly picked catnip placed on shelves will repel black ants.

Catnip has a chemical compound similar to certain predatory insects such as the walkingstick – which ejects a spray similar to this compound to deter it’s enemies. However, be careful where you plant catnip as cats really do love it and will rub themselves on it sometimes crushing the plant and others around it.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Powdery Mildew and other Types of Mildew

powdery-mildew-grapesQuite common in greenhouses, humid climates and you may notice it more in the fall when the air is cool and damp. Powdery mildew spores live in the soil and the mildew itself is caused by too much humidity. It rarely ever kills a plant, but it can stunt it and kill emerging blossoms and fruit.

Garlic Spray: Will kill many types of mildew. Crush 3-4 large cloves of garlic into a jar. Fill with 2 cups boiling water and let sit for 24 hours. Strain out garlic and put into a spray bottle. Keep refrigerated.

Do not overhead water. Over head watering will just make the mildew thrive. If possible, try to increase air circulation around the affected plants and water near the roots only.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Mosquitoes

mosquitoIt is said that mosquitoes are never found in swamps or ponds where Calamus, also known as sweetflag or sweet root is growing. If you have a backyard pond, many pond supply stores have this great stuff called “Mosquito Dunks.” You can also order them online. They are little donuts made of BT that you can float in your pond to control mosquitoes. Fish will also eat mosquito larvae.

Mosquitoes are heat-seeking missiles. They pick up on body heat, so the warmer you are the quicker they will pick you out of a crowd. They are also attracted to carbon dioxide when we breathe, so if you are breathing heavily, they will find you. Because they are attracted to these two things primarily, there isn’t a particular herb or smell that will deter them. However, they are attracted to body odor.

Everyone knows they hang out around any little source of water, so keep rain barrels covered, empty any receptacle in your yard that holds water after a rain or cover it. f you have horse troughs or large containers for livestock, empty them every 7 days before any mosquito larvae in them has a chance to hatch.

Lactic acid in skin care products:Have mosquitos been buzzing around your face and head a lot? It could be your body care products that are attracting them. Alpha hydroxy used in many facial products is an attractant.

If there isn’t water readily available, they like tall grass, so keep it mowed.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Apple Maggot.

apple_maggot_flyAlso known as apple fruit fly, the adult apple maggot fly is similar to the house fly and lays eggs inside the flesh of the apples around late July. They usually go unnoticed until you bite into an apple. The larvae overwinter in dropped fruit, so discarding and cleaning up fruit from the ground in the fall is a good idea.

You can make a trap to catch the flies before they lay their eggs. Mix one part molasses to nine parts water and add some yeast to encourage fermentation. Pour the beer-smelling liquid into small, plastic containers. Once fermentation subsides, hang the containers from your apple trees.

Another remedy; The Cooperative Extension of New Hampshire uses a bait made of 2 tsp ammonia and 1/4 tsp soap powder mixed in a quart of water. Distribute to smaller containers and hang them on the sunny side of the trees. Renew the bait if necessary.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Control Armyworms.

fall-armywormArmyworms are usually controlled by birds, skunks, tachnid flies and toads, but you may have noticed that every so many years, they are overly abundant. This phenomenon seems to go in cycles. When this happens, they can do serious damage to corn crops, fruit trees and certain vegetables.

A well-known remedy for armyworm infestations on large crops that has been used by the old-timers for years is to dig a trench or ditch around the crop and keep the soil in it loose and dry if possible. The worms will be trapped in it and you can bury them or burn them.

Another old-time practice for armyworms is to plant alternate rows of sunflowers. Researchers in Cuba have confirmed that this method is effective.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.