Every year in the United States, about 4.5 billion pounds of chemical pesticides are sold. Surprisingly, homeowners use about three times the amount of pesticides that farmers do. They blanket their yards in the stuff and effectively kill beneficial organisms and contaminate water sources through run-off.
Haphazard pesticide use also puts home-dwellers at risk of chemical exposure: many of the chemicals found in synthetic pesticides have been linked to certain cancers, fertility complications, respiratory disease, and neurological malfunctions. And according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), over 30,000 pet poisonings related to pesticides are reported to the society's poison control center every year. Heavy pesticide use causes a cascade of problems not only for the environment, but for human and animal health; so keep reading to discover some of the nontoxic, homemade ways to rid your garden of troublesome pests.
ORGANIC PEST CONTROL TIPS
- To target chewing pests such as beetles, make a soapy spray using two tablespoons of natural liquid soap and a gallon of water. Spray both the top and underside of leaves.
- Mix one tablespoon of cooking oil and two tablespoons of water with one cup of natural dish soap to control whiteflies, aphids, and spider-mites, among other insects.
- Mask the smell or taste of plants that attract pests by mixing together in a spray bottle two tablespoons of vanilla with a quart of water.
- Leave a bad taste in the pests' mouths by using onion or hot pepper sprays.
- For a simple organic insecticide, pour 1 ½ cups water into your blender and add 2 bulbs of garlic. Liquefy the ingredients to a smooth blend, strain the remaining pieces of garlic, dilute the mixture with about a gallon of water, and empty a portion into a spray bottle. Garlic insecticides are good for ants, aphids, cutworms, earwigs, flies, grasshoppers, slugs, snails, whiteflies, and a host of other pests.
- Prevent squirrels from taking up troublesome residence by spraying one cup of castor oil mixed with two gallons of water on your vegetable garden and flowerbed. Or sprinkle the area with cayenne pepper.
- For earwigs, slugs, and other soft-bodied garden pests, sprinkle diatomaceous earth over plants and around the edges of garden beds. The diatom particles are harmful to the exoskeletons of insects, slugs, and snails.
- Ask your local garden shop or nursery to make recommendations for natural predators that could control your garden's pest problem. Ladybugs, ground beetles, birds, fungi, and moss can all be attracted or introduced to your backyard habitat, and will maintain diversity and protect your plants.
- Help prevent the presence of garden pests by finding and applying a good seaweed mulch or spray to your plants. Seaweed contains trace elements like iron, zinc, barium, calcium, sulfur, and magnesium, which promote healthy plant growth and development, and give them the strength to withstand disease. You can also make your own seaweed spray by mixing 2/3 cup of kelp concentrate with a gallon of water.
- Apple cider vinegar can contain up to 30 trace elements and, when 1-2 tablespoons are added to a gallon of water, can act as a mild fungicide or acidic liquid fertilizer.
- Several tablespoons of ground cloves added to a gallon of water acts as a great repellant for flying insects.
To search for recipes and commercial products by specific garden pests or diseases, visit ExtremelyGreen.com and view their organic pest control guide.