Mastering organic pest control may take some practice. This is my 4th year gardening, and at first, it was not so bad. But I swear, I think there is a “bug facebook” where it is announced to all bugs everywhere when a new gardener is in town because after the 3rd year … THEY FOUND ME … and they brought all the kids and the grandkids and the cousins and their grandkids. And they all had their bells on. This year, we got hit HARD. So organic pest control is officially underway.
I am determined not to use any chemicals. I want strictly organic pest control. So I did some research and found two commonly-used and time-tested methods I wanted to try. First, I got very familiar with diatomaceous earth (DE) which has its own role in the garden. DE (like everything) has its pros & cons. On the up side, it is not a chemical … at all. (For a more in depth look at how DE works and how to use it properly & safely, please see the two links at the bottom of this post.) Also on the up side, you can see where you treated and where you didn’t because it looks like baby powder (talc). You can easily see where you missed, and you don’t accidentally treat the same spot twice. It is also reasonably effective at killing bugs. Although some folks just swear by it, I am not one of them. So what don’t I like about DE? First, if it rains or or you water the garden, you have to retreat it after it dries. Water and DE are not friends. Second, don’t touch it, then touch your nose, eyes, mouth, or other sensitive body parts until you have washed thoroughly. Folks with respiratory issues should probably wear a mask. Not that it is poison — it is not — but it can be quite irritating to sensitive tissue. Third, some bugs just laugh at it. It doesn’t kill everything and it takes a couple days to kill anything. Lastly, once it has been wetted and redried, you get that caked on white powder everywhere and it just makes the garden look bad — and then, of course, your produce looks bad. It’s perfectly safe to eat, it just … looks bad. That said, it has a role and I will continue to use it when called for. But DE is not for every bug every time.
Sometimes you have to break out the big guns ….
Here is the second method. I found that most gardening experts agree that bugs (both good bugs and bad bugs) hate garlic and HOT peppers especially when served up together. I saw a few homemade formulas that called for both — along with some cooking oil and/or dish soap. As usual, I didn’t have the exact ingredients called for in any formula I found, so I improvised. This is how I made my first batch of organic pest control … my special bug killing hotsauce. Aka … The Big Guns.
Equipment & Ingredients
- Quart of boiling water
- 8-10 large cloves of garlic (un-skinned is fine, bugs won’t care)
- 1 large fresh REALLY HOT pepper (Any variety is fine. I used cayenne, but habanero, ghost, or even jalapeno should work. The hotter the better. You can also substitute crushed red pepper or chili powder, but I think fresh would be more potent.)
- 1 tablespoon each dish washing liquid and either vegetable or olive oil (doesn’t matter, we are not eating this)
- Mason jar or other glass container
- Coffee grinder or other small food processor
- Small piece of cheese cloth (substitute with the foot from a pair of old panty hose or whatever you have)
- Sharp knife & cutting board
- Protective gloves & eye wear (Unless you just like hot pepper pain. Okay by me, but I don’t recommend it.)
- Large 1 quart spray bottle
- Permanent marker
Put the water on to boil and gather all your equipment. Some of it is not showing in this photo, but you get the idea. And because I grabbed the camera too late, I had already chopped up the garlic (skins and all), but again, you get the idea.
Set it back to cool and steep. Three days later, pull out & compost the tea bag and using a funnel, pour the hotsauce into a spray bottle. LABEL THE BOTTLE.
Couple important notes: Yes, this kills good bugs too, so be on the lookout for lady bugs, mantises, and the like and try to spare them as best you can. Keep out of reach of children; it is almost as nasty as mace. An accidental squirt in the face would be quite unpleasant. (Although, I have no intentions of testing THAT theory.)
Now, next time the little buggers are bugging your beans, you got your big guns loaded and ready to fire. Take THAT you little buggers!
And here are the two links I promised where you can learn everything you need to know about diatomaceous earth (DE):
- From Fabulous Farm Living: Diatomaceous Earth
- From Lisa at Fresh Eggs Daily: The Holistic Trinity – Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic, and Diatomaceous Earth
We’re still on the look out for other effective organic pest control measures. What have tried? What works best for you? Would love to hear your recommendations.