I’ve found that awareness and a quick response are two of the best allies against garden foes. By knowing my plants, as well as their pests and diseases, I can be proactive in combatting garden ailments.
When problems do arise, I turn to the most benign and natural forms of control, like hand-picking invaders, setting up barriers, or trimming problem areas off plants. If these interventions fail, I apply my easy homemade potions to treat my gardens, keeping in mind the welfare of the soil and the dwellers who share the earth with me.
Anyone walking into my potting area is liable to find four or five mixtures of fertilizer brews and oddball pest blends fermenting in tubs, along with a strange collection of tools and utensils. It is not the aftermath of some cataclysmic disaster; it is my laboratory, my living library, and the makings for a healthy garden.
On the occasion that I need to treat a plant for a pest or disease problem, I follow these simple guidelines:
• Test homemade sprays on a small portion of the plant before applying it to the entire surface. Monitor the plant’s response for a couple of days to check for burning.
•Add a few drops of liquid soap to homemade foliar sprays. It helps to emulsify, or blend together, the other ingredients. It also acts as a surfactant, or wetting agent, which will ensure uniform coverage on leaf surfaces or insect bodies (causing desiccation and death). Always use soap (never detergent) so as not to burn plants; good choices are Dr. Bronner’s, Fels Naptha, or any pure castile soap, all of which can be found in health-food stores.
•Apply sprays early in the morning and never when the temperature is above 85°F to prevent sunburned leaves.
•Wear rubber gloves when using any sprays containing peppers, alcohol, citrus concentrates, mint oils, or anything else that could irritate your skin. And when spraying outdoors in breezy conditions, wear eye and nose protection.
•Examine your plants thoroughly before apply- ing sprays to make sure that you aren’t spraying any spiders or beetles that might be your allies in the fight against pests.