In the Garden:
New England
July, 2001
Regional Report

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Cabbageworms attack broccoli-family plants, but can be organically controlled with sprays of Bt.

Garden Pest Control

The world of home garden pest control has changed dramatically over the years I've been gardening. The attitude used to be if you see a bug, spray it -- more often than not with a chemical spray. Now with increased awareness of the environment and health concerns, gardeners are thinking twice about the indiscriminant use of chemical sprays. Hosts of new organic pest control products are on the market that kill targeted pests and are less harmful to the natural world. Plus, I like to use a few home remedies right from the kitchen to keep pests and diseases at bay.

Hot Pepper Anyone?

Probably one of the most basic of home remedy pest controls is a hot pepper spray. There are commercial products mixing hot pepper with wax, but I like making my own using hot pepper and garlic. I add 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper flakes and 2 cloves of garlic into the blender. I blend them together with a dash of liquid soap and 1 quart of water, then strain. Spray this mix on soft- bodied insects such as aphids and they'll go running. This also works well repelling critters such as rabbits, but you'll have to reapply this mixture after a rain.

Baking Soda for Roses

Many gardeners have heard of dissolving 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in 1 gallon of water and adding it to their roses for healthier leaves and better blossoms. There's another kitchen item that will help roses as well. Baking soda, when sprayed on rose leaves, will prevent the spread of powdery mildew and black spot diseases. Research at Cornell University showed mixing 3 teaspoons baking soda with 2 tablespoons horticultural or summer oil in 1 gallon of water will create a mixture that stops these fungal diseases. However, this is a prevent spray only and won't kill the disease once it has started.

Biological Sprays

Not all my sprays are from the kitchen. Different strains of Bt (Bacillus thuriengensis) have been used for years to control cabbageworms and Colorado potato beetles. Spray this biological agent in late afternoon to avoid the hot summer sun and add a dash of liquid soap to help it stick to the leaves. Once the insect eats the bacteria they will die within a few days. This is a great control because it only effects targeted insects and is harmless to beneficial insects, animals, and humans.

So if you're looking for a pest or disease control agent, check out your kitchen pantry or look for the organic controls at your garden center.


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