Natural pest control can be as simple as using items from your kitchen to rid your beloved plants of undesirable critters. However, before you try any of the recipes for homemade pesticides, keep a few important points in mind.
- Keep soil healthy and plants happy. Good pest control always starts with healthy soil, regular watering and fertilizing your plants as required.
- Never spray plants with any type of pesticide in direct sunlight.
- Always test by spraying a small area of the plant. If no leaf damage occurs, proceed to spray the plant.
- Regularly inspect the underside of leaves as that’s where most pests reside.
- Encourage ladybugs, wasps and bees into your garden as they are natural predators for pests like aphids.
- A word about soap: don’t use harsh chemical soaps or detergents when soap is called for in a recipe. Always go for pure soap or biodegradable dish washing liquid.
- Use pesticides, even natural ones, sparingly as they may also affect beneficial insects in the garden.
Garlic, Onion and Chilli Spray
Leaf-eating insects such as caterpillars, Japanese Beetles and Spider Mites chew off juicy green leaves, leaving behind the tell-tale c-shaped bites on leaf edges, lace patterned or skeletonised leaves. Other soft-bodied pests such as aphids and thrips insert their mouthparts into plant tissue and suck out sap. Infested plants show stunted growth, yellowing or curling leaves and even death. This spray is very effective as a general purpose natural pesticide around the garden.
4 bird’s eye chillies
2 large onions
2 bulbs garlic
1 tbsp pure soap
Chop the unpeeled onion, garlic and chillies (including seeds). Simmer in boiling water for about 20 minutes. Cool the mixture. Add the soap flakes and allow to stand for 24 hours. Store in a sealed glass jar in a cool dark place for up to two weeks. Spray as required.
Marigold and Coriander Spray
With fragrant French marigolds so readily available in the UAE these days, the flowers along with some coriander leaves make an excellent defence against leaf-cutting and chewing insects, tomato hornworms and asparagaus beetles.
1 Cup marigold flowers, leaves and stems (fragrant marigold varieties are best)
1/4 Cup coriander leaves and stems
8 Cups distilled water
1 teaspoon pure soap or biodegradable dishwashing liquid
Crush the marigold and coriander. Add two cups of distilled water to the mixture and place it in your fridge for a day or so. Strain through cheesecloth and add the remaining water. You can keep the mixture for a week in the fridge. Shake vigorously before use.
If you detect fine silken webs on the underside of leaves and the leaves appear flecked, bronzed and scorched, your plants are infested by spider mites. Use this spray over a two day period to make sure the infestation has been successfully eradicated.
½ cup buttermilk
4 cups flour
20 l water
Mix the buttermilk with the flour and then add the water. Spray over affected plants.
Mustard Seed Spray
Scale insects are sap-sucking pests that attack a wide range of plants from ornamentals and fruit bushes to houseplants. You may notice shell-like bumps on plant stems and the underside of leaves, stunted growth or sooty mould on leaves. Use this spray to control infestation.
1 tbsp ground mustard seeds
20 parts water
Place in a sprayer and spray the affected plant.
Chamomile tea contains anti-fungal properties that offset any pathogens in the soil. If your seeds fail to germinate or seedlings suddenly keel over and die, it may be something called ‘damping off’. Save yourself from disappointment by watering and misting seedlings with this weak solution of chamomile tea.
2 chamomile tea bags
4 cup boiling water
Steep the teabags in the water for 24 hours. Spray on seedlings to prevent damping off as well as powdery mildew.