Non-toxic garden pest control (guest post) - Our Daily Green

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Non-toxic garden pest control (guest post)

Our Daily Green is proud to feature master gardening expert and author, Claudia F. Brownlie. As the gardening season approaches, her website and books are filled with tips to help anyone get started with gardening. From a novice to expert, her advice is useful for anyone interested in growing their own food.

Claudia is an advocate of eco-friendly gardening methods. She recently released her newest book "The Shoestring Gardener" - A Compendium of Hundreds of Eco-Friendly, Creatively Frugal Gardening How-Tos, Remedies, and Tips. You can learn about making hypertufa objects in her book "The Hypertufa How-To Manual."  She's also the chief gardener and DIY garden art project expert at her popular website "" You can follow Claudia on Twitter at @ecogardengirl.

Two Non-Toxic Garden Pesticide Recipes - Better Alternatives for Us and for Mother Earth

We currently live in a world riddled with toxic substances just about everywhere we turn, such as fumes from factories spewing into the air and chemicals leaching into our drinking water sources. But the #1 biggest toxic "situation" that affects our overall health is the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides that are sprayed on the fruits, vegetables, and other crops destined for grocery store shelves.

In addition, we cannot overlook another huge sad fact pertaining to the use of these toxic agricultural chemicals - that being the threat to our bee population. Without these wonderful little buzzing marvels of nature, we're in BIG trouble! Did you know that pesticides are a major threat to bees? Chemical pesticides aren't selective when they're sprayed onto a plant, thus the flowers are also poisoned. Bees trying to pollinate the flowers come into contact with the pesticide, which increases a bee's odds of dying sooner rather than later as intended in a "healthy" environment. It is now a well know scientific fact that we're causing a rapid decline in their numbers. But it's not just bees - butterflies and other pollinators must be protected too! They are all responsible for perpetuating plant cycles and evolution.

In the winter of 2006/07 more than 25% of the bee colonies died due to pesticide poisoning. This loss translated to a loss of tens of billions of bees. (It's hard for me to wrap my head around that staggering number.) In addition, it was estimated that this loss negatively impacted the agricultural economy to the tune of $8 to $12 billion!

In 2009 almost 29% of the bee colonies in the United States collapsed. That's slightly less than the 36% loss counted in 2008 and the 32% loss counted in 2007. Unfortunately, scientists studying this problem affirm that the die-off continues.

SuperWeeds - It's Not Just the Beneficial Pollinators We Need to Be Concerned About

Scientists and farmers are also finding another cause for alarm in regard to the heavy-handed use of chemical herbicides for weed management - superweeds. (This sounds like the script for a cheap black and white horror movie where giant weeds are inching their way through a town, smothering and overtaking everything in their path!)

It's estimated that more than 130 types of weeds spanning 40 U.S. states are now herbicide-resistant. In an effort to keep on top of the growing weed problem, farmers are applying ever increasing amounts of toxic herbicides to their crops, which of course dramatically increases the amount of pesticides you ingest from consuming such foods. How can this be a good thing for any one of us or any other living organism? Well, it's not.

But there is something we can do, besides jumping on the bandwagon and getting involved in a legislative, political sense. It's simply to try to do our utmost to not contribute additional toxins into our environment. As far as pesticide and herbicide management in our own gardens is concerned, it's really not hard at all to be eco-friendly. Plus it's safer and healthier for us and all the wonderful pollinators and other creatures that visit our gardens. Pesticides and herbicides made from non-toxic ingredients are effective. Fortunately, there are non-toxic alternatives that can be purchased in the gardening section of many stores. But you needn't spend more money than necessary when it's so easy and economical to make your own.

Horticultural Oil Spray Recipes

Simply stated, horticultural oils are non-poisonous and safe insecticides that can be useful against many bugs including aphids, scales, thrips, spider mites, whiteflies, and mealybugs. The oil kills slow moving sucking insects by suffocating them with a thin layer of oily film. Here's just one of the many types of recipes I'd like to share with you from my newest book "The Shoestring Gardener".

These two spray-on recipes can be used safely while plants are growing.

Variation #1

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable cooking oil - corn, canola, soybean, peanut, sunflower, or safflower
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 teaspoon non-degreasing liquid dishwashing detergent

Mix ingredients well.

Variation #2

  • 3 ounces of garlic cloves - minced
  • 1 tablespoon mineral oil
  • 1 pint of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon non-degreasing liquid dishwashing detergent

Steep the garlic in the oil for 24 hours. Strain. Add the oil to the water and mix in the soap.

These concoctions can be poured into a (recycled) spray bottle and used as needed. Try to avoid spraying during the hottest time of the day - early morning or late afternoon are better times. Store unused portions in a labeled, sealed container. 


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