Few things in life feel as rewarding as a beautiful, healthy garden, and this includes using different substances to keep nasty pests or plant diseases away from it, especially if you have an organic vegetable or fruit patch. However, if you are also a parent or a pet owner, then you have to take into account how most pesticides can be toxic towards kids and domestic animals.
The following guide will give you plenty of natural, non-toxic and some DIY insecticide and fungicide options to keep that award-winning garden vibrant and your loved ones safe at the same time.
There’s a natural option for protecting garden grubs, called milky spore. Grubs are actually the larvae of Japanese beetles, so by killing the grub, you’re taking down to birds with one stone (well, two pests). Milky spores are naturally occurring bacteria that infects and eradicates only the grubs, but leaves beneficial organisms unharmed, and is harmless for pets, people and bodies of water. Even better, milky spore multiplies over time and remains dormant on the soil for up to 40 years, meaning that it keeps your lawn protected for a long, long time after first applied.
Hot pepper or cayenne DIY insecticide
You can mix two tablespoons of hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper, along with a few drops of ivory soap in a quart of water, to get rid of mites and other plagues. After letting the mixture stand overnight, give it a good stir and pour into a spray bottle, then apply only over the affected plants. When spraying, shake the bottle frequently to ensure that the ingredients are well incorporated.
The oil extracted from the seeds of the neem tree is a natural insecticide that disrupts any stage of an insect’s life because of its hormone disruptor properties, which makes it an effective natural solution against most common garden pests. It is also a natural fungicide, making it an excellent choice to prevent or eliminate fungal infections such as powdery mildew. Simply spray on the affected area or use it preventatively on plants that are in danger of being attacked by pests. On top of that, neem oil is a non-toxic, biodegradable substance that is safe for pets, birds and other wildlife, but note that it is slightly toxic for aquatic life.
If you want to try a more DIY approach to getting rid of mildew, or at least one that won’t affect beneficial insects, mix equal parts of water and milk in a spray bottle and apply over the affected plants. Do this three times, once per week, and that should take care of the fungus.
Diatomaceous earth is so safe for pets that it can even be rubbed right into a dog’s fur to get rid of fleas. It is commonly used to exterminate ants, ticks, spiders, and in gardening for earwigs, slugs, snails and other soft-bodied pests. This dusty substance is made of sharp and hard particles that are only harmful to bugs’ exoskeletons, which they cannot become immune to because it has a mechanical effect on them, not a chemical one. It is recommended that you use a face mask when applying it, as prolonged inhalation can be harmful, but it is referred to by the Environmental Health Coalition as one of the least toxic insect controls for gardens.
Fungal diseases are a headache for anyone trying to grow a healthy garden, but this natural remedy is an easy solution for it. Just mix two tablespoons of baking soda into a gallon of water, then pour into a spray container or bottle and apply over the affected plants. Keep applying every other day until the problem stops. Simple!
A variation of the recipe above is to mix a tablespoon of cooking oil, two of baking soda, and a few drops of Ivory soap in a gallon of water, then apply in the same way as above.
REMEMBER: All of these insecticides should pose no threat to your children or pets, but remember that insecticides are, by nature, a substance design to affect or change the balance of an ecosystem, so some of them might kill other beneficial bugs. Also, because of their contents, prolonged inhalation or exposure with the skin might have adverse effects, as most insecticides do. Limited exposure, however, should prove safer than most products available in the market.
A longer lasting solution to any bug problem is to have your entire home and garden tidy and clean as well. Hire a professional maid service to always keep dust, mites, and fungus out of the way in and outside your home.