Suggestions for natural pest control in the garden, with thanks to Gardeners’ World magazine.
Chemical pesticides have steadily disappeared from garden centres in recent years amid concerns over safety, but within our own gardens we can find a ready armoury to help defend plants. Many wild plants rely on natural chemicals they produce themselves to repel attackers and they are as effective as anything that can be bought. A few minutes at the kitchen chopping board and these plant-made defences can be extracted to make organic sprays that won’t damage the environment and will hardly cost a thing. The only extra needed is horticultural soft soap (ladybirdplantcare.co.uk) or Castile soap to help it stick. Don’t use hand soap as it contains unwanted additives.
- Garlic water
When garlic cloves are crushed, they release unpleasant sulphur compounds to put off whatever is hoping it might have found some lunch. Spray plants with the same compounds & they’ll keep off most pests, from blackfly & whitefly to aphids. Don’t stint on the garlic: you’ll need two whole bulbs per batch.
- Chilli pepper spray
This is great for reducing populations of aphids, spider mites & whitefly by coating eggs with an oily mix that prevents them hatching. Any chilli works, but hotter ones are most effective. Start spraying against insects before infestations start, as a preventative measure. Leaves absorb the spray so avoid using it on leafy veg – unless you like spicy lettuce! It can be stored, clearly labelled, in the fridge for several weeks.
Take a generous handful of fresh chilli peppers or two whole garlic bulbs (you don’t have to peel them). Roughly chop or blitz in a blender. Wear gloves when handling the peppers and don’t touch your face. If you don’t have fresh chillies use a tablespoon of chilli flakes or powder instead.
Tip the chopped veg into a one litre Kilner jar & top up with water, then let the mixture steep, covered, overnight for garlic water or up to a week for pepper spray.
Strain the liquid through muslin into a bowl then stir in a tablespoonful of soft soap. Decant into a bottle with a lid & label clearly. Use pepper spray neat but dilute garlic spray with 250ml to one litre of water. The taste can linger on vegetables so stop spraying a few weeks before harvest time.