onsdag den 30. april 2008

Non-toxic and Homemade Remedies

Homemade remedies are inexpensive and, best of all, you know what is going into your garden. Many homemade sprays have been used with good results to control harmful insects. They usually involve noxious (but non-toxic) ingredients such as garlic, cayenne, stinging nettles or horsetail which are diluted in water and blended to be sprayed on the plants. Here are a few simple formulas:

  • Soft-bodied insects (mites, aphids, mealybugs): Mix one tablespoon canola oil and a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. Spray plant from above down, and from below up to get the underside of the leaves. The oil smothers the insects.
  • Grubs: For lawn or garden grubs, there is a natural remedy called milky spore. The granules are spread on the soil and cause the grubs to contract a disease that kills them. This natural control affects only the grubs, leaving the beneficial organisms unharmed. Milky spore multiplies over time and will sit inactive, waiting for grubs to infect. One treatment is said to last 40 years. The grubs are actually the larvae of Japanese beetles. So, when you kill the grubs you kill the beetle.
  • Mites and other insects: Mix two tablespoons of hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper with a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Let stand overnight, then stir and pour into a spray bottle and apply as above. Shake container frequently during application.
  • Earwigs, slugs, and other soft-bodied garden pests: Sprinkle diatomaceuos earth over plants and around edges of garden beds. The diatoms particles are very small and sharp – but only harmful to the small exoskeletons of insects, slugs and snails. Insects cannot become immune to its action, as it is a mechanical killer – not a chemical one.
  • Fungal diseases: Mix two tablespoons of baking soda into a quart of water. Pour into a spray container and spray affected areas. Repeat this process every few days until problem ceases.
  • Powdery mildew: Mix equal parts milk and water and spray on infected plants. Three treatments a week apart should control the disease.
  • Insects and fungal diseases: Combine one tablespoon of cooking oil, two tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Pour into a spray container and apply as above.
  • Insects on fruit trees: Lime sulfur and dormant oil, available at nurseries and garden centers, can be sprayed on the trunk and branches of dormant fruit trees. This concoction will suffocate insect egg cases. Because the oily spray is heavy compared to the other water-based sprays, you'll need a pump sprayer. These are fairly inexpensive, and are available to rent from some nurseries. Only use this method while the tree is dormant, however, or it can kill the tree.
    Commercial dormant oils may contain petroleum oil or kerosene. A less toxic method is to make your own. Mix 1 cup vegetable oil and 2 tbsp liquid soap in one gallon (4 liters) water. Mix the soap and oil first, then add the water. Shake often during use.

Natural Slug Control

Here are a few alternative natural, non-toxic methods of slug control:

• Watering Schedule
Far and away the best course of action against slugs in your garden is a simple adjustment in the watering schedule. Slugs are most active at night and are most efficient in damp conditions. Avoid watering your garden in the evening if you have a slug problem. Water in the morning - the surface soil will be dry by evening. Studies show this can reduce slug damage by 80%.

• Beer
Slugs are attracted to beer. Set a small amount of beer in a shallow wide jar buried in the soil up to its neck. Slugs will crawl in and drown. Take the jar lid and prop it up with a small stick so rain won't dilute the beer. Leave space for slugs to enter the trap.

• Seaweed

If you have access to seaweed, it's well worth the effort to gather. Seaweed is not only a good soil amendment for the garden, it's a natural repellent for slugs. Mulch with seaweed around the base of plants or perimeter of bed. Pile it on 3" to 4" thick - when it dries it will shrink to just an inch or so deep. Seaweed is salty and slugs avoid salt. Push the seaweed away from plant stems so it's not in direct contact. During hot weather, seaweed will dry and become very rough which also deters the slugs.

• Copper
Small strips of copper can be placed around flower pots or raised beds as obstructions for slugs to crawl over. Cut 2" strips of thin copper and wrap around the lower part of flower pots, like a ribbon. Or set the strips in the soil on edge, making a "fence" for the slugs to climb. Check to make sure no vegetation hangs over the copper which might provide a 'bridge' for the slugs. Copper barriers also work well around wood barrels used as planters.

• Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is the sharp, jagged skeletal remains of microscopic creatures. It lacerates soft-bodied pests, causing them to dehydrate. A powdery granular material, it can be sprinkled around garden beds or individual plants, and can be mixed with water to make a foliar spray.
Diatomaceous earth is less effective when wet, so use during dry weather. Wear protective gear when applying, as it can irritate eyes and lungs. Be sure to buy natural or agricultural grade diatomaceous earth, not pool grade which has smoother edges and is far less effective. Available in Eartheasy's
online store.

• Lava Rock
Like diatomaceous earth, the abrasive surface of lava rock will be avoided by slugs. Lava rock can be used as a barrier around plantings, but should be left mostly above soil level, otherwise dirt or vegetation soon forms a bridge for slugs to cross.

• Salt
If all else fails, go out at night with the salt shaker and a flashlight. Look at the plants which have been getting the most damage and inspect the leaves, including the undersides. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the slug and it will kill it quickly. Not particularly pleasant, but use as a last resort.
(Note: some sources caution the use of salt, as it adds a toxic element to the soil. This has not been our experience, especially as very little salt is used.)

• Overturned Flowerpots, Grapefruit Halves, Board on Ground
Overturned flowerpots, with a stone placed under the rim to tilt it up a bit, will attract slugs. Leave overnight, and you'll find the slugs inside in the morning. Grapefruit halves work the same way, with the added advantage of the scent of the fruit as bait.
Another trap method, perhaps the simplest of all, is to set a wide board on the ground by the affected area. Slugs will hide under the board by day. Simply flip the board over during the day to reveal the culprits. Black plastic sheeting also works the same way.

• Garlic-based slug repellents
Laboratory tests at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (UK) revealed that a highly refined garlic product (ECOguard produced by ECOspray Ltd, a British company that makes organic pesticides) was an effective slug killer. Look for garlic-based slug deterrents which will be emerging under various brand names, as well as ECOguard.

• Coffee grounds; new caffeine-based slug/snail poisons

Coffee grounds scattered on top of the soil will deter slugs. The horticultural side effects of using strong grounds such as espresso on the garden, however, are less certain. When using coffee grouds, moderation is advised.
A study in June 2002 reported in the journal Nature found that slugs and snails are killed when sprayed with a caffeine solution, and that spraying plants with this solution prevents slugs from eating them. The percentage of caffeine required in a spray (1 - 2%) is greater than what is found in a cup of coffee (.05 - 07%), so homemade sprays are not as effective. Look for new commercial sprays which are caffeine-based.


Removes the stinky stuff from dog and cat coats. ( Santa Cruz vet tech Chris)

1 cup water
1/2 cup baking soda
1 tsp liquid dishwasher soap

Mix well.

When ready to use, mix in 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide.

Work the solution into dog's coat. Keep solution out of dog's face and eyes.

Rinse well with clear water.

This solution has no shelf life.

Weed Killer Sprays

From Rodale's "Great Gardening Formulas: The Ultimate Book of Mix-It-Yourself Concoctions for Gardeners", Joan Benjamin and Deborah Martin, editors: Mix one ounce of gin (or probably any other distilled alcohol, like vodka), one tablespoon of liquid soap, one ounce of vinegar, one quart of water. Mix 'em together and spray (or paint it) onto the plant you want to kill. Works best on a warm sunny day - spray in the midmorning for best effects. If the weed isn't dead by the next day, repeat spraying it with this mixture. (Judy Stouffer)

Mix in a spray bottle: white vinegar, a couple of teaspoons of soap and a couple of teaspoons of regular table salt. I sprayed this on dandelions and other assorted weeds growing in the gravel near the house last week and they began to shrivel up and turn brown in a few days. I think you need to be careful not to use too much salt spray in areas where you want other plants to grow. Plain vinegar (with some liquid soap added to make it adhere well) might work and it is definitely biodegradable. (Angel)

Get some 15% vinegar from an organic nursery and spraying it directly on the plant will kill just that plant. (JD Jackson)

How to catch a mouse without a mousetrap

I had a little friend visit my apartment the other week, and for a while there I was ready to make peace with him and co-exist. But after I cleaned up the place and ordered pizza one night, and it crawled up the side of my chair onto the sleeve of my shirt, I knew it was time to bid farewell.

Here's how I caught the critter:

  1. Get a toilet paper tube and crease two lines to form a flat sided tunnel.

  2. Put a treat on one end of the tube: A cracker and dab of peanut butter works great.

  3. Get a tall (at least 20 inches) bucket. A trash can works well.

  4. Balance the tube precariously on the edge of a table or counter with the treat hanging directly over the tall sided receptacle.

  5. The mouse will scurry to the treat (they like tunnels) and fall into the trap.

Set the fella loose at least a mile away from your abode.

Postnote: It worked within the hour.

Also, folks have asked how this could work if you don't have a counter or table. Simple: get a piece of cardboard and crease it to make a ramp up to a small trashcan.


Beer and Bait Jar traps work well for fruit flies. (Melissa Kaplan)

Take a small Glass - like a juice glass... and pour 1 inch of Dark CIDER (make sure it is real cider vinegar - not just the colored stuff) in the glass. Take some plastic wrap and cover the top of the glass - securing with a rubber band. Take a sharp object like a bamboo skewer and POKE holes - about 6 in the plastic wrap Put the glass near your fly problem.. they are stupid - can crawl down into the plastic wrap holes - but not out! EMPTY the glass outdoors far away from your house - or if mean... shake well until all flies are too wet to fly away - and flush down the drain... Change cider daily... oh - we also found out red wine works well too! (Cheryl)


Make a water trap: Partially fill a shallow pan with water. Suspend light source securely above it. Fleas (and other bugs) are attracted to the light, jump or fall into the water and drown. (Catherine Rigby)

Water's surface tension enables many small insects, such as fleas to be able to walk, or hop right across water. A few drops of liquid soap (earth friendly brands work fine, too), should be added to the water pan. This breaks the surface tension of the water, causing the insects to drown. (Siberia)



Ladybugs: If they get into the house, vacuum them up and release them outside. For more information, check out the Penn State FAQ.


Let some small geckos loose in the dwelling. Place standing water out for them to drink. They will feast upon the roaches at night in the late evening, sleeping on walls behind appliances, tall furniture or artwork during the day. (Tricia, Melissa Kaplan)

My husband and I use a very old method of killing cockroaches which involves speed and quick reflexes. We use a long wooden dowel left from our closet remodeling job to reach and stab/crush cockroaches that climb along our walls and ceilings. The dowel (at around 4 feet in length and 1.5 inches \around) not only enables us to get the out of reach ones but it also puts some distance between us and them. A gruesome method but one hell of a lot better than using insecticides that make even me sick to my stomach and that are toxic to probably everything--not just the cockroach. We've also been known to use my husband's tennis shoe. (Christa Boroskin)

Make a non-toxic roach bait and set it out in roach infested areas:

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening or bacon drippings
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
8 ounces baking soda

Combine sugar and shortening. Add onion, flour, and baking soda. Mix in just enough water to make a dough-like consistency. Put small balls in plastic sandwich bags (other alternatives: spread some on margarine tub lids, or put in a lidded plastic container with small roach-sized holes cut in the bottom of the sides for the roaches to use to get in and out but that will keep pets out) and place in roach-infested areas. The bait creates gas in the roach when eaten. Because roaches can't belch, their digestive tracts explode. You should probably keep them out of areas where children and pets play. (From first-hand experience -- when our neighbor's cat comes over she always wants to taste the bait; I believe it smells very appetizing to her. So this bait would only be useful if it was inaccessible to your animals IMO). This is from Rhonda Barfield of St. Charles, MO from the book the Tightwad Gazzette, by Amy Dacyczyn, NY, Villard Books, 1999; 912 pp. (Christa Boroskin)


Start with a clean glass jar. To enable non-winged insects to easily climb up the glass, roughen the outsides with coarse sand paper or wrap wrap mildly sticky tape around the outsides of it. Coat inner lip of jar with petroleum jelly. Add the bait: a piece of fruit (banana is especially good), beer, etc. Place the jar in problem areas. Empty, clean and replace the bait and petroleum jelly as needed. You can also "install" these jars outside, burying them in the ground so that just the lip is sticking up above the surface. (Catherine Rigby)

Another bait trick is to pour some beer into a shallow bowl or jar lid. The drowned insects can be poured out and the trap rebaited as necessary. Not as aesthetic as using a dark glass jar for bait, but it is effective. (Catherine Rigby

A better approach, however, is to construct a trap by placing a paper funnel (rolled from a sheet of notebook paper) into a jar which is then baited with a few ounces of cider vinegar. Place the jar trap(s) wherever fruit flies are seen. This simple but effective trap will soon catch any remaining adult flies which can then be killed or released outdoors.

Use 2 teaspoons of fresh herb, or 1 teaspoon of dried, per "serving." Add the herb to 1 cup of boiling water; remove from heat. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes. Pour the cooled infusion into a dark bottle and seal tightly or pour into a squirt bottle. The infusion can be squirted on problem areas (or the pests themselves) or daubed on with cotton balls. If you make several batches at ones, you can store the infusion in the dark bottles in the refrigerator. (Catherine Rigby)

søndag den 27. april 2008

Non-Violent, Wind-Powered Gopher Repeller

The theory is that gophers like quiet, still gardens. Whirl-a-gigs send vibrations down into the ground as the blades turn. The rodents can't stand it and leave.

I have two in my garden. I made them both out of scrap material. I cut coffee cans into propellers by using tin snips to cut three blades down the sides, bending them outwards, and punching a nail in the center of the can's bottom. I twisted the blades into about a 30 degree angle. Hammer the nail into the nose of a stick, leaving room for the blade to rotate. Hold it up and blow on it. It should turn freely. Attach a tail fin. I used another coffee can, cut open and smoothed out, to nail onto it. Balance the assembly on your finger tip to find the balance point. I use a power drill and a 3/16 bit to get a nice straight hole. Then put a nail through it to your post. It should track the wind easily and turn in a breeze. The more noises, squeeks, and rattles, the better. Feel the post to check the vibrations it sends down into the ground. Each whirl-a-gig is different, with it's own noises and personality.

This simple design will work for a few months, but constant motion will eventually make it crack up. I improved it after every repair. First, I added washers to every axis. Then I used a bolt for the propeller shaft as the nails kept getting sawed through by the coffee can blade assembly. Then I used a steel vegetable can instead of an aluminum coffee can for the blades.

No gophers have entered my garden since I installed these, although they have several mounds nearby.

Get rid of killer slugs

The homemade slug trap

Take a plastic bottle and cut it in half, then put the top
in the bottom as in the picture (I know it could be better).
 To use just pour beer in the bottom and put in the garden,
where slugs are bound to find it.
Instead of buying beer, you can use this recipe.

A homemade yeast bait is a mix of 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. The snails and slugs fall over the container's edge and drown in the liquid. Empty the container daily into the compost pile to avoid the rank smell of dead snails and slugs.


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