Whether you’re growing vegetables, fruits, or flowers, the last thing you want to do is use pesticides that can harm you, your children, your pets, and the environment. North Americans use approximately 136 million pounds of pesticides on lawns and gardens and in their homes each year—that’s three times the amount farmers use.
- Surround yourself with flowers. Flowering plants, especially those with small flowers rich in nectar, attract beneficial flies, wasps, and other insects to your garden (see “Flower Power” below).
- Plant herbs. Herbs interplanted with vegetables help attract pests’ natural enemies. Let some of the herbs go to flower since it’s the blooms that do the attracting.
- Encourage birds to visit to help control garden pests. Welcome them with trees, berry-bearing shrubs, birdhouses, and water features.
- For aphids, mealy bugs, mites, and other soft-bodied insects: Mix 1 tablespoon of canola oil and a few drops of liquid soap into a quart of water. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. Spray plant from the top down and from the bottom up to get the underside of the leaves. The oil smothers the insects.
- Another choice for mites and other insects: Mix 2 tablespoons of hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper with a few drops of liquid soap into a quart of water. Let stand overnight, stir, pour into a spray bottle, and apply as above. Shake container frequently during application.
- For insects and fungal diseases: Combine 1 table-spoon of cooking oil, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and a few drops of liquid soap into a quart of water. Pour into a spray container and apply as above.
- For weeds: Spot spray with common, full-strength household vinegar on a sunny day.