Anytime I can find a safe control for pests in the garden or yard, I use them. Rather than using a chemical that kills everything, I choose methods that only target a specific pest. Here are some simple pest controls I use.
Packrats and mice in the riding lawnmower: buy a little bottle of mint oil - spearmint or peppermint, and soak a cotton ball. Place it somewhere around the motor and wiring where it will stay put. Rats and mice hate the smell of mint and will stay away. Replace the cotton ball and mint oil every 3-4 weeks. Mint cooking extract works, too, although the smell disappears faster than the mint oil.
Cabbage worms: once the worms start, you can control them with a safe, non-chemical spraying once a week of bacillus (available at garden centers, feed stores). To prevent the worms, make a simple paper barrier early in the year, as soon as you plant cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or kale. To do that, cut a square of heavy paper or cardboard, about 4 inches by 4 inches square. Make a slit halfway across the square, then slip it around the base of the plant, flat with the ground. Cabbage worms start out as cabbage moths, which lay their eggs at the base of the plants, then they hatch into cabbage worms. By preventing the egg-laying, you are preventing a good many of the worms you would have later.
Soft-bodied insects, such as mites, aphids and mealybugs: Mix 1 tablespoon canola oil and 4 drops of Ivory soap (Ivory works best) into a quart of plain water. Pour into a spray bottle, shake well and spray the leaves of the affected plants both on top and underneath the leaves.
Mites: mix 2 tablespoons of hot pepper sauce with 5-6 drops Ivory dish soap into a quart of water. Let the mixture stand overnight, pour into a spray bottle, shake well then spray affected plants. Shake container often during application.
Slugs: Little lids of beer placed under the plants that are affected works well. Diatomaceous earth (a natural finely-ground shell) scattered around the plants works on slugs, snails and other soft-bodied insects. The tiny shell particles, called diatoms, work by puncturing the outsides of soft-bodied pests but are not harmful to pets or humans.
Fungal diseases: Mix 2 tablespoons baking soda into a quart of water. Pour into a sprayer bottle and spray affected areas. Repeat application every few days.
Hollyhocks: the bugs that riddle the leaves of hollyhocks can be stopped before they destroy the plant buy using this formula I first learned about from Sharon Lovejoy: combine 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon canola oil, 1/2 teaspoon dish soap (Ivory works best), 1/2 cup white vinegar in 1 gallon of water. Shake well and pour into a sprayer. Spray the underneath sides of the leaves at the first signs of holes in the lowest leaves. Repeat, spraying underneath all of the leaves each week.
Caution: sprays which kill harmful insects may also kill beneficial insects. Use the homemade formulas selectively, only spraying plants that are infected. Always apply early in the morning or just before dark to avoid bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. Apply again after a rain.
Copyright May, 2013, Jim Long