Let's face it--chemical pesticides are toxic to animals and humans; these garden helpers are not healthy. True organic gardening involves using alternatives to kill those nasty little critters that invade our gardens. Precautions still need to be taken with organic pesticides, however, the bounty of a hearty crop of vegetables is well worth the effort.
Homemade Liquid Pesticides
Make a mix of 1 tsp. dishwashing detergent, 1 qt. water and 1 cup vegetable oil. Shake well and apply every 10 days to kill aphids, spider mites and other insects on contact. Use it on eggplants, cucumbers, carrots, celery, peppers and other vegetables. It may cause tip burn, so test it on one plant first. Add one ground-up garlic bulb or large onion to 1 qt. of water with 1 tbsp. of cayenne pepper and let it sit for at least one hour. Use a strainer to put the liquid into a spray bottle; this is an effective remedy for many types of chewing and sucking insects. Use your blender to make a spearmint spray with 1 cup each of green onion tops and chopped spearmint leaves, 1/2 cup water, the juice of one lemon and 1/2 cup chopped hot red peppers. After blending put mixture into 1 gallon water with 1/2 cup dishwashing detergent. Mix 1/2 cup of the final product with 1 qt. water for spraying.
Sprinkle powders on the soil and leaves on sunny days and after rains when the leaves are dry. Talcum powder kills corn ear worms. Made from fossil shells, diatomaceous earth attacks insects by cutting and slicing them. It is safe for use in your vegetable garden and in your home for flea control.
Companion planting is planting herbs and flowers near vegetable plants; it's a natural way to control many insects. Plant basil near cabbage, peppers, tomatoes and beans to kill flies and mosquitoes. Put borage next to tomatoes for control of tomato worms. Marigolds kill nematodes and Mexican bean beetles; plant it near asparagus, cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes and tomatoes. Sage repels carrot flies, slugs, bean beetles and cabbage moths; place it near beets, broccoli, cabbage and carrots.
Many of the insects that assault your vegetable garden have natural predators. Plant dill, parsley and yarrow to attract the braconid wasp that kills corn borers, army worms, cabbage worms, codling moths and horn worms. Milkweed, goldenrod and hydrangeas draw the soldier beetle to your garden; it eats aphids, caterpillars, cucumber beetles, aphids and grasshopper eggs.