Pests such as mealybugs often attack Hibiscus and (right) roses. The ladybird help keeps pests at bay. Always check under the leaf for pests such as aphids
Here’s how to ward off uninvited guests in your garden with DIY chemical-free pesticides made in your own kitchen
What is it that you see when you are in your garden? Plants, flowers, leaves, twigs, branches, buds and butterflies? Turn the leaves around, hoe the soil a little and you will find a gamut of uninvited guests crawling about — aphids, leaf-cutter bee, leaf miners, mealybugs, whiteflies, stem borer, red ants, slugs and snails. The garden is an ecosystem with pests and greens in equal measure. It is ideal if you know one from another, but even if you don’t, we bring you countermeasures using kitchen ingredients to take care of the deadly menace they create.
Every organic gardener’s best friend, neem oil is an effective insecticide to tackle pests like aphids, whiteflies, scales, mites, deadly mealybugs and more. It can also be used on fungal infections plaguing your plant, like powdery mildew and black spots. It works both as a foliar spray and also directly into the soil. However, it is imperative to dilute it in water, and not apply a concentrated version. An easy ratio is 1tbsp neem oil in 1ltr water. One can also use a decoction of neem leaves boiled in water for the same effect.
Chilli / garlic/ vinegar/ buttermilk spray
A boiled decoction of either chilli or garlic, or both with a teaspoon of vinegar in a litre of water is one of the best ways to get rid of pests. A spray once every week is your solution to common insects like whiteflies and aphids. One must always spray on the back of the leaves for that is the pests’ favourite hideout. For a healthy immune system, opt for a regular spray of buttermilk.
Those of you who are tired of picking and throwing slugs, look no further than your salt jar. Hoe the soil and look for live slugs and transparent slimy blobs, slug eggs, and sprinkle some salt on that. One can also place a bowl of stale beer to invite them for a pool party. Too bad they don’t know how to swim. Alternatively you can also use a lettuce leaf, which is as irresistible to them as beer, and they come crawling for their share. Throw them away once a good number of them arrive.
Squishing and other hacks
For pests like mealybugs, which are hard to remove by spraying alone, do not hesitate in squishing them. Do wear gloves before you venture. Another effective DIY pesticide is diluting 1tbsp of kitchen detergent (Vim/Pril) or any washing soda and 1tsp of vinegar in a litre of water to spray on pests.
Prevent, not damage control
All the above mentioned measures work well at keeping the pest force in check. However, monsoon is a tricky time, for the spray gets washed off. The best bet in such a case is keeping the soil healthy. A plant with healthier immune system means greater resistance to pests. Many organic gardeners and farmers rely on this approach for it bypasses the need for pesticides altogether. Another strategy that experts apply is the use of pest-repellent plants along with the rest. Dill and basil are good examples.
Before you go lethal on the insects, remember that there are plant friendly insects, which share the same space as the annoying pests. Bugs like lady beetle, praying mantis, dragonflies and green lacewings eat pests that harm the plant. Think of these as the good bacteria that h elps your gut.