You can make your own non-toxic controls for some common insect pests as well as free liquid fertiliser for the whole garden. They work out much cheaper than the commercially available alternatives.
• 3 teaspoons liquid soap or detergent
• 2 cups water
Dissolve the soap or detergent in water, pour into a hand-sprayer bottle and use it to control aphids on roses, citrus and other garden plants. The soap removes the aphids’ waxy coating and dries them out. You can also try soap spray on mealybugs and whiteflies.
• leftover beer
• wide, shallow dishes or bowls
Pour the beer into small bowls and leave these around the garden. Snails are attracted to the beer and drown in it. Fish out dead snails each morning and the beer bowls will remain effective for days.
• small empty pots
• sticks or rocks
Arrange some upturned small pots around the garden so they are not flush with the ground (use a short stick or small rock to prop up the rim of the pot). The snails will use the pots as shelter during the day. Check inside the pots in the middle of the day and dispose of the snails by squashing them.
Milk spray fungicide
• 50mL milk
• 450mL water
Any milk will do – skim, low-fat or full cream. Mix the milk into the water then pour this into a hand-sprayer. It’s effective against powdery mildew when sprayed onto leaves. It works best as a preventative if used frequently on plants you know to be susceptible to mildew, such as zucchinis, melons, pumpkins, squash and many others. Reapply every time it rains, and as often as you can at other times. Once the leaves are well infected, it has little effect, though.
• 4 onions, chopped
• 4 hot chillies, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 2 litres water
Boil the chopped onions, chillies and garlic in the water for 15 minutes. Let the liquid cool overnight, then strain into a jar and add 2 tablespoons liquid soap. This makes your concentrate. To use as a spray, mix 10mL of concentrate in 1 litre water, add to a spray bottle and use to control aphids, whitefly, bronze orange bugs and other insect pests.
Vegemite fruit fly trap
• 1 teaspoon Vegemite
• 1 cup warm water
• 1 clean PET soft drink bottle, with cap on
• length of wire
Dissolve the Vegemite in the warm water by stirring well. Pour this into the soft drink bottle, seal with the cap. Turn the bottle upside down and make (or drill) 10 holes about 3mm wide in the bottle, for the flies to enter. Thread wire through two of the holes then hang the trap near the affected plants (eg, tomatoes, fruit trees, etc).
Organic rose spray
The American Rose Society has developed an organic spray to control black spot and powdery mildew in roses. Give it a try. Mix 3 teaspoons bicarbonate soda, 2.5 tablespoons of PestOil or eco-oil and 4.5 litres of water, and spray with this three times in two weeks to get on top of the problems. After that, spray roses weekly, saturating the whole plant.
Free liquid fertiliser
• 1/2 hessian bag of garden weeds, or animal manure, or compost
• garbage bin with lid
• house brick
Fill the garbage bin 2/3 full of water. Seal the hessian bag securely, then place into the bin of water, weighing it down with the brick. Top up the water in the bin till full, place lid on bin. Let the weeds soak into the water for 2 weeks. Use this dark looking ‘tea’ as a general fertiliser, diluted with ordinary water, on your garden.
Tip 1 – dilution rates: for the weed tea and the compost tea, dilute it 50:50 with tap water before applying it to the garden. For the animal manure tea made from cow, sheep, chicken or horse manure, dilute it one part tea to three parts water.
Tip 2 – top it up! As you use up the ‘tea’, replenish it with more water in the bin, and this way make more batches of free fertiliser. When the ‘tea’ no longer looks dark, it’s time to replace the weeds, compost or manure, but do add the used-up compost or manure to your compost bin.