Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Earth-Safe Sprays that Rappel Bugs

Garden work is hard work. No question. Digging up grass to plant trees and develop veggie plots is now on my list of things I least like to do. It’s also on the list of the job that does not end. To help get me through the endless digging, I envision eating copious amounts of arugula and tomatoes, the end result of all this digging. But as I dig, I encounter the bugs and slugs that will also enjoy my arugula and tomatoes, certainly as much as I will.

Getting Tough with the Bugs
The minds of the twentieth century got us thinking that zapping ‘pests’ with poison was the magic bullet to safeguard crops. The reality is that during that time pesticides have offered short term gain with long-term pain.

Poisons do not discriminate between beneficial bugs and predatory bugs. They also kill off birds and worms, key players when it comes to the ecosystem, particularly edible plants.

The problem is that humans have replaced sustainable agriculture - a partnership with nature - with chemicals that nature has never seen. How effective are pesticides? According to Greenpeace, between 1940 and 1990, Americans increased pesticide use by 3000 percent and pesticide potency by 1000 percent. In 1940, the US lost 31 percent of its crops to insects, compared to 37 percent in 1990. Companies with pesticides to sell tell us their products are essential. I think we are all being sold a bill of goods.

Removing Uninvited Guests
If you have a plethora of veggie loving bugs, it could be a sign that something is amiss with your garden’s ecology. I refer to The Organic Gardener’s Home Reference and Marjorie Harris’ Ecological Gardening to guide me in what plants to place together to repel unwanted creatures and attract good insects to eat the ones that eat my food. Marigolds are particularly effective at rappelling and even killing a number of pesky bugs.

Non-Poisonous Sprays and Alternatives
No matter what you do, however, you will get the odd bug munching on your greens. It’s important to keep an eye on your crops. If your lettuce starts to resemble Swiss cheese, there are recommended sprays and alternatives that will not harm you, your plants or the soil.
  • Create a diversion – or trap. Slice up apples, potatoes, cabbage or lettuce and place where you are having slug or bug trouble. Once you get them munching on your bait, pick them off and destroy them quickly by stomping on them. No salt please. That’s cruel.
  • I tried the garlic spray last year, but it’s very stinky and cumbersome to prepare. According to Marjorie Harris, Canada’s gardening guru, the most effective general spray is also very easy to make – and not stinky. Mix 1 teaspoon of Ivory soap (nothing with a detergent in it) into ½ litre of water. If you see a bug on your plant, blast them with it.
  • Ruth in my office swears by her turmeric mixture (1 tablespoon turmeric to four cups of water). She sprinkles it along the border of her beds once a month. Works like a charm, she says.
  • Marjorie Harris’ Ecological Gardening makes other suggestions that are focused on particular pests. Her book is a great resource. I highly recommend it.
  • Avoid spraying during blossoming season or on a windy day. Spray in the evening when there are no bees. You don’t want to hurt these essential pollinators. You also don’t want to tick them off.

In the News

Did you hear? The province of Ontario passed a law where homeowners have to have an energy audit when selling their home. For more, click here.

The not-so-green side of gardening waste
Where to recycle your plastic pots

Meet Canada's climate point man

Homeowners can soon manage power use, Google says

Paul Hawkin’s Commencement address in Portland

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