Having received countless questions about easy, organic, methods of pest control and requests for details of how to make low-cost, organic fertilisers at home, this week’s column is devoted to these two extremely important subjects.
The most common garden pests here are, judging from your questions and queries, legions of different kinds of aphids. These sap-sucking insects come in various colours from black through to green, and minute white ones that appear to be encased in white fluff and are, appropriately, called ‘Woolly aphids’. All of these tend to congregate, sometimes in their thousands, on sappy stems, fat flower buds or on the underside of new leaves, and, quite literally, suck the life out of what were previously flourishing plants. They attack shrubs, flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs without any discrimination whatsoever and do so at any time of year although they seem to proliferate when humidity is high.
Zahrah Nasir is a proponent of the use of organic methods of gardening; here she teaches us how to make organic sprays and fertiliser
It is important to take action against them as soon as the first ones are spotted otherwise they multiply rapidly, the problem escalates, plant loss can be high, plus, it is easier to wipe out a few aphids rather than the hundreds of thousands they soon become.
There are three simple, organic sprays to fight them with:
Take quarter kilo of whole, unpeeled, garlic cloves, put in a pan with one litre water. Bring to the boil, simmer for 15-20 minutes, remove from heat, cover and leave to stand 12-24 hours. Strain through fine muslin cloth / ladies stockings and spray — remembering to spray the underside of leaves too — every evening until no sign of aphid life remains. Dead aphids will fall off or can be brushed off the plants. The garlic cloves can be re-boiled and re-used three to four times before the spray becomes too weak to act.
Hell-fire spray: Place quarter kilo very strong green chillies, chopped as small as possible or chopped in a food processor, in a sealable, clear plastic or glass container, top up with one litre cold water, seal stand in direct sunshine for 24-48 hours. Strain through fine muslin cloth / ladies stockings and use as garlic spray.
• Caution: Wear gloves when making / handling and a face mask when spraying as, while it does no harm to plants, it burns off bugs and will burn your skin too!
Soap spray: Using pure soap (one minus any damaging chemicals / perfumes) and warm water, make a nice soapy mix and either spray infested plants thoroughly or use a soft sponge dipped in it to wipe the aphids off the plants.
Each of the above should be repeated, each evening, until all signs of pests have disappeared. As well as being used for aphid eradication each of these sprays can also be used against other insect pests, including Red spider mite. The Hell-fire spray is the strongest and has proven effective against caterpillars, too.
The sprays are most effective during dry weather as rain or heavy dew washes them away — as does watering, so water before spraying please. Sprays may need applying for up to 10 consecutive evenings if pest infestations are severe.
Coffee spray: This is effective against scale insects, including those nasty ‘Armoured scale’ which are the bane of those growing Kungi palms. Brew up a very strong pot of coffee, using ground coffee beans — not the instant variety — strain and, when luke warm, spray with this. Use each evening until all signs of scale have vanished.
Tip: Spread the used coffee grounds on the soil surface around the plants. This kills any larvae / eggs hiding there.
Low cost, highly effective, liquid fertilisers are simple to make in the small quantities required by home gardeners.
Basic recipe: Fill half a bucket / container with the selected, chopped up, ingredient; fill almost to the top — but not quite otherwise it may froth over — with water; leave to ferment for two to three weeks, stirring daily (the brew will probably be smelly when stirred / sprayed but the smell vanishes within 30 minutes or so). Dilute the resultant brew 15-20 parts water to one part fertiliser before use. If it is to be sprayed rather than ‘watered’ on, then it will need to be filtered through fine muslin cloth / ladies tights first.
Materials to use:
- Thoroughly washed seaweed.
- The green tops only of that invasive, imported species, called Water hyacinth which has the capacity to take up and store useful nutrients from even the most polluted water.
• Ensure that absolutely no root / seed is inadvertently used as you do not want this nuisance suddenly appearing in your garden.
- Animal or poultry manure: Finding a pure organic source can be difficult as commercial poultry / animal farms routinely use antibiotics, growth hormones and other noxious inputs, traces of which end up in the manure.
- Greens: A mix of chopped grass / weeds before they reach the seeding stage, hedge clippings, fallen leaves and other, un-diseased, plant debris.
Finally, for those set on recycling every single thing possible:
- Urine: Now this may sound a little … odd but it is nonetheless effective: ferment one litre urine — the donor should be healthy and not taking any medication whatsoever — in nine litres water, for one week only. Use as a general plant tonic but only once in a while and not in the same area of the garden more than once in six months.
Hopefully all — or at least some — of the above will help keep you on the organic path towards a healthy future for humans and the environment alike.