When we decided to make a garden in our back yard, we made a conscious decision to do everything organically. Why? We feel like it's the responsible thing to do - for ourselves, our dogs, our community, and for the earth.
Now that we're well into the growing season, we've hit the part of organic gardening that involves maintenance, e.g. fertilizing and keeping away bugs and pests. In lieu of spending half our paychecks on organic fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides from our local hardware/garden store, we've opted (of course) to DIY. We've primarily been drawing tips and tonics from Jerry Baker's book Bug Off!.
Here are some of our favorite recipes:
Bug Away Spray
1 c. Murphy's Oil Soap
1 c. antiseptic mouthwash
1 c. tobacco tea
Mix ingredients in a 20 gal. hose-end sprayer and soak plants to the point of run-off.
*To make the tobacco tea, wrap half a handful of chewing tobacco in an old nylon stocking and soak it in a gallon of hot water until the mixture is dark brown. Pour the liquid into a glass container with tight lid for storage
1 c. flour
2 tbsp. cayenne pepper
Mix ingredients together and sprinkle on young cabbage family plants.
Tomato Leaf Tonic
2 c. tomato leaves
1 qt. water
1/2 tsp. dishwashing liquid
Put leaves and water in a pot and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and let mixture cool. Strain out leaves and add dishwashing liquid. Pour solution into a hand-held sprayer and spritz the plant's foliage from top to bottom. This will keep away flea beetles, asparagus beetles, cabbageworms, and white flies.
In addition to these tonics, we also bought some praying mantis eggs to put in the garden to hatch. So far, the combination of tonics and praying mantis have worked, save the mangling of our cabbage plant (we waited to long to apply the tonic to salvage it). The only downside: you have to reapply each tonic after each rain, and unfortunately, it's been raining A LOT lately in Middle Georgia.
We've also tried some tonics to keep our dogs and the squirrels out of the garden (both involving some concoction of hot peppers), but much to our chagrin, neither have proven to be effective. Thankfully, the dogs and squirrels have been less than destructive to our garden anyway.
If you'd like more reading on the subject, a friend of ours referred us to this website: http://doyourpart.com/category/at-home/around-the-yard-vc13535/