Over the winter, gardeners plan their upcoming gardens, buy new seeds to try out, start old favourites from saved seeds, and in general take time to consider what could be improved from last year's garden experiences. As the serious outdoor garden season is only about a month away, we decided to offer a workshop here related to homemade garden remedies that can be used to prevent pests, diseases and weeds.
When thinking about the health of the garden and plants growing there, turning to sprays (organic or not) should not be the gardener's first option - gardeners should start by considering what the disease, weed or pest is telling you about the conditions of your garden, and then:
a) strengthening the plants
b) feeding the soil (with compost, compost tea)
c) encouraging beneficial insects and birds
d) adding companion plants that deter pests
e) rotating crops to help avoid diseases or pests that overwinter in the soil
f) diversifying the garden plants, rather than planting monocultures
However, in some cases, when an immediate problem needs attention, organic sprays can be a useful thing. We had Sarah, from Sarah's Kitchen Gardens, here to lead the session and she walked participants through the making of several home-brewed "garden potions", all made from simple organic, natural and biodegradeable kitchen ingredients. Keep in mind, these sprays do not contain alcohol or other preservatives so will not keep for more than about a week, so should be made at the time you plan to use them. They should be sprayed in early morning or late in the day, not during the heat of high sun or the plant leaves can be scorched. Also, some organic pest controls will kill all insects, including the beneficial ones, so they should be used with caution on a plant by plant basis, and only when absolutely necessary. Here are three of the recipes:
Lemon Aphid Spray
Boil 2 cups water, add finely grated rind of one lemon.
Steep overnight, then strain through fine filter.
Spray directly on aphids to be effective.
Anti-Fungal Chamomile Spray
Steep 2 tsp dried chamomile flowers in 1 cup boiling water.
When cool, strain through tea strainer, and pour into spray bottle.
Works well to prevent damp-off of little seedlings (spray soil and seedlings).
Chop 1 large onion, 2 cloves garlic, add 1 tsp cayenne pepper powder, and blend in food processor.
Add 1/2 tsp black pepper and 1 cup vinegar.
Strain, Put into spray bottle.
This spray kills insects on contact - be sure to identify your insect before spraying.