If the slideshow is working as intended, you’ll be able to see images of:
- a ravaged salad plant
- a container with my home-made bug spray and book on natural bug control methods
- a ‘before’ bug picture of the salad plants when healthy
- my arch nemesis, the leafhopper.
I tried this about two months ago, when leafhoppers were ravaging any salad seedlings I tried planting.
The spray is one of the simplest and common DIY organic pest mixes: a dash of crushed, fresh garlic and chilli in water. It’s the odor, as much as the chilli nom repellent factor, that deters insects by confusing or diminishing the ability of passing insects to smell out your garden edibles. This is additional to always planting a variety of edibles, in a pattern other than straight rows, for the same reason. Best to make just a little of this spray at a time and use it up quickly though, so the condiment content doesn’t degrade into slime water.
Another version is adding [ground, plain] soap - which coats leaves more thickly and is supposed to prevent some insects from chewing them. I only tried this once: it’s so sunny and dry here, that the tiniest bit of soap residue encouraged leaf burn followed by quicker rotting the next rains: definitely not worth any slug repellant trade off.
A brutally Darwinian version - for non-vegans only - suggests crushing up several of the type of bug you’re trying to kill in your water mix. Possibly just a gross out urban myth of pest control. [Crushed chicken eggshells, otoh, really do work to limit snail attacks on seedlings if spread around their bases - anything unappealing abrasive would probably work as well for vegan gardeners].
My little spray trial did work a bit. I did notice slightly reduced leaf attack on the seedlings I’d sprayed compared to the ones I hadn’t [I left some unsprayed for comparison, and for the permaculture principle of always factoring in a little spare growth for the birds, insects that you do want in the garden to eat].
But these hoppers were damn nearly swarming, way to many of my greens were being eaten back to the stems for me to plan a decent kitchen garden harvest relative to the space used.
I was getting frustrated enough to consider physical barriers for the whole fruit and salads bed - reviving the mesh covers over wire frames I use when possums attack. Also I was worried that even selective spraying seemed to be repelling the bees.
Then the seasons shifted and all the nasturniums, marigolds, wattles, grevillias and borage plants bloomed. Which suddenly brought all the higher up the food chain insects and some birds to the yard, resolving my leafhopper mini-plauge instantly.
Zero problems since.
I’ve also cleared some dense tall grasses that were growing near our water tank, because I was concerned that the cover and damp earth would attract cane toads. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that several types of insects had laid their eggs in the thicker clumps of grasses, on the underneath of the blades near the center of the patch:nicely covered from any predators or my spray. I removed the lot and replaced them with just a few [pregrown] flowering herbs, to prevent any swarm V2 next season.
Verdict = live flowers beat crushed bugs, permaculture beats ‘natural’ approaches used in traditional ‘single issue, single strategy’ ways.