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Organic Garden Remedies

The Martha Stewart Show, January 2009

Keeping plants as healthy as possible without hurting our environment is very important. Try these homemade remedies, courtesy of horticulturist Jeff Gillman, to treat your problem plants.

Remedies for Outdoor Plants
Beer trap
Use: To catch and kill slugs.

How to make: Take a Ball jar and bury it in the soil so that its mouth is at the same level, or only slightly above the level of the soil.

How to apply: Fill the jar with beer (preferably dark ale) up to approximately 1/2 to 1 inch from the top of the jar.

Why it works: Slugs are attracted to beer, so if the trap is properly set up the slugs will come for the beer and get stuck in the ball jar.

Eggs and water
Use: To repel deer.

How to make: Combine four eggs with a quart of water. Mix together in blender.

How to apply: Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray onto plants that you want to protect from deer.

Why it works: Deer do not like the odor of eggs.

Egg shells
Use: To control blossom end rot.

How to make: Take the shells of four eggs and crush them.

How to apply: Mix these shells into the soil around each plant.

Why it works: The calcium in egg shells will dissolve slowly into the soil where it will be taken up by the plant's roots.

Milk and water
Use: To control black spot on roses.

How to make: Add 1 cup of milk to two cups of water.

How to apply: Spray mixture directly onto rose leaves with a handheld spray bottle to protect them from black spot.

Why it works: No one knows exactly why milk helps control certain plant diseases, but milk does contain lactoferrin, a protein that has been shown to help control diseases in animals.

Bagging fruit
Use: To control insects and diseases attacking a variety of fruit such as apples, peaches, and many others.

How to make: Gather a Ziploc sandwich bag (big enough for the fully grown fruit to fit in comfortably), a stapler, and a pair of scissors.

How to apply: Staple the mouth of the Ziploc bag around the fruit when the fruit is about the size of a quarter. Then cut off one of the lower corners of the bag to allow any water that might collect to drain.

Why it works: The barrier that the bag creates is too great for most insects and disease to overcome.

Remedies for Indoor Plants
Hot peppers
Use: To control many insects including aphids, mealy bugs, and spider mites.

How to make: Take a cup of the hottest peppers you can find and mix in a blender with two cups of water.

How to apply: Carefully place the resulting mixture into a spray bottle and spray it on the leaves of the plants while being careful not to spray yourself. At first treat only one plant or even just a few leaves; wait two days to see whether the spray injured them.

Why it works: Insects don't like the "hot" in hot peppers (capsaicin), so it repels them.

Dish soap
Use: To control many insects including aphids, mealy bugs, and spider mites.

How to make: Add 1 tablespoon of dish soap to 1/2 gallon of water.

How to apply: Place the soapy water into a spray bottle and mist the plants with it. At first treat only one plant or even just a few leaves and then wait two days to see whether the spray injured them.

Why it works: Dish soap dissolves the outer waxy layer that all insects are covered with. This causes the insect to dry out and die. Plus, by adding baking soda to the above dish soap remedy, you can treat powdery mildew.

Isopropyl alcohol
Use: To control many insects including scale, mealy bugs, and spider mites.

How to make: Take a cotton swab and soak it with alcohol.

How to apply: Wipe the cotton swab over the affected area of the leaf. At first treat only one plant or even just a few leaves; wait two days to see whether the alcohol injured them.

Why it works: The alcohol does essentially the same thing that dish soap does -- dissolve the outer waxy layer that all insects are covered with, causing the insect to dry out and die.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to Jeff Gillman for sharing this information. Special thanks to Timber Press for giving copies of "The Truth About Garden Remedies" to our studio audience; for more gardening tips from Jeff, check out "The Truth About Organic Gardening."

Comments (5)

  • 2 Apr, 2011

    I just read about organic shampoo at http://www.natural-organic-products.com/organic-shampoo/ and now I have these cool gardening tips. I think living an organic lifestyle is so important, People should be made aware of the benefits of living without toxic chemicals.

  • 13 Jun, 2009

    Great Tips!!! I'm a Earh Child!!! REALLY I am! My birthday is 4-22-83!!!!! This is great for going green!!!!!!!!!

  • 12 Jun, 2009

    Thanks for the great tips! They had perfect timing, as I just discoverd mealy bugs on one of my orchids! I can't wait to read the book!

  • 25 Feb, 2009

    This is very very helpful hints for home gardening ,It is excellent .

  • 25 Feb, 2009

    This is very very helpful hints for home gardening ,It is excellent .