Safe Homemade Pesticides

Homemade pesticides are the way to go if you're an avid gardener who doesn't want to expose yourself or your family to toxic commercial pest repellents. Here are the best flowers and herbs to grow.

| March/April 1980

Few experiences are more frustrating, more irritating, or more just plain maddening than dealing with creeping, crawling, or flying pests ... no matter if they're in your carefully planted garden, in your abode, on your pets or livestock, or on you.

And the situation can get even worse when you start looking for a way to solve your bug problems. Here, for instance, is a sample of the kind of "reassurance" you can find on a typical pesticide can, box, or bottle label: CAUTION! HARMFUL TO HUMANS, PETS, AND LIVESTOCK. DO NOT INHALE OR LET PRODUCT COME IN CONTACT WITH SKIN. DO NOT USE VEGETABLES TREATED WITH THIS PRODUCT FOR ONE WEEK AFTER APPLICATION . . . etc., etc., etc.

Fortunately, there is a way to have healthy crops and critters without handling poisons . . . grow your own pest repellents! Over the ages many pungent herbs have served man in that capacity. Such homegrown, homemade pesticides were used effectively long before the present chemical craze, and they still work.

In the Garden: Pyrethrum

One of the better-known organic pesticides is pyrethrum ( Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium or Chrysanthemum coccineum ). Do plan on growing your supply rather than buying any, though . . . some commercial products labeled "pyrethrum dust" are simply a pyrethrum powder base that's laced with those toxic, residual poisons characteristic of today's overkill pest control philosophy.

The pyrethrum plants, also known as "painted daisies" or "painted ladies," provide pest-repellent action when grown either throughout your garden or as border plants.

On the other hand, if you want to treat a localized infested area, you can pick, dry, and crush the flowers' petals to make your own safe pyrethrum dust. Or, as an alternative, make a strong "tea" of the powder and spray it directly on the insects. Remember: Pyrethrum is not residual. . . but it is toxic to soft-bodied insects (aphids, etc.), and to some coldblooded vertebrates, on contact. The dust is nontoxic to you, your livestock, or your pets, however ... and can even be used as a safe flea powder.

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