Safe Homemade Natural Pesticides

If you want to rid your garden of many destructive insects without resorting to dangerous chemicals, here are a few suggestions for safe homemade natural pesticides.

| July/August 1981

By midsummer, most gardeners expect their months of mulching, tilling, composting, seeding, and weeding to begin to pay off at last. Hungry horticulturists, however, aren't the only creatures who've been keeping a watch on the maturing produce, because July and August are also—in most parts of North America—the peak of the "pest season," a time when beetles riddle cuke plants, hornworms strip tomatoes, and raccoons demolish corn.

But even if your crops are under siege by a veritable army of produce plunderers, there's no reason to lay on a heavy chemical hand. Numerous hazard-free, natural pesticides can help gardeners bring in big, healthful harvests to feed their families. Of course, some remedies are best employed at the beginning of the growing season (an ounce of prevention, you know). And now—while the results of not having taken protective measures at planting time are all too obvious—is a good time to plan next season's campaign. However, I'm also going to provide you with a few ideas on how to discourage the bandits that may be chomping on your crops at this very moment!

Protect Squash, Corn, and Tomatoes

You can, for example, guard your maturing cucumbers and squash by using a handy kitchen discard: onion skins! Simply strew a big handful of these leftovers loosely across the top of each hill, and let the legendary Allium pungency drive away the most stubborn of cucumber beetles (as the skins decay, they'll add valuable organic matter to your soil).

For even more protection, you might border next year's hilled areas with orange nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), then further guard the mature plants by spraying a mix of equal parts of wood ashes and hydrated lime in water on the upper and lower surfaces of the spreading foliage.

Early in the year, you can fortify your future tomato territory by sowing dill (Anethum graveolens) and borage (Borago officinalis) to repel hornworms. Needless to say, you'll enjoy these two useful and flavorful herbs for themselves, as well as for their ability to protect your tomato crop.

One of the high points of summer—at least around my house—is the first menu that includes field-fresh roasting ears dripping with butter ... and one of the low points is finding out that raccoons, squirrels, or earworms got to that dinner before we did! To prevent such a catastrophe, consider trying a few of the following plans of attack.

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