Tried & True Remedies for Garden Weeds and Pests

Reader Contribution by Mary Murray
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Sheep in Utica field. Photo by: Mary Murray, Windy Meadows Farm

Now that it’s July, the heat and humidity have reached our part of the Midwest, and it’s as if a drowsy spell has been suddenly cast over the farm.  We find that the days are somehow busy, yet lazy at the same time.

Each day begins early, trying our best to take advantage of any cool remaining from the night before and before the sun is fully up. Work continues until it is simply too hot to pull another weed, till another row, or shift another load of spent hay from the goat shed. This is when the drowsy of summer seems to settle in; the comforts of life on the farm: the rumble of distant thunder, the sweet scent of just-mowed grass, or the hum of a combine harvesting winter wheat.

Combine and winter wheat. Photo by: Mary Murray, Windy Meadows Farm

Somehow the temptation to “just rest my eyes” is too great, and I find myself inside Maizy, our little 1963 camper, “resting” and listening to the sounds of summer. While there are always chores that need doing, I decide to work on them tomorrow. I promised a young friend I’d share some gardening lessons I’ve learned along the way, and jotting them down in the quiet of a cozy retro camper seems like a good idea.


This young lady is right out of high school and knows exactly what she wants: to live a homesteader’s life.  She’s reaching for her dream by selling home-baked bread, setting up a coop with 6 happy hens, and planting a vegetable garden. She and I have been talking gardens lately, because it seems that July is a turning point…the days are hot, the rain is less, and the weeds and pests seem to come out with strong determination. And so, while sharing my tips & tricks with her, I thought you just might find some new solutions for your own gardens as well.

These “recipes” have been handed down through the years and do a great job for me. However; there is no guarantee and you may find you need to make adjustments depending on the “critters” or conditions in your own garden. All in all, my thoughts are this: these simple remedies are usually effective and won’t harm the environment. To me, that makes them worth a try!

First; set up a Garden Farm-acy…you probably already have these items in your pantry, paired with a few fresh ingredients, you’ll use them for the “recipes” below:

Epsom salts, canola oil, baking soda, ground cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, liquid soap (not laundry detergent)

Tomato Booster – combine 2 Tablespoons Epsom salts in 1 gallon of water; stir to dissolve. Once tomato plants have begun to bloom, pour this solution on the soil surrounding the plant…it’ll encourage stronger, healthier blooms and tomatoes.

Tomato Blight Fight – 1 Tablespoon canola oil, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 gallon water; combine and shake to blend. Spray on plants early in the season to help fight fungal blight.

Critter Ridder – pour ½ cup apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon hot sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon liquid soap in a spray bottle; gently shake to blend and spray on the undersides of leaves. This peppery spray is great for discouraging critters who want to nibble on garden plants.

Cinnamon Spray – ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon stirred into 2 cups warm water; shake to dissolve. Pour into a spray bottle and spray on leaves to fight powdery mildew.

Mite Fighter – ¼ cup buttermilk, 2 cups whole wheat flour, 2-1/2 gallons water, combine and spray on plants.

Pepper Hot Shot – 2 Tablespoons cayenne pepper, 5 drops liquid dish soap, 1 gallon water; combine all and spray underside of leaves to fight beetles.

Garlic Spray Concentrate –  4 cloves minced garlic combined with 1 Tablespoon oil; set aside overnight. Strain mixture and add to 2 cups water along with 1 teaspoon dish soap; shake to blend.  To use: Dilute first:  Fill a spray bottle with 2 cups water and 2 Tablespoons Garlic Concentrate; shake. Spray undersides of leaves to discourage beetles and mites.

I hope these natural remedies help in keeping your garden healthy so you can enjoy the fruits of your summertime labor!

Summer berries. Photo by: Mary Murray, Windy Meadows Farm

What does the remainder of July hold for our farm? Rich from start to finish, July offers us the taste of sweet berries and tangy peppers, back roads and byways, the clamor of songbirds, and sun-drenched days to remember.

Sweet summertime…enjoy every minute!

Mary Murray is a goat wrangler, chicken whisperer, bee maven, and farmers market baker at Windy Meadows Farm. She rehabilitated her 1864 Ohio farm property and is ready to share the many stories that come with farm living. Read all of Mary’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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