Natural Garden Remedies (session notes)


Hoverflies have many beneficial roles in our gardens. Photo: Karen Retra

Big thanks to Chiara Cass for facilitating our June gathering on this interesting topic. The evening was very well attended and we had lots of terrific discussion. Thanks to all who came along.

Below are some of Chiara’s notes. We also had many interesting conversations about related issues and potential solutions, some of which are also noted.

If you have a tip or experience to share, please feel free to leave a comment so everyone can benefit from it!

Controlling pest and disease problems in your garden is easier if you:

  • Practice crop rotation growing different plants in the same garden bed makes it more difficult for pests and diseases to accumulate.
  • Save seed from ‘open pollinated’ or true to type plants that are adapted to your soil and conditions.
  • Observe the insects that visit your garden plants, some beneficial insects such as some wasps, hoverflies and ladybirds prey on pest insects such as white fly or aphids. But some others farm the pest insects for their own benefit and cause more harm to your plants, such as some ants and aphids.
  • Clean up around your garden plants to avoid creating the right conditions for harmful pests and diseases to flourish. Pick up fallen fruit to prevent the next generation of fruit fly and prune shrubs and trees that bear fruit every year.

Some simple remedies that you can use to control some common pests and diseases:

  • Coffee grounds can be used to control snails and slugs that are eating your seedlings. Caffeine causes snails and slugs to have a heart attack.
  • Scatter the coffee grounds on the soil surrounding your seedlings or mix up one part espresso coffee to five parts water in a spray bottle and spray foliage and the soil around your seedlings
  • Coffee grounds are also good for improving your soil’s moisture holding capacity. If water runs straight out of the drainage holes of a pot plant when you water the plant, the potting mix may have become hydrophobic. Adding compost + coffee grounds to the potting mix can be beneficial.
  • Baking soda can be used to control black spot, rust or mildew on the foliage of plants such as roses. Bicarb soda is alkaline and it impairs the formation of fungal spores.
  • To make a foliar fungicide dissolve one teaspoon of bicarb in one litre of water, add a drop of dishwashing liquid and a teaspoon of vegetable oil. The detergent and oil spread and fix the bicarb to the leaves. Spray both sides of the leaves but avoid spraying on hot days (30 degrees Celsius).
  • Alternatively the butterfat in milk can be used as a fungicide to control mildew on the foliage of cucurbits, begonias, roses and grapes.
  • Vegetable Oil can be used as a pesticide commonly called white oil.
  • Thoroughly blend one cup of vegetable oil with ¼ cup detergent, you can store the concentrate in a labelled bottle, and make sure you shake it before you add it to water to make white oil. Add 1 tablespoon of the concentrate to 1 litre of water in a spray bottle.
  • You can use this white oil mixture to suffocate sap sucking insects like aphids, mites and also scale. As an alternative use an old tooth brush dipped in methylated spirits to scrub scale off plant stems.

Note: All these remedies need to be used repeatedly on a weekly basis when the infestation is heaviest or in case it rains.

Have flowering plants (especially herbs) that attract beneficial insects to your garden so that they can do the hard work of controlling pests for you. You might like to check out this article and video featuring Sophie Thomson on Gardening Australia for more ideas to encourage beneficial insects into your garden.

A few of the many other topics discussed during the session included: citrus gall wasps; aphids; slaters; rabbits; birds (blackbirds, sparrows), curl grubs; green vegetable bugs; white cabbage moth (and butterflies); and mole crickets. A couple of apps those attending have found useful are the Veg Pest ID app and MyPestGuide app (WA based but accepts submissions from across Australia).

Thanks again to all who contributed. This is a topic we’ll no doubt continue to discuss!

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