Green is in when it comes to gardening, especially when kids and pets are around. We’re talking about using environmentally friendly solutions, natural remedies, and organic practices when plant maladies hit or a critter crisis emerges. Bottom line: Avoid using any chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or poisons that can be dangerous to humans, animals, soil and our water. Also, by choosing green solutions in your garden you will be saving money and the planet for future generations.
To help you get started, here are some favorite homemade remedies that naturally, easily and sucesssfully improve soil, kill weeds and deter pests:
So Long Slugs
Slugs can wreak havoc on flowers, fruits and vegetables in one night. Try using copper wire/tape around susceptible plants or add straw, rolled oats or broken eggshells around tender plants.
For the Birds
While we love our avian friends, sometimes they can sabotage an edible crop. To safely deter them, hang CDs, tinsel or metallic ribbon on plants needing some protection.
A Hole Problem
When pesky moles emerge, reach for your kitchen to make a natural repellent.
2 TBS Castor oil
6 TBS liquid dish washing soap
1 tsp Tabasco
1 minced garlic clove
1 quart water
Directions: Mix a fresh batch before use, pour around the rodent hole. Reapply after each rain.
1/2 cup liquid detergent
1 TBS Tabasco sauce
1 gallon of water
Directions: Mix and spray around rodent holes and in areas where they’ve been spotted. Apply after each rain
Say no to chemical weed killers and yes to old-fashioned vinegar. Spray undiluted household white vinegar directly and liberally on weeds, preferable during a hot, sunny day. The acid in the vinegar destroys the leaves of the plant, but not always the roots so you may need to reapply.
When cleaning a fish bowl or tank, don’t throw out the water but use it to feed plants instead. This has similar effects that fish emulsion fertilizer does. Fish water contains nitrogen and other important nutrients that plants need.
Whip up a batch of DIY Miracle Grow for buds and flowers.
1 gallon of warm water
2 tbsp epsom salt
1 cup apple juice
Directions: Mix all ingredients together and use once a month on your plants. Poke holes into the soil around the root edges and pour in.
Keep the nasty pest population in your garden under control by introducing good bugs. Consider buying aphid-eaters like ladybugs and lacewings from garden supply stores. To compliment this, attract beneficial insects by growing plants like yarrow, fennel, nasturtium and calendula.
All the Buzz
Consider saving all your leftover coffee grounds and using them in your garden. Simply spread the grounds over your soil or gently mix in for added nutrients and to act as a natural pest repellent. Coffee grounds also improve drainage and are crucial to the overall microorganism development in soil. Acid loving plants such as tomatoes, blueberries, roses and azaleas especially love spent coffee grounds.
Idea: To make coffee-tea: soak 6 cups of coffee grounds in a 5 gallon bucket of water, let it sit for 3 days and then saturate the soil around your plants.
Kier Holmes, local landscape designer, garden and science educator, and freelance writer.