By GEOFF MIERS
If you are sick of using chemicals to manage pest and disease problems there are many alternatives available that you can buy or simply make up yourself. Here are a random mix of control or management methods.
Today there are a number of safe environmentally friendly products on the market and periodically on a visit to your local nursery there seems to be another new product popping up.
A friend of mine for example has developed a weedicide based on citric acid while there is another weedicide product that is simply vinegar, water and a wetting agent – dishwashing liquid. You simply need to experiment with the quantities.
This is a good weedicide to make up after the rain when weeds first start to appear. It will bowl them over so quickly.
Dipel is a classic example of an environmentally safe product suitable for use on grubs and caterpillars. Dipel is simply a dormant bacteria. It represents no threat to humans, pets and importantly no threat to grub eating birds. Unfortunately at the moment there is a national shortage of this product and its hard to find.
Another new product is the organically certified Organic Interceptor contact weed spray that comes in a ready to use one litre spray bottle. It is said to be a fast acting, non residual spray with its active constituent being 136g/L of pine oil.
Organic Interceptor will kill seedlings and small, young annual weeds and grasses and suppress established weed. Note that difficult to kill weeds may need to be resprayed.
What is interesting is that the above products rely only on organic materials, including bacteria, eucalyptus, tea tree and pine oil along with fish and chicken waste and plant by-products.
For the home gardener there is also the opportunity to create your own organic products for a range of pest and disease problems.
For those growing large leafy vegetable, cucurbits, grapes and roses powdery mildew can be a problem and yet full cream milk offers a complete, scientifically proven solution.
Mix one part full cream milk to nine parts water and spray over the entire foliage including under-leaf. Within hours this spray will commence destroying the fungal spores. This milk formula is also said to be affective in managing red spider mite.
This milk spray can be made at a stronger rate if so required. This maybe more relevant when attempting to manage spider mite. Also full cream dried milk can be used as an alternative to fresh milk.
Powdery mildew has become prevalent since the recent rain and will be more so after the rain again this past weekend. Powdery mildew affects most large leaf vegetables like pumpkins and zucchini along with cucumber, rock and water melon, silverbeet and spinach and it can be a real problem for grape vines.
Milk and flour is said to be most affective against spider mite. A quarter of a cup of white fine ground flour with four cups of milk and 20 litres of water when used as a spray effectively smothers the mite as it dries.
Fine dry ground flour can be used as a insecticide when dusted onto the foliage of plants. It both deters some insects by blocking their breathing holes and for some caterpillars and grubs it serves as a stomach poison.
75 grams of grated velvet soap dissolved in 10 litres of water works well on aphids, possibly on white fly and on other soft bodied small pests. Do not use in hot weather as it can cause foliage burn.
Test your spray on some foliage and if after a day in the sun there is no damage you should be safe to spray. Best to use when temperatures are under 30 degrees.
With nematodes try using sugar and water or asparagus juice. Mix two kilograms of sugar into 10 litres of water and with a watering can water it in over five square metres. I like to water the garden bed prior to application. The sugar dehydrates the nematodes.
I do not have an exact recipe for asparagus juice. I simply collect asparagus foliage, chop it up and place in a large container and slowly heat the water allowing it to simmer for a while. I leave the foliage in the water until it has cooled, strain and then dilute it down and apply to the affected garden bed. I throw the asparagus foliage onto the bed for good luck.
Where nematodes have become a problem in the vegetable garden I remove all vegetables, treat the soil with the water and sugar treatment and then cover the bed with black plastic, sealing around the edges. I will leave the bed for several months to bake and destroy these hard to get rid of pests often referred to as eel worms.
With the worm farm cockroaches and slaters can become a real problem. If your worm farm has legs simply sit the legs in large tins or jars and fill them with water this will keep these pests from climbing up into the worm farm.
If the worm farm has metal legs paint the bottoms with tar or some other product to prevent the metal rusting. Alternatively you can smear a ring of thick grease or sticky gel on the legs to prevent anything climbing up the legs.
Crows are a problem pecking holes in your vegetables or stealing eggs from the chicken coupe, there are several things you can do to deter them.
With large produce like pumpkins and water melons for example I find when the fruits commence growing I simply cover them lightly with spinifex and this keeps them at bay.
As for the chicken coupe I look for a dead crow (often found on the side of the road under power lines) and I hang it on a long pole above the chicken coupe. This will definitely keep them away.
There are so many alternative ways to keep pests and disease under control. Down the track I will publish more control methods.