It’s that time of year again. The flowers are blooming, the vegetables are growing and all of a sudden, the garden problems begin to show themselves in full force.
Plant diseases, insect invasions and garden varmint raiders take a toll on those gorgeous flowers and robust vegetables that looked wonderful just a short time ago. Every garden or flower bed at one time or another has plant diseases, bugs, poor soil, critter attacks, etc. and the battle is ongoing in dealing with them.
But, we also all have common household and everyday materials that we can use to fight back. Convenient, money-saving, time-saving solutions lie at our fingertips and they are very effective against garden problems.
So, now that your flowers and vegetables are planted and growing, make up your own remedies for fighting the weeds, bugs, diseases and anything else that threatens your blooms, shrubs, trees and vegetables.
Along with the garden care tips, and in response to questions from gardeners regarding the dry, hot conditions this year, a section on ideas for conserving water in the garden is included as well.
Get Rid of Weeds and Harmful Insects
• A very effective weed killer can be made by mixing together 1 gallon of white vinegar, 1 cup of table salt and 1 tbsp. of liquid dish soap. Place in a spray bottle and spray directly on tough weeds. Re-spray after a few days if new growth emerges.
• To trap earwigs, set out a shallow saucer (a margarine or whipped topping tub lid) and fill it with vegetable oil. Earwigs will crawl in and be trapped in the oil.
• An all-purpose insect repellant can be made from 6 cloves of garlic (chopped fine), 1 onion (chopped fine), 1 tbsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp. liquid, dish soap and 1 quart of water. Mix all together and let set overnight. Strain the mix and pour the liquid into a spray bottle. Apply to infected plants. This one is especially effective against insects that attack your vegetable garden.
• Creeping weeds can be destroyed by spraying them with a mix of 5 tsps. Borax and 1 qt. of water.
• White vinegar is a very effective weed killer. Pour it directly on weeds but avoid getting it on any desired plants.
• Tough weeds can be destroyed with a mix of 1 tbsp. of vinegar, 1 tsp. of liquid dish soap, 1 tbsp. of gin and 1 qt. of warm water. Mix all together and pour the solution into a spray bottle. Apply it directly and to the weeds.
• To repel aphids, mix 2 cups of water with 4 tsp. of lemon juice and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the solution on plants infested with aphids.
• An effective Japanese beetle solution can be made by mixing 2 tbsp. garlic powder into 1 bottle of baby oil. Pour into a trigger type spray bottle and apply the solution to rose bushes, fruit trees, berry bushes, etc.
• To rid your plants of leafhoppers, try this mix: mix together ½ cup of alcohol, 2 tbsp. of liquid oil soap and 1 gal. of water. Mix all together and pour into a spray bottle. Saturate infected plants from top to bottom and don’t miss the undersides of the leaves.
Keep plants green and healthy
• Sprinkle ground cinnamon around plants in moist, shady areas and around peonies in sunny areas. It will fight mold and mildew.
• To fight fungal diseases on plants, dissolve 1 cup of molasses in 1 gal. of water. Spray on infected plants. Another mix to try is 3 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar and 1gal. of water. Pour into a spray bottle and mist on plant leaves.
• Protect against plant virus attacks by using this solution: put 2 cups of green pepper leaves with 1 cup of water in a blender and liquefy. Add 1 more cup of water and ½ tsp. of liquid dish soap to the blend. Pour all into a spray bottle and coat plant leaves.
• Get rid of powdery mildew on plants with a mix of 1 gal. of water, 3 tbsp. baking soda, and 1 tbsp. Murphy’s Oil Soap. Pour into a spray bottle and mist on infected leaves.
• Sprinkle non-fat dry milk in the hole before planting tomato transplants. The milk powder will prevent blight, blossom-end rot and other tomato diseases.
• Another mix that will pep up tomato health is 3 cups compost, ½ c. Epsom salts, 1 tsp. baking soda and ½ c. non-fat dry milk. Combine all together and sprinkle around the base of the tomato plant throughout the growing season.
• Fight black spot disease on your roses with a mix of 10 tomato leaves, ½ c. rubbing alcohol, and 1 onion, finely chopped. Chop the tomato leaves into fine pieces and combine with the alcohol and onion. Remove any diseased leaves from the bush and with a foam paintbrush apply the mix to the entire bush including the undersides of the leaves.
• A mix of 1 tbsp. of Epsom salts in 1 gal. of water can be sprayed on plants and the soil around plants to boost their resistance to plant diseases of any kind.
• Keep vegetable plants healthy and robust with a dose of this elixir once every 3 weeks: combine ½ c. of molasses, 1 c. of ammonia, 1 can of beer, ½ c. of liquid dish soap, and ½ c. of liquid lawn food. Mix together in a garden bucket and pour the mix into a hose end sprayer. Spray vegetable plants to the point of run off.
• Grow big, strong and healthy roses with this rose miracle solution: mix together 1can of beer, 2 tsp. instant tea granules, 1 tsp. rose/flower food, 1 tsp. fish emulsion, 1 tsp. liquid dish soap, and 2 gal. of warm water. Dribble about 1 pint of this mix around the base of your bushes every three weeks and water in well.
• Use leftover cereal or cracker crumbs to add to your garden soil. Work the crumbs into the soil. Sweetened cereals add nutrients. Used coffee grounds are a great addition to the soil around plants in the garden. They add nutrients to the soil.
• Long-stemmed flowers with heavy blooms often have problems with falling over. Stems can be strengthened by adding potassium to the soil. Try banana peels, wood ashes or greensand. Scatter around the base of the plant and work in lightly.
• Water that has been used to boil eggs, cook vegetables or pasta can be used to water plants after it has cooled. The water adds nutrients to the soil that encourage healthy plant growth. Gatorade can be used to water plants and gives a real boost to plant vitality.
Shoo animal invaders
• Keep raccoons out of your garden by laying a 3 ft. wide strip of black plastic around your garden area. Coons hate the slippery surface and will leave your garden alone.
• Repel squirrels from areas where you do not want them invading by spraying the areas with a mix of 2 tbsp. of cayenne pepper, 2 tbsp. of Tabasco sauce, 2 tbsp. chili powder, and 1 qt. warm water. Mix together and put solution in a spray bottle.
• Rabbits hate the dusty miller plant “Diamond” variety. Plant around areas you want to protect.
• Deer will stay away from places where you apply this mix: use 2 eggs, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tbsp. Tabasco sauce, 2 tbsp. cayenne pepper, and 1 c. water. Puree the ingredients in a blender and let the mix set for 2 days. Pour the mix around your garden or trees you want to protect.
• A rabbit repellent with a real kick can be made from; 1 tbsp. Tabasco sauce, 1 tbsp. ammonia, 1 tbsp. baby powder, 3 tbsp. cayenne pepper and 2 c. hot water. Mix all together and pour into a spray bottle. Apply around areas where the rabbits are invading.
• Grated orange, lemon or grapefruit peels sprinkled around on the soil of your garden will keep cats out.
• Spread thorny plant stems (rose canes, raspberry canes, etc.) at the edge of flower beds to keep cats and dogs out.
• Scatter mothballs through your garden or flower bed to repel cats, squirrels, and rodents.
• Used cat litter can be poured into gopher, mole, or muskrat tunnels. The smell of the cat will repel these critters.
• Keep rabbits out of your strawberries by sprinkling black pepper on the soil around the patch.
Save on water
• Water your plants early in the morning or later in the day to cut down on rapid evaporation of the water before it reaches the plants roots. Water as deeply as you can and direct the flow to the base of the plants.
• Use mulch around your plants to hold in the moisture and keep the ground cooler. A layer of about 2 to 3 inches should give effective coverage. A layer of newspaper under the mulch adds extra insulation and moisture retention.
• Place container plants over tree or shrub roots and hanging pots over other plants to maximize the water you use. Runoff from the containers or hanging pots will water the plants beneath them.
• Drip and deep irrigation systems are probably the most effective in getting the water to the roots of the plants. Both can save you at least 60 percent of all water used in irrigation. Run the systems on low pressure to cut down on evaporation.
• Prune back overgrown trees, shrubs and plants to reduce their need for water.
• Keep gardens and flower beds well weeded as weeds will take the moisture from your desired plants.
• Group plants with similar watering needs together. Plants with high water needs can be planted in areas that retain moisture longer (low spots, part shade spots, etc.) and can be planted near water sources. Grouping plants will also allow you to cut down on over-watering areas that have only a few high-water need plants in the bed.
• Once established, most trees, shrubs, vegetables, and flowers only need about an inch of water a week. If an inch of rain falls in a week, additional watering may not be needed. Keep a rain gauge near your garden to check on how much rainfall you are getting each week.
• Connect a rain barrel to your downspout system and use the collected water for watering plants. Rain barrels are available at most home and garden centers or make your own. For instructions visit www.epa.gov/watersense/ or www.georgia4h.org.
• Plant more low water-use plants that do well in dry conditions while still giving color and variety to your gardens and flower beds. Some to try include:
Perennials – New England Aster, Blanketflower, Moonbeam Coreopsis, Echinacea, Lavender, Sedums, Geranium, Russian Sage, Daylily, Artemesia, Vinca, Yarrow, Rudbeckia and Red Hot Poker.
Annuals – Cosmos, Gazania, California poppy, Globe Amaranth, Lantana, French Marigold, Strawflower, Moss Rose and Sweet William.