I don’t use chemical pesticides or insecticides on my plants. This means that by the time we eat our garden produce I can be sure that, for the most part, no chemicals have been added to it or used to kill off beneficial insects such as bees, ladybirds and praying mantises.
There are some commonsense things you can do in your garden to discourage pests and disease:
Keep an eye on it. If you check your garden daily (like I do with a glass of wine in the evening) you can stop pests before they get a hold on your plant.
Plant a big range of plants rather than just one kind, so that you don’t get a build up of pests on one type of plant.
Be a tidy Kiwi. Just as you shouldn’t leave pools of water around the place to encourage mosquito larvae, it is a good idea to remove old leaves and rotting wood that slugs and snails can hide under.
As mentioned above, every time you spray to get rid of one insect, you are also endangering ladybirds and praying mantises, which in good quantities can be very effective bug-eaters. See if you can physically remove the unwanted insect first.
Here are some recipes I use to discourage pests and disease:
Natural Spray to Kill Bugs
3–4 chilli peppers
3–4 cloves garlic
1⁄2 cup water
1⁄4 cup liquid detergent (I use Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap). Enough water to fill remainder of spray bottle
Steep the chilli and garlic in the water over a low heat for 15 minutes. Cool and then pour into a spray bottle with liquid detergent. Fill the rest of the bottle with water.
Powdery Mildew Spray
1 litre water
Mix and spray on affected plants.
Another excellent insect and mildew treatment uses rhubarb leaves. The leaves are highly toxic to humans, and do be aware that this will kill bees and has a minimum withholding period of two days for anything you are going to eat.
In a glass or enamel container, simmer 500g chopped leaves in 1 litre of water for 20–30 minutes, then cool and strain. Dilute at 1:100 with water, and spray.
Collect a good handful of the insect pests that are causing damage. I use an old Agee jar with a piece of paper spread over the top, with a hole just big enough to pop the bugs through. Put them in a kitchen blender with about 2 cups of water and blend at high speed until the insects are reduced to a pulp. Strain through a piece of cloth, and then dilute 1:4 with water. You may need to spray a few times before you get rid of them.
Or you can simply crush a few to death and leave them lying around as a deterrent.
Dissolve 1 tablespoon of Wendyl’s Premium Baking Soda in hot water and then add 1 tablespoon each of dishwashing liquid (I use Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap), vegetable oil and liquid plant food. Add this mixture to 5 litres of water and spray every two days for a week and then every two weeks as a maintenance dose.
Wendyl’s Fungus Spray
Dissolve a teaspoon of Wendyl’s Premium Baking Soda in 1 litre of warm water. Add a teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap (I use Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap) and spray infected plants thoroughly, making sure you cover the underside of the leaves.
Neem Bug Spray