Grumpy Goes Green! His Favorite Organic Products

February 24, 2013 | By | Comments (13)
Green Grumpy

This is what happens when you eat guacamole three times a day for 5 years!     Photo by Judy Bender.

I know some of you think Grumpy is in bed with the big chemical companies, but nothing could be further from the truth. Judy will let Ketchup, our cat, sleep with us, but absolutely nobody else. Helping gardeners sleep more soundly these days is a wide range of nature-based pest control products, some even made by the big chemical companies themselves. Here are a few of Grumpy’s favorites.



I love this stuff. Photo by Espoma.

Ever since Grumpy was a wee lad starting out in the nursery business, he had a deep appreciation for the Espoma line of organic fertilizers and other products. The fertilizers, which combine the target plant with the word “tone” in the name (Plant-tone, Holly-tone, Rose-tone, Tomato-tone, etc.), are long-lasting, slow-release products that won’t burn plants or leach away with the rain. They derive their nutrients from natural sources like feather meal, poultry manure, alfalfa meal, and cocoa meal. They also contain a host of beneficial soil microbes that help plants more readily absorb the nutrients. Espoma products are easy to find in garden centers and big box stores. Try them.



Photo by EcoSmart.

Oil may power the world, but it’s a death sentence for bugs. That’s because bugs don’t have lungs. Instead they breathe through tiny openings in their bodies. Clog up these openings with  oil and the bugs suffocate and croak. That’s the idea behind EcoSmart Garden Insect Killer. It combines natural oils from cloves, rosemary, peppermint, and thyme, so it’s completely safe around people and pets. It kills and repels ants, beetles, spider mites, aphids, caterpillars, whiteflies, and other garden pests. It dispatches eggs and larvae too. You can find this and other EcoSmart products at garden and home centers.

Fungus & Disease Control


Photo by Bayer Advanced.

Bayer (the same company that makes Bayer Aspirin) may be the largest purveyor of garden pesticides in the world, but it also has a line of natural pest control products called Natria. One of them that I really like is Bayer Advanced Natria Disease Control. It employs a strain of beneficial bacteria to control the fungi that cause black spot, powdery mildew, dollar spot, rust, leaf spot, and other diseases. It did a very good job in my garden last year. It comes in both a spray-bottle for spot-treatments and a hose-end sprayer to cover larger areas of your garden and lawn. Both bottles are ready-to-use, so there’s no mixing. Look for Natria at garden and home centers.

Lawn Weed Killer


Photo by Scott’s Miracle-Gro.

Eliminating broadleaf weeds from your lawn is difficult to do with nature-based products, because most do not translocate. In other words, you can spray the foliage and kill the weed to the ground, but the active ingredient will not travel into the roots and kill them. So perennial weeds like dandelion, plantain, clover, and thistle just grow back.

Ortho Elementals Lawn Weed Killer uses an iron chelate called iron HEDTA (hydroxyethylenediaminetriacetic acid) that kills perennial weeds to the root by overdosing them with iron. Fortunately, it doesn’t kill grass, although it may temporarily discolor it. Some may quibble about this product being really “organic” because while iron is natural, the iron chelate is manufactured. But Grumpy hasn’t heard of any problems with it. My quibble is while I think this is great for killing weeds growing in cracks of my sidewalk, I can’t imagine stooping over to spot-spray a whole yard filled with hundreds of weeds. Chiropractors would be lined up around the block! Garden and home centers sell this too.

Grumpy’s Buzz Killer


Photo by S.E. Johnson.

A paper wasp confronted me last summer on my screened porch. My first thought was to grab the Raid, but all I had at hand was this Pledge orange oil furniture cleaner. My second thought was, “Oil kills insects and wasps are insects, so meet your maker, wasp!” I sprayed the wasp and it dropped like a stone! Dead in about 15 seconds. I subsequently discovered that orange oil does a fine job on cockroaches, ants, and other household bugs.

Now, because the label on the Pledge bottle doesn’t list pest control as an accepted use, I can’t formally recommend that you spray bugs with it on purpose. However, say you have a dingy dining room table that needs to be cleaned and revitalized. Just as you spray it with Pledge, a wasp or roach runs into the spray. Omigosh! It’s dead!

Accidents will happen.


  1. Steve Bender


    I don’t know what the problem is, but I use Natria all the time and it never clogs. Maybe you just got a bad bottle.

    July 10, 2014 at 11:23 am
  2. Bill

    I have tried the hose end Natria disease control and it does seem to spray. It just seems to clog and spray water.

    July 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm
  3. Steve Bender


    That is correct.

    March 29, 2013 at 11:21 am
  4. Bridget Haig

    I just read somewhere, that you need to kill the queen or she will just make more ants.

    March 24, 2013 at 11:17 am
  5. Steve Bender

    I’ll bet it’s the fire ant poison that’s doing the job and not the corn meal.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm
  6. Cynthia Hedge

    I have found that finely ground yellow corn meal is the best organic treatment for fire ants. I lightly cover the mound with the corn meal and about 12 inches or so around the bed. Then I stir the bed enough to open up the tunnels so that I can pour more down into the bed. The bed will be dead within 24 hours. I have to confess that sometimes when there are lots of beds I resort to mixing 1/3 commercial fire ant poison with 2/3 corn meal and treating beds. I usually buy 7 pounds of commercial poison and 10 pounds of corn meal and use 1/2 bag to mix with the 10 pounds of corn meal.

    March 2, 2013 at 7:49 pm
  7. Geraldine Starks

    Green is gold! 🙂 Eating green leafy veges are very good to our health. I gives us great defense through many illness and bad condition.

    February 25, 2013 at 11:53 pm
  8. Steve Bender

    What problem do you have that you’re trying to control?

    The best way to control mosquitoes without chemical pesticides is to create an environment they don’t like. They’re not strong fliers and prefer yards with lots of shrubbery and brush to buffer the wind. Remove this to let air move freely. Don’t leave buckets and pots filled with rainwater around for mosquitoes to breed in. If you have bird baths or other water feature, you can control mosquito larvae with a product called Mosquito Dunks. It contains a bacterium that kills mosquitoes, but is completely safe for people and wildlife. Here’s a link:

    February 25, 2013 at 11:31 am
  9. Perrin Kreidler

    What about mosquitoes? I worry about those hose-attachment sprays because of the birds and the bees, but there are zillions of skeeters in my shrubbery! Any safe solutions?

    February 24, 2013 at 11:42 am
  10. Nancy Busey

    Love the Pledge idea. I’ve been killing bugs for years with whatever spray bottle was nearest! Hair spray tends to kill most anything.

    February 24, 2013 at 11:07 am
  11. Carolyn Choi

    As usual you are very informative and amusing.

    February 24, 2013 at 10:52 am
  12. Lynda

    what can one use on the lawn I have two dogs and won’t use pesticides

    February 24, 2013 at 10:49 am
  13. Claudia Fugate

    Love your choices of natural products. I too like the Espoma brand, and it contains 10′ of thousands of colonies of microbs that make nutrients available in the soil. Adding microbs instead of killing them with chemicals – a win-win. Thanks for sharing.

    February 24, 2013 at 10:37 am

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