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.
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.
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
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
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
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.