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Gardening in America
Home Remedies for Your Garden

by Nancy Fletcher

By Sharon Lovejoy

You don't have to buy expensive and sometimes poisonous products to banish weeds, harmful insects and fungus from your garden. Here are 11 cheap, safe alternatives using common household items...


Adhesive tape. Wrapped around your hand with the sticky side out, adhesive tape (any type) is a handy device for taking pests off plant leaves.

Elmer's glue. White glue works like a liquid bandage to seal cuts in plants such as rosebushes after you've pruned them. If large cuts aren't sealed, they can attract harmful insects or organisms that can
cause infection.

Empty film container. Fill the container with a mixture of one teaspoon of borax (boric acid) to 10 teaspoons of pancake syrup. Put the cap on, and punch an ant-sized hole in the lid. The result is an effective "ant motel" that traps some ants and lets others carry the toxic mixture back to their nests. Caution: Don't use this where pets or young children can reach it.

Grapefruit rinds. Set them out at night as lures for slugs and snails, which are especially destructive to seedlings. In the morning, put the filled rinds in the trash.

Hot red pepper powder. Cabbage, broccoli and related vegetables are vulnerable to many types of insects, including cucumber beetles and leafhoppers. To protect the plants, spray them weekly with a mixture of two tablespoons of hot red pepper powder, six drops of liquid soap and one gallon of water.

Mirror and yardstick. A small mirror attached to a yardstick with an adhesive such as Goop lets you reach far into the garden to detect insects, such as mealybugs, which often lurk under leaves.

Soy sauce. Mix equal parts of soy sauce and canola oil in an empty sardine can or any other low-sided container to attract earwigs, destructive bugs that also have a nasty bite. Set out the traps at night, and throw them away in the morning so they don't harm butterflies and other beneficial daytime insects.


Grapefruit knife. The curved, serrated blade is more effective than any weeding device I've tried for container and small gardens. You can easily remove shallow-rooted weeds without harming plants.

Helpful: Make weeding a top priority early in the season when weeds are young and easier to pull.

Vinegar. To kill broad-leafed weeds, spray white or apple cider vinegar on them, preferably during the hottest sun of the day. Cover any nearby plants with newspaper to shield them from the spray.


Baking soda. Tomato and potato plants are particularly susceptible to fungal infections. Spray early in the growing season with a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda, one tablespoon of mineral or canola oil and one gallon of water.

Milk. Mix one cup of milk to nine cups of water to make a spray that rids plants of mildew. Apply twice a week.


Test homemade sprays on a portion of a plant before applying it to the entire surface. Monitor the plant's response for a few days to check for burning.

If a spray calls for soap, use only a mild one. Try Dr. Bronner's, Fels Naptha or any pure Castile soap available in health-food stores.

Prevent sunburned leaves by apply­ing sprays early in the morning and never when the temperature is above 85°F.

Wear rubber gloves when using any sprays containing peppers, alcohol, citrus concentrates, mint oils or anything else that could irritate skin. When spraying in breezy conditions, wear eye and nose protection.

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