After six years of writing “What’s Green With Betsy?”, my blog post Recipes for Safe Weed, Insect Pests and Disease Control in Your Landscape continues to be my most popular. For those of you who missed it, I am reposting them.
An organic lawn
A word about lawns first. Monocultures, like lawns, are not typical in nature and only invite problems. A picture-perfect, weed free lawn has come to symbolize a lawn treated with toxic chemicals. Weeds actually are messengers for what’s wrong with the soil. Dandelions, for example, are an indication of a lack of calcium. I say learn to live with a few weeds in the lawn – dandelions actually add a bit of color for a few days and attract honeybees – and throw down some extra grass seed to keep grass lush. But if weeds really bother you or before they overtake a vegetable or flower garden, try some of the solutions listed below.
Recipes for organic weed, insect pests and disease controls compiled from Great Garden Formulas, 1998 Rodale Press, Inc.
VINAIGRETTE “DRESSING” FOR DANDELIONS
A well-placed shot of vinegar right on the plant can thwart dandelions or other broad-leaved weeds. Be careful not to splash it on the turf or any plants you want to keep, because vinegar will kill grassy plants as well. A section of newspaper or cardboard can act as a shield for desirable plants.
Vinegar (as close to 10% acidity as possible)
Dishwashing Liquid (optional)
Pump Spray Bottle
Fill the spray bottle with undiluted vinegar (or mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part dishwashing liquid). Spray a narrow stream, dousing the weed’s leaves and crown (the area at the base of the plant). Rinse the sprayer well with water, especially if it has metal parts because vinegar is corrosive. This is a spot spray only!
Rubbing alcohol is a simple way to kill a weed. Mix it with water and it will dehydrate almost any weed. This also works against spider mites, aphids, and scale, but may require some experimentation to find the right level of effectiveness. Test spray on one leaf to check for burning.
1 (or more) tablespoons rubbing alcohol
Pump spray bottle
Mix water and alcohol in the spray bottle. (Use 1 tablespoon of alcohol for weed seedlings orthin-leaved weeds and 2 tablespoons or more for tougher weeds.) Spray weed leaves thoroughly but lightly. (Avoid surrounding plants.)
Creeping Charlie is a low-growing, yellow-flowered perennial weed that can be a real nuisance in lawns. If you have noticed it in yours, borax can be a very effective weed-killer, particularly in late spring or early summer when weeds are growing most actively.
5 Teaspoons borax, like 20 mule Team Borax, for every 25 square feet of lawn
Pump spray bottle
Mix borax in water. Measure exactly: Too little and it won’t kill the weeds, too much and you could kill the grass too. Spray to cover a 25-square foot area. Water and fertilize your turf after the treatment so that it rapidly fills in the space left by the dead weeds.
SPRAY AWAY BROWN PATCH IN LAWNS
Brown or yellow rings that die out in your lawn, caused by rhizoctonia fungi, which comes from poor drainage, too much rain and/or too much nitrogen fertilizer, can be treated with this simple solution.
1 rounded tablespoon baking soda or potassium bicarbonate (a better choice since it has less salt)
1-tablespoon horticultural oil
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Spray lightly on your lawn. Avoid overuse or drenching the soil.
DELUXE BAKING SODA SPRAY
For a very effective disease and insect fighter, go no further than your kitchen. This concoction works best as a preventative, so spray susceptible plants before disease symptoms start and continue at weekly intervals.
1 ½ tablespoons baking soda
1-tablespoon canola oil
1 cup plus 1 gallon water
Backpack or pump sprayer
Mix the baking soda, soap and oil with 1 cup of water. Add the vinegar. Don’t mix the vinegar in until last or the mixture may bubble over. Pour the mixture into the sprayer and add 1 gallon of water. Shake or stir to combine the ingredients. Spray plants, covering the bottoms and tops of the leaves.
PLAIN AND SIMPLE GARLIC JUICE
If you are a garlic lover, you may want to use this simple recipe to fight diseases and insects on your plants.
3 garlic cloves
Pump Spray Bottle
Liquefy 3 garlic cloves in a blender that is half-filled with water. Strain out the garlic, then mix the remaining liquid with enough water to make 1 gallon of spicy concentrate. Two tablespoons of molasses will help the mixture adhere to the leaves.
CITRUS KILLER FOR APHIDS
Aphids and other leaf-sucking insects can cause considerable damage if you don’t control them. This mixture neutralizes aphids and can also act as a deterrent to ants!
Rind from 1 lemon, grated (or orange or grapefruit rind)
Pump Spray Bottle
Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the grated lemon rind. Allow the mixture to steep overnight. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, and pour into the spray bottle. Apply the mixture to plant leaves that are under attack. (This mixture must come in contact with the insects’ bodies to be effective.)
WEEDS IN HOT WATER
Use boiling water to eliminate weeds from sidewalk or driveway cracks. Be careful not to splash it on to neighboring plants or turf.
Teakettle or pan
Boil a full kettle of water. Pour slowly and carefully, dousing both the weeds and the soil immediately surrounding them. You may have to repeat a couple of times.
For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.