You can end up spending a fortune buying the remedies to safeguard your plants. While readily available, organic sprays don’t come cheap - if you’re not careful, those $2 heads of lettuce have cost you $5 extra in protection money. It feels that in an age where we demand a readily available solution to everything, we are losing one of the vegetable gardener’s primary skills” that of resourcefulness.
Making homemade sprays to protect and clean your plants is a skill as ancient as gardening itself. Using simple combinations of basic household ingredients, you can concoct a spray to treat almost anything. Here are a few that you should definitely have in your repertoire.
Nobody forgets their first nettle sting. The moment you brush past the unsuspecting plant, even more unlucky if you’re in bare feet, and the irritating hairs start to work their evil magic. Aphids and leaf miners feel the exact same way about it. Wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves, long everything when collecting the plants. Then soak nettles in a large tub of water for approximately 1 week. To apply, strain into a spray bottle and use the liquid undiluted on the foliage of the plants. This also doubles up as a great plant tonic. This spray has a shelf life of 4 - 6 weeks.
This spray is a great one for treating powdery mildew, rust and honeydew. To make simply mix 1 teaspoon of bi-carbonate of soda, 1 teaspoon of cooking oil, 1 tablespoon of biodegradable dishwashing liquid and 1 litre of water. Spray on young and affected growth every week to treat. This will keep on the shelf for 1 month.
Just in case you needed another reason to love coffee. You are either a coffee lover or you are the sort of person who gets wired and nervous at the scent of caffeine. Two guys who go haywire at the though of coffee are snails and slugs. As if we needed any more reasons to love the stuff. Coffee to a snail is what red cordial is to a children’s birthday party - a really bad idea. The caffeine is something that does not agree with the snail’s make-up and one strong hit is enough to poison it.
Although the idea of using perfect good coffee in the garden does not sit comfortable, in the rare event some is left lying about, this is the next best use for it. A partially finished pot of coffee is an absolute rarity in our household. Dilute 1 part coffee with 5 parts water in a spray bottle - although it will depend on the strength of your brew. The stronger the better - it’s the caffeine that’s the killer.
Spray on and around your affected crops: be liberal. Don’t spray in the heat of the day as this may burn the plants. The best time is before nightfall. - just before the snails and slugs come out - as this gives the plants time to dry out but the caffeine is still strong. You can also up the ante by using grounds as an extra line of defence. Fresh coffee grounds are better than used ones but you need to weigh up what’s more important.
Garlic & Chilli Spray
This spray is a great all-rounder and useful for treating aphids, whitefly, thrip, some possums, snails and slugs. All you have to do is combine 6 garlic cloves (crushed and roughly chopped), 10-12 chillies thinly sliced and 1 tablespoon of biodegradable dishwashing liquid into 1 litre of boiling water. Let it soak for 24 hours and then strain into a spray bottle for use. Spray it on the foliage of affected plants and repeat the dosage after 3 days. It has a shelf life of 2 weeks.
One of life’s greatest hurdles is opening the fridge door to a full bottle of milk, due to expire the date you are looking at it. Don’t worry! We have a solution for you. Or if you are a milk-adjacent household that bought that one litre of cow’s milk to splash a mere 10ml of into your relative’s tea, we have another use for your moo juice. Mix 1 part of full-cream milk to 10 parts water and spray on young and affected growth every week. This has a shelf life of 24-48 hours, or keep tabs on the milks used by date and keep it in the fridge.
One of the classic sprays in every gardeners toolkit, soapy spray is great for aphids, whitefly, thrip and caterpillars. Mix 1 tablespoon of biodegradable dishwashing liquid with 1 teaspoon of cooking oil in 1 litre of water. Spray over the foliage of plants, particularly on the underside of leave where the pests often live. This will keep for 1 month.
We are most certainly people of science, and for that reason we always encourage gardeners to use organic material. Growing food without the use of chemicals, particularly when dealing with pest and disease, will ensure we keep nature’s balance in check. Don’t forget that nature has a way of helping out in times of need, so waging chemical warfare that takes out everything will leave your veggie patch more susceptible to future attacks.