Saturday, October 27, 2012

Guest Post - keeping bugs from your garden the natural way

Today I'm super-excited to bring you some tips to keep your garden bug-free, from Amanda who blogs at Cooker and a Looker, down the road from me. I don't know whether to make this stuff or just invite her over to do it for me! I have such an issue with caterpillars and spiders so this is invaluable.

I love to garden. I hate to share.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing that makes me prouder than offering friends an armful of home-grown silverbeet. Equally, there’s nothing more disappointing than finally harvesting a veggie that you’ve lovingly nurtured to maturity and discovering that something beat you to it.

So I’ve put together a few ideas for keeping your veggies to yourself:

In my experience, the easiest way to do pretty much anything is have someone else do it for you – and keeping bad bugs out of your garden is no exception. Birds, lizards and predatory insects all make their livings by feeding on bugs. Encourage them into your garden by providing shelter, flowering shrubs (for birds), and permanent water.

Keep It To Yourself Tip 1: There’s an army of animals out there waiting to do your bidding, so invite them into your garden and get on with your day.

There are a lot of pesticides and fungicides on the market. The problem with chemical pesticides is the great majority don’t distinguish between good and bad bugs – they kill everything. The best way to garden is to adopt an “innocent until proven guilty” approach. There are lots of good bugs out there – predatory bugs; like centipedes, lace wings, lady beetles and small wasps, will keep your bad bug numbers in check. While pollinators; like bees, some flies, butterflies, moths and some wasps, will help ensure your crop is burgeoning.

It’s worth trying to encourage more good bugs to make your garden home. You can plant a selection of herbs and flowers to attract good bugs – the Heritage Fruit Society have an extensive list on their website 

Alternatively, you can do what I do and buy “Good Bug Mix” from Green Harvest at Maleny.

Non-sharing Tip 2: Not all bugs are bad. Adopt an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ approach and befriend good bugs.

Even after you’ve tried all of this, chances are you’ll still have a few buggers who decide they deserve your veggies more than you. Here’s an easy, safe spray that you can make with a few household items:

Chilli Soap Spray


8-10 chillies (fresh or dried)

4 cloves garlic, diced

2 tablespoons soap flakes


Combine chillies, garlic, soap flakes and about a litre of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, and then allow to cool. Decant mixture into a glass jar and set aside for 24 hours. Sieve and pour into a spray bottle.

The chilli and garlic in this mix with discourage leaf-eating bugs. The soap flakes act as a surfactant – helping the chilli and garlic oils to stick to the leaves.

A word of warning: although this spray is non-toxic, it’s worth keeping away from children, pets and husbands. I’d also advise not spraying on windy days.

As the weather warms up, powdery mildew will start making an appearance in many gardens. Mine included. A local farmer taught me a really easy method for eradicating mildew in home gardens, and the best part? It’s also cheap!

Organic fungicide


100mls full cream milk

1 litre of water


Combine the milk and water in a spray bottle.

Initially apply to all areas of the affected plant, and then treat new growth weekly. This milk spray is also effective against black spot.

Finally, I don’t have too many problems with snails and slugs in my garden – but there are plenty of people who do. It turns out snails, slugs and I have a common weakness – beer.

Snail Trap


Empty plastic bottle




Using the scissors, carefully cut two doors into the sides of the bottle. Leave the ‘doors’ attached at the base. Fold these down, so they form little snail drawbridges. Don’t cut the top off the bottle – it keeps rain out of the beer. Bury the base of the bottle in the garden, fold down the drawbridges and pour beer into the base of the bottle. Snails and slugs will be drawn to the smell of the amber ale and will pass out faster than Year Twelves on schoolies week.

Left-over beer? Novel problem isn’t it? I’m sure you’ll think of something!

Non-sharing Tip 3: Forget honey, skip the vinegar. You catch more everything with beer!


  1. My dad recommended a similar spray for fungus, but he says to put in a drop of dishwashing liquid as well as the milk (or a few soap flakes), as a surfactant to help spreading. I'd like to believe him, but my basil plant still loses its leaves with black spots...

  2. Ooh I like that idea! I bet it would help spread. My basil doesn't get black spots, but it does shrivel up and die pretty quickly.

  3. Great tips, thank you! Now I just have to get the husband to build a rabbit proof fence to keep our free-range pet rabbit out of my garden-to-be :) I really want to have a big veg garden, but can only use pots up on an old outdoor table for the moment. Am lusting over your beetroot Veggie Mama, that looks amazing. They don't sell fresh beetroot here, so I will HAVE to grow my own. :)


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