It’s officially time to start planting in most growing zones of the continental U.S. – how will you make your garden grow this year? These 12 easy, natural DIY pest repellants and fertilizers will enrich your soil and prevent damaging insects and slugs from undoing all your hard work. Safe for organic gardens, these homemade garden recipes and fertilizing tips will give you your best growing season ever.
Castile Soap Spray Insecticide
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Is there anything castile soap can’t do? The gentle vegetable oil-based soap makes a gentle and effective insecticidal spray for the garden. Dr. Bronner’s, the company that makes the most prevalent brand of castile soap, recommends filling a spray bottle with water and adding a tablespoon of either unscented or peppermint castile soap and a pinch of either cayenne pepper, cinnamon or powdered garlic. This mixture will kill aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies and spider mites.
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There are few things better for enriching the soil in your garden than plain old rotted manure. You can purchase bags of manure fertilizer at most garden centers or, if you have chickens, goats or rabbits as backyard pets, you can use their droppings, too. Rabbit droppings have the highest nitrogen content and can safely be added directly to soil, but droppings from other animals should be composted before use.
Garlic Spray Insecticide
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Garlic spray acts as a deterrent, encouraging insects to move on to more appetizing plants. Unlike many other types of insecticidal garden sprays, garlic can safely be applied to the leaves of plants. Drop the cloves from an entire bulb of garlic into the blender along with two cups of water, puree until finely blended and set it aside for a day. Then, strain out the pulp, mix the garlic liquid with a gallon of water and add it to a sprayer.
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Nettles aren’t a pleasant plant to brush up against – their leaves are covered in stinging hairs that inject histamine and other chemicals into the skin, producing a stinging sensation. But dig them up (with gloves on, of course), put them in a 5-gallon bucket, cover them with water and in three to four weeks you’ll have glorious liquid plant food that experts swear by. Nettles.org.uk has the full recipe.
Tomato Leaf Spray
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Tomato leaves are packed with alkaloids, which can be an effective repellant for aphids, corn earworms and Diamondback moths. Go Green Ninja recommends soaking 1 to 2 cups of chopped or mashed tomato leaves in two cups of water overnight, straining it through a fine mesh and adding two more cups of water before spraying it on the plants in your garden. Keep this mixture away from pets, as tomato leaves can be toxic.
Egg Shells as Fertilizer & Pest Repellant
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Egg shells are a multi-purpose aid in the garden, acting as both fertilizer and pest repellant. Add crushed eggshells to the bottom of planting holes, particularly when planting tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, or dry them out and blend them into a fine powder and spread them around the base of plants. Placing crushed eggshells (with sharp edges intact) in a ring around the base of a plant will deter slugs, snails and cutworms.
Slug Beer Trap
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Put a little beer in a saucer or yogurt cup (buried to the brim) in your garden, and slugs will come out from all over for an all-night yeast-consuming fest. Too bad they’ll fall in and drown, but hey – otherwise, they’d be eating all of your precious garden plants. Simple, cheap and the perfect way to dispose of all the dregs left behind after a party.
Coffee Grounds as Fertilizer
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Don’t toss those used coffee grounds! They could be adding lots of nourishing nitrogen to your soil. Contrary to popular belief, used coffee grounds are not acidic; they can act as a safe substitute for nitrogen-rich manure in the compost pile. They can also be mixed into soil as an amendment or spread onto the surface of the soil.
Hot Pepper Spray
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Hot pepper is a natural deterrent for many types of pests in the garden. To make your own homemade pepper spray, combine 6-10 hot peppers and two cups of water in a blender and blend on high speed for 1-2 minutes, pour the liquid into a storage container to sit overnight and then strain out the pulp. Add this liquid to one quart of water in a sprayer, and spray your plants liberally every week or after each rain.
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Want a beautiful, effortlessly green lawn? Don’t pick up those grass clippings when you mow the lawn! It’s that simple. Grass clippings are free fertilizer, adding precious nitrogen back to the soil. Short grass clippings decompose quickly, so as long as you mow often enough, they won’t stick around so long that they build up to unmanageable levels.
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It sounds illogical, but sometimes, adding more bugs to your garden will help decrease the total population. Beneficial nematodes are tiny organisms that can kill hundreds of species of soil-dwelling insects including notorious garden pests like weevils, cucumber beetles and vine borers. You can buy them online, or at your local garden center. To use them you water your garden, then mix the packet of live nematodes with cool distilled water according to the directions on the package. Pour the solution into a sprayer and apply it to the soil.
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Compost is the single easiest and most effective way to make your garden lush and productive, and all it takes is your kitchen scraps and some nitrogen-rich dry materials like grass, leaves or straw. You can compost even if you live in an apartment – get some urban composting tips here.