Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Are Bugs Bugging Your Plants?

This is the time of year that I put most of my efforts into gardening.  Growing a year's worth of  vegetables in the garden takes up quite a bit of time. Managing it without chemicals makes it more of a challenge but also makes me feel better about the results. Because we really didn't have a winter, this year the bugs are everywhere and managing them without chemicals can test anyone's patience!

A friend of mine asked me this past Sunday what to do about all the whiteflies on the bushes in her yard. She told me they seemed to be everywhere. Whiteflies are tiny flies, they are white, (who would have thought), and they fly off the plant as you touch it.  They are sucking insects and will ruin the looks of any garden or landscaping plant. If not controlled, they can kill the plant.  Working in my herb garden yesterday, I felt her pain.  I had whiteflies everywhere! 

So, I thought I would pass along a spray solution that kills the whiteflies (and any other sucking insect) on your plants.  The best thing about this spray solution is it works wonders on indoor houseplants as well. 

Alcohol Insecticide:

1 cup isopropyl alcohol (either 70% or 91%)
3 cups water
2 to 3 drops liquid dishwashing liquid

Put everything in a plastic sprayer and shake well. Spray the plant, wetting both the top and underside of the leaves.

Now, this will kill the adult flies but it won't do anything about eggs left on the plant.  So, you will need to spray again in three days to kill the new adults that hatch. Spray again in three more days to break the reproduction cycle of this pest. Most insecticides aim to break the life cycle of the pest. That is why so many commercial products recommend spraying every few days.  For this homemade alcohol insecticide, you must spray three times, three days apart to completely eliminate the insect.  If you don't spray that often, you will control them but not eliminate them.

I use this on flowers and shrubs, rather than edible plants. In fact, I don't recommend spraying anything you plan to eat. After all, you are spraying isopropyl alcohol on the plants. Also, to prevent your hands from stinging, wear gloves and certainly don't get the spray in your eyes. Be sure to follow all other caution statements on the isopropyl alcohol bottle  and use normal safety practices for applying insecticide.

Having said that, I did spray my herbs yesterday.  I severely cut them back to just a few inches tall and left just a few leaves. (This alone eliminated a lot of the bug problem.)  I threw away these clippings - rather than put them on the compost pile. Then I sprayed.  I don't plan to eat anything from these plants until they at least double in size. I will spray twice more before I check the underside of the leaves for new eggs.

You can use this spray for all indoor/outdoor non-edible plants. If you are a bit hesitant to use it on your roses or other prize plants, test an area first. Spray just a few leaves. Then, go back and check it the next day for damage.  This test will tell you if you plant can tolerate the spray. 

If you have a specific bug problem that you can't seem to solve, just email me!  I will be happy to help. 

Happy Gardening!

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