by Charlene Burgi
This past weekend was shared with old friends who were visiting. During their stay, they presented me with a 1947 copy of Sunset Flower Garden Book that they unearthed at an estate sale. (Lately there seems to be a tread of old literature crossing my path.)
While leafing through the pages, I noted the dramatic evolution of Sunset Western Garden Book over the years. The old book was divided into sections containing by-the-month, “to-do” checklists as well as timely blooming plants. The checklists were relatively in line with today’s standards.
There was also a section containing graphs on controlling insects that captured my attention. I read with interest a suggestion for creating a “Pest Kit.” I noted most of their recommendations are no longer available due to the extreme toxicity to plant and person! This section drew a clear picture that we have come a long and less-toxic way toward eliminating unwanted pests in the garden.
The list broke the insects into two groups—chewing and sucking. Oddly, it was the chewing insects that appeared to call for the insecticides with the most punch. DDT and arsenate primarily covered this group. The pages following the Pest Kit list warned of the danger of some of the recommended insecticides. The writings told of inconclusive reports on the use of DDT. I wondered why anyone would take the chance of adding this product to the Pest Kit. Were the gardeners lacking knowledge about organic methods, or was it just easier to obtain these products?
Fortunately, we now know there are safer methods of managing pests. If you are having problems with chewing insects, try making a solution of hot pepper spray. Throw a couple of hot peppers, such as habaneros, into a blender with about a cup of water. Puree the mixture until it liquefies. Strain out any solids, and then add enough water to make a gallon of concentrated hot pepper juice. I might try this in my garden as it could even deter those pesky rabbits!
Treating sucking insects such as aphids, mealybugs, spider mites and leafhoppers hasn’t changed as much over the years. They can be eliminated by creating a spray consisting of half an ounce of neem oil and a tablespoon of organic-based detergent in two cups of water. Stir slowly until the solution is well-mixed. The oil comes from the neem tree and the solution is organically based.
A garden can be beautiful and gentle on the environment. That is why MMWD promotes Bay-Friendly Gardening, a common-sense approach that is healthier for our garden, our greater environment and for us. I am thankful we have other alternatives available to keep our gardens pest free.