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All plants can be attacked at some point by parasites, whether on the balcony, in our garden or greenhouse. Applying chemical pesticides is just as if not more harmful than the parasites themselves, both for the environment than for our health. The good news is that we can take care of our plants and protect them from parasites attacks with simple and inexpensive natural remedies, respecting the environment, plants and ourselves.
Before saving our plants from the attack of parasites, we should understand which parasite it is. The main parasites that we could find are:
Aphids: also called plant lice, they are small insects only a few millimeters long that feed on plant sap. In addition, they produce a sticky substance called honeydew which attracts ants a lot. For this reason it is common to find ants on plants attacked by aphids.
Especially in hydroponic agriculture and inside greenhouses, ladybugs are introduced to naturally fight aphids. These cute and colorful little animals are in fact carnivores, and aphids are the favorite food of their diet. Every single ladybug can feed on over 100 aphids every day. Ladybugs are great allies of organic growers.
Cochineals: they are small round and flattened insects, brown or white in color, which feed on vegetable juices rich in sugars. Usually they are positioned on the underside of the leaves and along the stems of the plants. Like aphids, scale insects also produce honeydew, so it’s easy to find ants close to these insects’ attacks.
White flies: this small flies covered with white powder feed on plants both at their larva stage then when mature on plants sap. You can notice yellow small point on the leaves of your plants similar to those caused by spider mites.
Red spider mites: it’s an insect so small that it is almost invisible. We note its presence from the yellow spots present on the upper page of the leaves and from very thin cobwebs on the lower page.
Cabbage butterfly (Pieri rapae): it would seem a harmless butterfly, but it is very dangerous when it looks like a light green caterpillar with black dots. They lay their eggs on cabbage leaves and their larvae quickly damage these plants.
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3 NATURAL PESTICIDES
In addition to being incredibly effective against the parasites that attack our plants, these natural remedies are simple to produce at home with ingredients readily available in our garden.
1. TOMATO LEAVES MACERATE
To prepare it we need tomato leaves which, for those who have a vegetable garden, could be present in abundance. It is a particularly effective natural remedy against aphids and especially against cabbage. The tomato plant contains solanine, a somewhat toxic substance found mainly in the green parts of the plant.
This substance is among other things in other plants of the same family that could be used in the same way. The natural antiparasitic action makes the tomato macerate effective even during infestation in progress and during flowering and fruiting.
To prepare this natural remedy, you need to chop tomato leaves and let them soak in water for 24 hours. Leave the container open and stir occasionally when possible. Once done, just filter and transfer to a sprayer so that it can be easily applied to the plants directly to the affected area.
2. GARLIC SPRAY
There are those who love garlic and those who hate it. Insects seem to have the same reaction. It doesn’t seem to bother some of them, but for others garlic is as repellent as it is for a vampire. It’s an effective pesticide on harmful insects in general, and in particular on the black aphid and spider mites.
To prepare the garlic spray, just infuse a few coarsely chopped cloves of garlic for the night or more, stirring occasionally when possible. Then it is filtered and transferred to a sprayer that will be used to spray the infested plants directly. To apply spray the plant once a week to protect against pests or twice a week if it rains a lot.
Don’t spray when harvest time approaches unless you want your lettuce to taste like garlic. Furthermore, spray garlic is a broad-spectrum pesticide, so it only sprays the parts of the plants that are infested in order to reduce the risk of damaging any beneficial insects.
Another way to use garlic for pest control is to plant it among other crops. This is particularly useful if you love garlic like me. For example, it can be planted around roses to repel aphids or around tomatoes to prevent red spider mites. While garlic does an excellent job of repelling pests on many plants, it is recommended not to plant it near legumes, peas and potatoes.
3. NETTLE MACERATE
It is a plant that we easily find spontaneously, often also in our garden. Nettle contains large amounts of formic acid and salicylic acid, substances that ward off garden parasites, in particular aphids and scale insects. The fresh nettle leaves are left to soak in water for 12 to 18 hours. We filter and spray on plants attacked by parasites.
This natural macerate can also be used as an organic fertilizer. In this case, however, let it macerate more, for at least a week. The leaves and stems of nettle contain elements useful to plants such as nitrogen, iron and magnesium and above all potassium. It can be used both in the vegetative state and especially during the flowering or fruiting as does contain numerous elements that make it a versatile organic fertilizer.
Nettle is a mistreated plant that deserves much more consideration. You may be interested in the specific article: “Stinging nettle: properties and uses of an extraordinary plant“
All three remedies should be applied to plants in the morning or at sunset, avoiding the hottest and sunniest hours. It is advisable to use recycled containers and sprayers as maceration brings unpleasant odors. So be careful where you put the container with the macerate because the smell could annoy the neighbors.
It’s always easier to prevent than cure. To prevent the attack of any parasites, let’s surround ourselves with plants that act as natural repellents, together with following plant companion advices to get the best from your garden.