Tell a Friend about Us
Articles about Organic Garden Treatments
How to recognise mineral deficiencies in your crops
Organic fertilizer facts
The Common Sense Plan For Aphid Control
Traditional garden treatments
We support this site using affiliate marketing as a way to earn revenue. All the ads, and many of the links mentioning other products, services, or websites are special links that earn us a commission when you use or pay for their product/service.
Please do not use our site if this alarms you.
Traditional garden treatments
by Frann Leach
USE OF ANY HOME MADE MIXTURE IN THE GARDEN IS ILLEGAL IN THE UK!
If you're outside the UK you should be OK, but it is best to check local laws first.
- More benefit will be derived from a weak feed twice a week than a strong one once a week.
- Moisten the soil thoroughly before applying liquid manure.
- When giving a foliar feed, use a fine rose in the watering can or a fine setting on a pressure sprayer. Spray thoroughly until the liquid runs off the foliage.
The treatments outlined herein are compiled from various sources, and are neither endorsed nor recommended. You use them at your own risk.
Alum and lime
Mix one part of alum (aluminium sulphate) and seven parts of slaked lime very thoroughly and scatter thinly on the surface of the soil on mild moist evenings in June as a slug-killer.
Ammonium sulphamate (Dax "Root-Out")
Not organic. To kill comfrey, horseradish and other awkward weeds safely, cut the crowns off just below the surface with a spade and spread about ¼ ounce of ammonium sulphamate on the cut surface of the roots left in the ground. This will destroy them completely, and after about four weeks, the chemical becomes sulphate of ammonia, which is a common chemical fertiliser and washes harmlessly from the soil. It can be used to kill swarms of small comfrey plants where a Rotavator has been used in an attempt to kill comfrey, or where it has been dug out, leaving the soil full of fragments. Stir 1 lb of the white crystals into a gallon of water and apply with a rosed can over a 10 foot square area. In eight weeks any crop can be sown or planted after it. It is never poisonous to birds or pets, and it produces an increase in the worm population after use.
1. Mix equal quantities of borax (sodium tetraborate) and icing sugar thoroughly and sprinkle where the ants are seen, covering to protect from rain if necessary. 2. A solution of pyrethrum and derris poured into the nest will kill ants. 3. Place an inverted flower pot over nest and ants will work it. Remove pot in a day or two by placing spade beneath it. Plunge contents of pot into boiling water. 4. Sprinkle sulphur under plant. 5. Draw broad band of chalk along the wall and round stem of tree to keep ants away from ripening wall fruit. 6. Stir up ants' nest, sprinkle with guano to drive them away. 7. Put out jar lids of sugar water to trap them .
1. Repeatedly syringe leaves and stem of plant with tobacco or lime water. 2. Fumigate infected plant with tobacco, syringe afterwards with clear water, if not possible to fumigate wash with strong tobacco water applied with soft brush. 3. Heat a plate of iron red hot, then place quantity of true Cayenne pepper on it. Close (glass) house. 4. Remove insects with aphis brush. 5. Particularly for 'American Blight': brush trees with good stiff brush and a lather of soft soap in winter. If insects appear in spring rub paraffin freely into bark crevices with paintbrush.
As prevalent and numerous as this pest may be, there are many effective organic controls. If few plants are involved, the infested leaves can simply be rubbed gently between thumb and forefinger. Nasturtiums, garlic, chives, coriander, anise and petunias will all help keep aphids from damaging neighbouring plants. Sprays as simple as water, or as exotic as a tea of quassia and larkspur, work well. Effective sprays can also be made from rhubarb leaf tea, tobacco tea and elder leaf tea. Aphids are drawn to a trap made by pouring slightly soapy water into a yellow plastic dishpan; set the pan near the vulnerable plants. Winged aphids have been found to shy away from plants surrounded by an aluminium foil mulch.
Planted around brassicas, is said to protect against flea beetle.
Bicarbonate of Soda
A solution of 2g dissolved in a litre of water and sprayed on to the affected plant is said to control grey mould (Botrytis).
1. Cats. 2. Traps. 3. Clacks. 4. Stretched twine protectors.
Smear garden wall top with red ochre and grease. Indelible mixture.
Gather bracken when brown and brittle dry. Store in paper bags. To use, add 4 fl oz of bracken to 14 fl oz hot water, stir and allow to soak for 24 hours, strain and bottle. Dilute 1 fl oz to 1 gallon of rainwater and spray each day for 3 days. Effective against blackfly on beans, but not cherry blackfly.
Stretch a creosoted line above the carrots to put off carrot fly.
Like rabbits, they have runs. If you look carefully round, you will find tracks in the places at which they enter. Sprinkle these thickly with garden pepper and here and there on the plot bury a few medicine bottles, leaving the necks sticking out of the ground. Put about three teaspoonsful of ammonia in each bottle. Cats, being inquisitive creatures and seeing the bottle necks, will take a sniff at them, and will get a bit of a shock when they smell strong ammonia fumes. They won't come back for some time.
- To prevent on gooseberry bushes dust with hellebore powder or water with strong concoction of Digitalis (foxglove). Wear a mask when using these. Both remedies deter sawfly laying eggs which lead to caterpillars.
- If caterpillars are already present, sprinkle new lime under bushes, and shake them vigorously to shake caterpillars off into lime.
- Remove top soil from under bushes and destroy grubs in it by mixing with salt or soot.
- Sprinkle lime or soot either over caterpillars or plants with an old flour dredger.
- Pick caterpillars off by hand (or offer to "buy" them from the kids - but make sure you see where they got them from).
- Encourage cuckoos into the garden.
- Chop Wormwood leaves and sprinkle over cabbages to discourage caterpillars.
Chilli, onion and garlic spray
Mince together 4 oz of onions and 1 oz each of garlic and chillies. Add to 1 pint of hot water, cover and leave 48 hours. Strain, then add 1 pint of cold water and 1 tsp. detergent. Use as a general pesticide at the rate of 1 part to 2 parts water.
Rhubarb stems in the planting hole helps protect against clubroot.
Cups full of molasses mixed with water hung on the upwind side of trees act as traps.
Make a spray with extract of basil or dust with wheat bran.
The best source of quickly available potassium for organic gardeners is comfrey, and everyone should have a comfrey bed to supply a very useful high potash liquid manure, for tomatoes setting their first fruit and other potash hungry plants. This powerful, long-lived perennial needs a position in full sun away from trees or privet hedges, so its roots can go down deeply to gather minerals far out of reach of most garden plants. Fresh leaves can be used as a mulch or dug directly into the soil, where they will break down without leaching nitrogen from the soil.
The essential first step to starting a comfrey bed is to search out all the roots of perennial weeds, for it is a permanent garden feature. Dig in manure to give it a start, and after planting hoe between the rows to kill out annual weeds and especially grass. The best planting times for offsets are March, April and May, or in September, which gives them time to become well established before winter. Spring-planted comfrey should be cut with shears about 2 inches above the ground in July or August, to prevent it flowering the first season, and this provides enough foliage for use as a liquid manure. Leave further growth to die down in the plant in October and build up strength for a full cutting programme the following year. This begins with a first cut in April and the last in late September or early October, roughly every six weeks, which means four or five cuts a year.
After a comfrey bed has been planted for 2 years, it can be increased very simply by driving a spade through these established plants about 3 inches below the surface in March when the growing points are just showing. Lift off the crowns of the plants and cut them up into sections of root, each with a growing point, to replant where required. Do the cutting up over a spread newspaper, for though comfrey rarely seeds, every fragment of root will grow.
When the plants die down completely, dig between the rows to take out any perennial weeds, and lime if necessary. Comfrey needs generous feeding. Give it manure on the surface every spring - ideally deep-litter poultry manure, with straw or peat litter - spread as a 2 inch thick surface coat; pigeon manure is excellent and so is sewage sludge. It needs plenty of manure, but can take it very crude. Fresh poultry manure or Household Liquid Activator which you cannot use direct on other crops will keep it growing.
It can be used when wilted overnight at the rate of 1½ pounds a foot at the bottom of potato trenches in place of lawn mowings. It can also be used as a liquid manure, made up either at 14 pounds to a 20 gallon container of water and left for 2 weeks in spring/summer, 4 weeks in autumn/winter, diluted at 20:1, or by compression without water, which takes about 3-6 weeks to produce a black liquid which should be diluted 30:1 (this can be speeded up by the addition of Household Liquid Activator). The first method produces a liquid suitable for use as a foliar feed without further preparation, but the liquid produced by the second method must be strained first. The solid residue can be used as a compost activator.
Creosote decoy scent
The major pest of brassicas is the cabbage root fly and the first hatch from their pupae is in late April and early May. They hunt by scent and the best way to prevent them is to thrust in a 6 foot bamboo cane in the middle of the seedling bed and hang a strip of old blanket from it. Then paint a streak of creosote down the blanket. There are two more hatches, late June to mid-July and August to September.
Creosote as a weed killer
Do not get it on plants, the lawn or your skin. For paths, try a mixture of creosote in boiling water, in a proportion of 1:8, sprinkled on the weeds in dry weather.
A healing herb with a high level of vitamins. It is very aggressive and there is therefore no place for it in the vegetable patch. If planted at the base of trees, it will keep the aphids away.
Put a common white glazed jar nine or ten inches high in places they infest. Drop a slice or two of cucumber into it plus one live cricket as a decoy. Crickets will hop in but be unable to hop out. When jar is one third full fill with boiling water.
The key to weed killing by organic methods is timing. Cutting docks in the first week in June, so that they make safe compost material before the seeds ripen, and again in September, does the maximum damage. This also kills out ragwort. For thistles, remember the saying, "Cut in June and cut too soon, cut in July 'tis sure to die."
Mix 1 oz borax (sodium tetraborate), 1 oz icing sugar and 3 lb bran with enough water to moisten and place under slates to kill cutworms but not birds.
Kills all insects, fish and tortoises, but safe for humans, birds and rodents. Effective against aphids, red spider mite and pea thrips. Can be mixed with pyrethrum to increase its effectiveness.
Dormant oil spray
This mixture of 3% miscible oil and water smothers many insect eggs before hatching.
- Place pieces of hollow stem four to six inches long in a horizontal position in different parts of tree. Earwigs will congregate in these and can be shaken out into boiling water or water topped with paraffin.
- Place pieces of linen rags in clusters in lower parts of tree — earwigs take refuge in these at certain times of day. Note times and dispose of linen rags accordingly.
- Old shoes with wisps of hay in them placed at bottom of tree or thumb pots filled with hay and placed sideways in large forks of tree or at base.
- Patent earwig traps.
Elder Leaf spray
Gather 1 lb of elder leaves and young stems, preferably in spring. Boil in 6 pints water for half an hour, topping up as necessary. Strain and use cold and undiluted as a spray against fungal diseases, especially mildew and black spot, as well as aphids and small caterpillars. Harmless to mammals and beneficial insects. It will keep for 3 months if bottled hot. To kill pea moths, use about a week after the first flowering and again about a fortnight later.
Fertosan slug killer
Water onto the soil, keeping it away from seedlings and delicate leaves like lettuce. Kills slugs on contact, but does not harm hedgehogs, birds, pets, earthworms and soil micro-organisms.
Flowers of sulphur
A treatment for Botrytis in strawberries.
Soak pieces of wood in citronella oil and coat with horticultural glue.
Garlic or onion spray
Chop 3 oz of onions or garlic and soak in 2 tblsp. mineral oil (liquid paraffin) for 24 hours. Strain and mix with ½ oz soft soap dissolved in 1 pint of warm water. Dilute this mixture at the rate of 2 tblsp. to 1 pint of water. Used against a variety of ailments including blackspot. It can also be used as a deterrent to the carrot root fly. It is harmless to mammals and insects. To treat peach leaf curl, crush 6 garlic bulbs to 5 gallons water and spray before fruit starts to swell.
Hang a sack of it in a drum of water, allowing about a bucketful of manure to three bucketsful of water. Put a decent sized stone in the bag to stop it floating on the surface and leave it for a week. Before use, the liquid must be diluted until it is the colour of weak tea. You can add water to make up the previous volume until the liquor loses much of its colour. The old manure can then go on the compost heap and fresh manure be placed in the sack. It is always better to use the liquid on the weak side rather than too strong. Two applications of a weak liquid manure are far more beneficial than one dose of over-strong stuff.
Collected from the hairdressers, 15½ lb of hair produces about 2¼ lb of nitrogen. Good as a deterrent to rabbits and deer.
A liquid of horseradish leaves made up as nettle brew will do much to protect cabbages from club root. It can also be used as a pesticide. A liquid made up as elder leaf spray is good against aphids and small caterpillars.
Collect the whole plant. To each ounce of horsetail, pour on 2 pints of hot, not boiling, water and leave to stand for 24 hours. Strain and use undiluted. It helps to prevent fungal attacks on strawberries, tomatoes and onions and is also good for seedlings suffering from damping-off. It also combats rust in celery and celeriac if the young plants are placed in it for a few hours before being planted out.
Household Liquid Activator
(A euphemistic term for neat urine.) Used neat it is an effective winter wash for soft and top fruit helpful against scab. For mildew, use a 30% solution. For gooseberry mildew use 1 pint to 7 pints hot water into which 3 oz washing soda and 1 oz soap flakes have been dissolved. Spray when cool.
It should be planted wherever ants are a nuisance, as they always give lavender a wide berth.
Rosette weeds on lawns that miss the mower can be killed individually by putting a level teaspoonful of salt on their crowns.
This is an outstanding plant for bees, and is always put in where bees will be needed to pollinate other flowers. It has an enormous root system and tends to spread itself, so it must be kept in control. It can then be prepared to make a liquid manure.
Similar in action to wormwood. It has a marked effect on pests. Do not compost. A liquid made up as nettle brew can be used as a pesticide. Use sparingly.
Wash with dilution of methylated spirits or paraffin.
Mexican Marigold (Tagetes minuta)
The root secretions of this plant will kill ground elder, and convolvulus less effectively, if planted 1 foot apart each way into weeds that have merely been cut down, though most people plant after they have cleared the bed to kill the left-in roots. Sow in March on a windowsill or in April in the open and pot or transplant when the seedlings are about 1 foot high in June. They will grow to 10 feet by October or November, producing a mass of compost material with a strong antiseptic smell used to repel fleas in Africa, where it has run wild. It does not set seed in the UK. It is also said to kill eelworms.
- To prevent mice eating newly sown peas and beans and flower bulbs — saturate beforehand with solution of bitter aloes or paraffin or soak in salad oil and roll in powdered resin. Place chopped furze in drills where seeds sown.
- Mouse traps:
- Common mouse traps — smear wires with grease to prevent rusting.
- Pickle jar sunk to brim in ground. Smear rim and inside of jar with grease half filled with water. Place corn or cheese near jar. Mice come for bait, slip over rim and drown in submerged pickle jar.
- A variation on above: sunken glazed pot with a pronged wheel rotating on a stick placed across pot. Bait fixed on pronged wheel which rotates as mouse tries to eat. Mouse slips into water in pot.
Milk and water
A mixture of ½ pint milk in 1 gallon of water, sprayed onto brassicas and nasturtiums in May and every 3 weeks thereafter may help to prevent cabbage white butterfly.
- Place green leaves of common elder (Sambucus nigra) into their tunnels — smell offensive to them.
- Set fire to a paraffin soaked rag in the opening of the run.
- Watch for them between the hours of 9 am and 3pm (hillock making time). Eject with a fork.
- Mole trap: Bucket sunk beneath ground on a level with floor of the run. Flat piece of board laid over the run, earth heaped on it to exclude light.
An excellent insect repellent. Try hanging bags in trees.
If large quantities of mowings can be obtained from a sports ground in June, this is the best time to pile them at least 1 foot deep on really bad perennial weeds such as ground elder and convolvulus. A good heap of mowings on top of the entrance to a wasp nest will kill the nest.
A liquid made up as nettle brew can be used as a fungicide.
Use 1 gallon of water to each pound of nettles, and leave to ferment. Dilute the mixture 10:1. Initially, the liquid turns cloudy and starts to become coloured until it is a dark liquid in which all vegetable matter has disappeared. It emits a smell which may be thought unpleasant and which increases with maturity.
It can be used in the early stages of fermentation for preparing seedlings for planting out by dipping the roots. It inhibits various pests and diseases, e.g. celery rust. The same brew may be sprinkled over foliage as an aphicide and aphid deterrent. When it has matured, the fertiliser may still be used in the same ways if mixed half-and-half with water. With fermentation well advanced a proper fertiliser results, which will feed the plants and make good many soil deficiencies. It can also be sprayed on to plants which have been damaged by frost as an aid to renewal.
When the liquid is old, thick and concentrated, with a very strong smell, it can still be poured undiluted around the roots of trees, preferably at the beginning of winter. This concentrated nettle and herb mixture, with added chalk, is also used to treat tree trunks. It is painted on the bark with, if necessary, a little water-glass as an adhesive. Damage that is slow to heal in old trees can be cured in this way.
Finally, the solid residue which remains at the bottom may be used as a starter for the compost heap or spread on the top of green manures when these are cut.
Other herbs may effectively be added to the basic nettle brew, including comfrey, and the leaves of any member of the cabbage family. The addition of cabbage leaves or thinned out cabbage plants to the preparation will do much to make crops thrive.
A nettle plant tea is good against aphids.
Weeds grow fast in June, and where perennials such as creeping buttercup between bush fruit are hard to dig and not easy to kill with a mowings mulch, newspapers are an answer. Save large newspapers, for four thicknesses weighed down with stones, will exclude light most effectively from June onwards.
Simmer ¾ lb of filter tip cigarette ends in 1 gallon of water for half an hour. Strain the liquid through nylon tights and use neat for caterpillars or diluted half and half for aphids. Do not store, keep it off your skin and treat with caution: nicotine is a deadly poison. It works well for pea and bean weevil and bean seed flies, which cause unexplained scalloped leaves and death of pea and bean plants.
Oak leaf mulch
Use around seedlings and plants which are vulnerable to slug damage.
Sprinkle gas lime on earth between rows of onions.
Organic oasis mixture
To each standard bucket of compost add 2 tablespoons of dried blood or hoof and horn meal, 2 tablespoons of steamed bonemeal and 2 tablespoons of unleached wood ashes or 4 tablespoons of wet wood ashes.
Large seeds like peas and broad beans can be protected from mice by swirling them in paraffin before sowing. Paraffin emulsion is used to kill the plum-curl aphid in January and February. It is made by dissolving 4 ounces of soap flakes in 1 pint of hot water and adding this to 16 fl oz of paraffin. Make the mixture up to 1 gallon with cold water and spray. It is also effective against the hibernating stage of American blight or woolly aphid (Eriosorma lanigerum).
A liquid made up as nettle brew can be used as a pesticide.
A simple remedy in the early stages of pest problems is to make a tea from part of a healthy plant growing nearby, and spray the infected plant with it. Cut up a handful of healthy leaves, and infuse them in a pint of boiling water. Dilute the cooled infusion with four parts of cold water, and add a dessert spoonful of dissolved soap flakes. Then spray the infected plant.
A combined insecticide and fungicide used at a rate of 1 oz to 2 gal water. A good tool against powdery mildew and Botrytis in lettuce.
Kills greenfly, blackfly, thrips and aphids, but harmful to ladybirds and parasitic wasps. Can be mixed with Derris to increase its effectiveness.
Simmer 1 oz in 2 pints of water for one hour, topping up as required. Strain and add 1 oz soft soap or soap flakes. For aphids, gooseberry and apple sawflies and small caterpillars dilute 1 part to 4 parts of water. It can also be used as a bird repellent on gooseberry bushes, but needs to be repeated after rain. Do not use on anything which is to be eaten within a fortnight, as it is very bitter. To kill pea moths, use about a week after the first flowering and again about a fortnight later.
- Place boards connected with hooks and eyes (for ease of removal) round stems and trunks.
- Sticks placed round tree and bound with tarred cord.
Fill the transplant hole with this solution and allow to drain away when planting out. The transplant should be watered a few hours before planting out and not watered when planting out; the solution applied to the transplant hole will be sufficient.
Make up a seaweed solution at half the recommended strength for seedlings, houseplants or flowers. Mix half and half with Farmura solution, also at half strength.
- ½ lb tobacco, ½ lb sulphur, ½ peck lime. Stir well in three of four gallons of water. Leave to settle then syringe trees and walls.
- Soft soap, sulphur and clay beaten up to consistency of paint with warm water.
- Fumigation by putting sulphur onto hot plates.
- 1 handful soft soap, heavy sprinkling of sulphur, a pinch or two of tobacco powder. Mix well, then mix to a third of a bucket of hot water. Apply with a brush, particularly into bark crevices.
Boil 1 lb rhubarb leaves in 1 pint of water for half an hour. Dilute with 1 gallon of water and use within 24 hours. It is useful against aphids and is safe for bees. VERY POISONOUS. Soft soap can also be added.
A liquid made up as nettle brew will do much to protect cabbages from club root. It can also be used as a pesticide. A liquid made up as elder leaf spray is good against aphids and small caterpillars.
These three plants have a similar effect on the garden. They stop infestations with caterpillars, especially those of the cabbage white butterfly. Snails tend to keep away from them. When planted under rose trees, sage discourages aphids and keeps roses healthy. Thyme is good for under-tree planting and growing in walls. They make a good border around the vegetable patch.
Destroy by the application of strong soapy water in the proportion of 1 oz of soap to 1 quart of water, paraffin in the proportion of ¼ gill to 1 gallon, lye of wood ashes or potash, tobacco water and fish oil.
Used as a foliar feed, it not only provides nutrients, but also acts as a combined pesticide and fungicide. Used to water seed trays instead of pure water, it protects against damping off. It helps against aphids, brown rot in fruit, potato scab and leaf-curl virus, Botrytis in strawberries, big bud mite and eelworms. It is more effective to use a weak solution every fortnight throughout the growing season rather than 2 or 3 strong sprays.
This goes underneath seeds in furrows. Either use plain worm compost, or Organic oasis mixed half and half with garden soil or sand.
To destroy small white and black garden slugs:
- Put fresh powdered lime into a coarse bag. After nightfall or at sunrise dust the ground where slugs are.
- Strew fresh cabbage leaves on ground in evening. Slugs hide under them during night — collect slugs in morning.
- Paint the underside of an old plank with syrup or jam, then turn the plank over twice a week and squash the slugs attached to it.
- Pick off by hand into bucket.
- Make thick paste of train oil and soot and daub on bottom of wall — snails will not attempt to pass it.
Dissolve 1 oz in 6 pints hot water (or use 2 oz soap flakes or grated pure soap to 1 gallon water) and use when cool as a safe and effective insecticide to control aphids, brassica whitefly and cabbage white caterpillars, and as a wetting agent for other sprays. The Dutch type is better, and is sufficiently strong to kill brassica whitefly if this is directed under the leaves, to kill the larvae. Three sprayings at weekly intervals from April will clear them.
To improve problem soils, especially soil which sets hard after rain. Mix vermiculite with sand or garden soil half and half and use as a seed covering.
A liquid made up as nettle brew can be used as a fungicide. It helps to prevent fungal attacks on strawberries, tomatoes and onions and is also good for seedlings suffering from damping-off.
Tobacco water or strong soap water.
Used as a compost activator, also in solution for dipping cuttings prior to setting out.
This is used in the garden simply as an infusion of the blossom or made up as nettle brew to stimulate flowering and fruiting plants, including beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes. It is the garden's own flower promoter. Do not use on lettuces, carrots and onions. Valerian liquid is best used early, and will then produce exceptional results.
8 oz washing soda and 4 oz soft soap per bucket of water. Used as an immediate treatment for mildew. Spray again the following spring and at fruit-setting time.
- Hang bottles containing sugar and beer dregs in the tree.
- Find wasps' nest. In evening rinse a common wine bottle well with spirits of turpentine, while bottle still wet thrust neck into main entrance of nest stopping up other holes. Fumes of turpentine stupefy then destroy wasps. Wait a few days then dig up nest.
- Leave wasp damaged fruits on tree. When fresh wasps re-attack fruit cut them in two with grape scissors.
Destroy by pouring boiling water on to them.
This plant should be grown separately from everything else, as it hinders plant growth and discourages earthworms. However, it is the only known biological preventive of rust disease and is a good pesticide. It can be cut and laid underneath blackcurrant bushes against rust, or on cabbage plants to aid in deterring caterpillars. When making liquid manure, the flowers are the parts used. Do not compost.
A liquid fertiliser made up as nettle brew can be used as a treatment for rust and as a pesticide. Use sparingly.