defending the garden


It seems lately that my job as caretaker of the garden is not only one of tending it, but also one of defending it. The first invader I discovered was a small rabbit that likes green beans. One morning as I peered through the blinds, I saw a leaf on one of the green bean plants shaking, but not from the wind; it was that little rabbit chewing away on one of the plants. Thanks to our little uninvited guest, Hiro, our dog, has been on perpetual patrol whenever he’s let out in the backyard.

Next came a small plague of large yellow grasshoppers that seemed to blow in with the heat, arriving late one afternoon. As I opened the door to let Hiro out, a big, alien-esque grasshopper flew onto the outside brick wall beside the door. Uh-oh, I thought, and I walked outside; there they were, all over the netting on our fig trees. In the case of these invaders, Hiro isn’t much help; although he likes to catch the grasshoppers and carry them around, he doesn’t always kill them. Unfortunately, it’s up to me to dispatch them whenever and wherever I find them.

Besides small animals and insects, there are also other invaders in the garden soil, such as fungal disease or rot, that you can’t always see until your plants begin to show distress of some kind. What’s good to know is that you can make your own natural repellents and remedies for destructive things that invade your garden. Common things like garlic, hot peppers, vinegar, molasses, citrus, baking soda, cornmeal, crushed red pepper, and more can help keep the enemies of your plants under control organically, without introducing pesticides or carcinogenic chemicals to your soil. Organic gardening books, magazines, and websites, and specifically those written for the area you live in, are usually great resources for suggestions and recipes.

Below, I’ve included a recipe for garlic-pepper spray from the book Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening by J. Howard Garrett and C. Malcolm Beck. You can also find the recipe with variations, and additional suggestions for organic remedies, on The Dirt Doctor, Howard Garrett’s organic gardening website. Using natural solutions like this are a simple way to save your pennies, your health and your garden.

Garlic-Pepper Spray

2 bulbs of garlic, broken apart, skins removed (watch this video from for a quick way to remove garlic skins)
4 jalapeno peppers, stem ends cut off
1 quart of water

1 pair of disposable plastic gloves
A high-powered blender

Prepare the garlic and the jalapeno peppers while wearing the plastic gloves to protect your hands. Place the skinned garlic and de-stemmed jalapenos in a blender with 1 quart of water. PureƩ until no large pieces or chunks remain. Strain the mixture to remove all the solids, reserving the liquid. Pour the reserved liquid in a plastic gallon container, such as a used clean milk container, and fill the remaining volume with water. This mixture becomes your concentrate.

To make the spray to use as a repellent in your garden, mix the concentrate with additional water. The ratio is 1/4 cup of garlic-pepper concentrate per gallon of water. Shake the garlic-pepper concentrate well before mixing with additional water. Spray the plants at dawn or dusk, giving the plant a chance to dry before the sun comes out. Use the spray on a limited basis as it can kill small beneficial bugs as well.

Makes 1 gallon of concentrate

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