People across the world have discovered and embraced new ways to cope with staying inside their homes these days. Discovering new hidden talents, giving time to old hobbies or learning a new skill, these trying months saw people doing different things to keep up their physical and mental health.
One of the main hobbies or skills that many people discovered was home gardening. If you check out Instagram today, you will see many posts by people who have tried their hands at gardening, either for the first time or reconnected with an old hobby they did not have time for earlier. As sustainable living gains momentum, many have taken to growing their own fruits and vegetables in their home gardens. They also make sure to avoid chemical pesticides and fertilisers so that their produce is completely organic and pure.
Gardening is a very satisfying and enriching activity. To watch the literal fruits of your efforts bud, grow and flourish is one of the most enlightening experiences ever. Gardening does come with its share of problems, and it is essential to know how to deal with them.
For those novice gardeners who are trying to grow their food and flowers in their home garden, we have a list of pesticides and fertilisers that are entirely natural and thereby safe to use.
Oil with soap
One of the major problems with home gardens is the attack of pests or insects. This is especially true after monsoon as your lovingly-brought-up plants attract mealy bugs, aphids, mites, thrips etc. These pests are so devastating as they suck out the marrow in a plant, making it look frail after which they eventually dry and die.
Vegetable oil mixed with mild soap is a common insecticide that works on almost all pests that attack plants. To make it, mix one cup of vegetable oil with one spoon of mild soap. Shake it thoroughly in a container. Then when you are ready to use, add two spoons of this mixture with one quart of water in a spray bottle, shake to mix well and spray on the affected areas of the plant.
The oil covers the bodies of the insects and makes it difficult for them to breathe through their pores. The oil and the soap do not have any adverse effects on the plants or produce.
Garlic insecticide spray
Did you know that some of the best insecticides can be found in our kitchen? Known for its pungent odour, garlic is known for its repellent properties too. It works in the same way for insects and pests that attack plants and produce. Though it is not clear if garlic is actually an insect repellent or works as an insecticide, it is a fact that it completely clears out an insect infestation from your plants.
Take two bulbs of garlic and blend it in a blender with a little amount of water. Let it sit overnight. Strain it into a jar, mix with one and a half cup of vegetable oil, a spoon of mild soap and a quart of water, finally putting it all together in a spray bottle. Shake and mix well before spraying liberally.
Garlic works exceptionally well on mealybugs, which are known to infest vegetable plants.
This is what we call the ultimate natural insecticide that works wonderfully well on all plant infestations and is also known for its immediate effect. It is so good that you do not need to repeat the spray for over a year as the effects remain in the soil and the plant for a long time.
Puree a bulb of garlic, one small onion and one spoon of pepper. Let it steep for over an hour, finally adding one spoon of mild liquid soap. Mix it well and apply it directly to the leaves and undersides of the affected plant. It would be good to drop a few spoonfuls in the soil too.
As this is a strong repellent, it will get rid of the most stubborn insects and infestations. Its odour and effect is strong enough to last a whole year and thereby decreasing the chances of a relapse of infestation.
All of the above insecticides work very well to remove any insect infestation that may be ruining your plant. As these are naturally prepared, you may rest assured that it is safe for children and pets, who may come in contact with the sprayed-on plants. Thoroughly washing hands with soap can get rid of any contact residue.
As a gardener myself, I have my own tried and tested natural insecticide that works for me. Similarly, all gardeners have their own trusted methods to rid their plants of an insect infestation. They find what works for them through trial and error and finalise the one recipe that is their ultimate solution for all sorts of insects. It is up to you to find what works best as per your convenience and for your plants.
Just like insecticides, the fertilisers used in home gardens must also be natural and readily available. It completes that circle of sustainability and keeps your plants and produce chemical-free. This is easily accomplished as most natural fertilisers can be readily found in your kitchen.
One of the crucial things to know while making your own fertiliser at home is the big NPK rule. Fertilisers have a lot of nutrients that are beneficial to a plant in many ways. However, nothing is more critical than nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). It is vital that your fertiliser has a high NPK value, but it should be balanced among themselves. Nitrogen is important for the plant to grow big and lush with leaves, phosphorous is needed for a healthy and robust root system and thereby for blooming flowers. At the same time, potassium works to protect the plant, its immune systems, protein production as well as hardiness.
Vegetable and fruit scraps
One of the commonly used fertiliser is vegetable and fruit scraps from the kitchen. The scraps are full of all sorts of nutrients that can be a great source of food for the plants. However, you cannot simply dump the scraps under your plants. There are two tried and tested ways to go about using scraps as fertilisers.
When you have enough scraps, simply blend them with some water. Then mix them with the soil under your plants in a way that the scraps are not visible on the top layer of the soil. This will ensure that the plant scraps are easily broken down to their essential nutrients and easily absorbed by the plant roots.
Another way to go about it is to store the scraps in a container for a week. In a week, the mixture will decompose slightly, breaking down into smaller pieces. This mulch can be then ground with the help of a pestle and mixed with the soil under your plants in the same way.
A similar fertiliser is to use water that you use to boil any food in. Rice water, water that you use to boil potatoes or other vegetables are excellent sources of whatever nutrients that said vegetables possess. Just let the boiled water cool down and use it to water the plants.
If you are into baking and making ice creams, the chances are that there is a pouch of unflavored gelatin lying in your cupboard. Gelatin is a massive source of nitrogen. It is so good that you do not need any ingredient other than water if you are making a gelatin mix fertiliser. However, make sure that you use unflavored gelatin as flavoured gelatin contains added sugar which can damage your plants.
All you have to do is mix one pouch of gelatin with half a cup of cold water. Then add this mix to a jug of water, combining it to make sure that the gelatin completely dissolves in it. You can then use this to water your plants.
As this is a high dose of nitrogen, it should be used only once in a month.
Eggshells are usually thrown in the garbage. These, however, contain 93% calcium carbonate, which is excellent for soil correction. If you have been growing a plant in a particular soil for too long, the chances are that the nutrients in that soil have been depleted. Crush the eggshells and boil them in a gallon of water. Add this water to the soil, after it cools down. The soil will directly absorb the eggshell powder, and it will replenish the lost nutrients, correcting the balance of the soil.
Along with calcium carbonate, eggshells also contain nitrogen and selenium, which are also essential nutrients for a plant. Eggs shell fertiliser is especially great for vegetable or fruit plants, resulting in good seed-saving produce.
When it comes to fertilisers, recycling is the way to go about it. Just make sure you mix the fertiliser in rather than simply lay it on the top layer of the soil.
With the world full of so much chemical and unnatural substances, gardening and sustainability is not just a hobby anymore. It is a way of life for many and is touted as the future. Producing your own food, protecting it and helping it flourish is a skill worth developing and is satisfying and enriching.