We've all heard, and probably tried, a few home remedies in our gardens with the hope that the spray or powder from the kitchen cabinet could provide a safe and effective way to kill pests. There's something appealing about using common household chemicals in the garden, but few of these remedies have been scientifically tested for their effectiveness and safety.
A new book by University of Minnesota horticulture professor Jeff Gilman provides a guide for gardeners -- both those who favor a homemade approach and the skeptics. The Truth About Garden Remedies, (Timber Press, 2006; $19.95) looks at more than 100 home remedies and garden practices, reviews any past scientific research about them, and in some cases sets up experiments to determine if they work and how best to use them.
For example, Gilman tested commercial insecticidal soap products against a homemade version. While the homemade version actually killed insects faster, it also was more likely than the commercial product to burn the leaves of the plants.
Gilman looked at other home preparations including vinegar, hot pepper spray, garlic, mouthwash, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, buttermilk, eggshells, and coffee grounds, to name a few. He also investigated garden practices such as planting trees deeply (detrimental), playing music to plants (inconclusive), and misting plants with water for frost protection (it works!).
For more on this eye-opening new book, go to: Timber Press .
Article published on January 26, 2006.