For many gardeners, summer means bugs, slugs, and weeds. This summer, you can fend off those pests without resorting to unfriendly sprays.
Slug Stop ($6 for 5 ounces) from Necessary Organics is a biodegradable soap developed in Germany and proven effective against slugs and snails, even in rainy areas. Unlike other snail baits, the product is not attractive to birds, and it won't harm pets or children. Squeeze a ring of it around the stems of plants that you want to protect. Slug Stop is effective for up to three weeks, even during rainy weather.
To battle the insects, diseases, and mites that attack your edible crops, try neem oil. Green Light's Fruit, Nut, and Vegetable Spray ($13 per pint and $20 per quart) contains 90 percent clarified hydrophobic oil extract of the neem seed, which, unlike other neem products on the market, kills not only insects, but also fungi and spider mites. It's registered for use on most vegetable, fruit, and nut crops to control soft-bodied insects such as aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and scale; and diseases such as powdery mildew, downy mildew, and botrytis rot. Neem oil is viscous; warm it before mixing it with water. Apply it in late morning or early evening, covering leaves thoroughly for best results. Reapply after rain.
After you've stopped your slugs, insects, and diseases, you can turn your attention to weeds. Weed Eraser from Security Products ($13.40 per pint and $23.60 per quart) is a new organic herbicide made from pelargonic acid, a fatty acid found in crops such as grapes, carrots, and apples, and in animal products such as cheese and pork. It lowers the pH too quickly for the weed to adjust, weakening the cell walls and killing the weed, usually within 2 hours. Weed Eraser kills any green leaf on contact but is not transmitted to other plant parts. One application kills broadleaved annual weeds (such as pigweed). Perennial weeds, grasses (such as nutsedge), dandelions, and succulent weeds such as some ice plants and English ivy may need repeated applications. It can be applied 30 minutes before a rain or watering.
All three products are available through local garden centers.
Article published on June 23, 2008.