The Q&A Archives: Home Remedy Fails

Question: Someone gave me a recipe for bug control: equal parts chewing tobacco, Listerine mouthwash, and dish soap. This only worked for a short time, but it also caused the plant leaves to wilt. Are there other mixtures I can make at home for controlling pests?

Answer: There are many home recipes for insect control, but as you have discovered they can have varying degrees of success. The above mixture sounds very strong to me, especially if you didn't dilute it in water before applying. It is always a good idea to test any new spray on a few leaves, then wait a few days and make sure it is not going to damage your plants. It's also crucial to identify the pest so that you can choose a control method that is known to work. Sometimes simply giving it a good strong spray with water from the hose will do the trick -- but it really depends on which insect/mite/animal/pathogen is bothering the plant. Sometimes environmental conditions can cause problems that are misdiagnosed as pest problems. The best way to protect your plants is to keep them healthy, with proper nutrition and watering, because pests prefer plants that are already weakened or otherwise out of balance. (For example, too much nitrogen fertilizer makes plants attractive to aphids.) Make sure they're suited to the growing conditions (soil type, moisture level, light exposure) and that you provide the care they need to maintain health.

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