Monday, June 09, 2008
No smoke in the water
I don't use pesticides much. The last thing I want to do indoors is to puff around things that kills. And, I have do admit it, I'm a bit lazy and appreciates an excuse to avoid work.
Are you thinking of all "natural" pesticides that are available now? I do have a spraying can filled with soft soap sollution, ready to be used if the need arise. I have baking soda in my cupboards, and am willing to buy some chili. These are ordinary stuff, easy to mix and to use. They can be troublesome to rinse from the vegetables, and eventhough the body can handle this small amount of soft soap it doesn't taste that good. I write "soft soap" since every swedish recipe on homemade pest control seems to contain a dash of this miraculous substance.
I advice on a healthy scepsis towards things that's "natural". Natural is a selling lable that doesn't say much about how dangerous or how strong the substance is. You may remember my post with BBC's "Around the world in 80 gardens" where the host wanders around Havanna looking at gardens. In one he finds the person responsible for pest control (5:50 and forward) who says he uses, among other things, "smoke liquid" which the host translates as "natural pest control". And it's indeed natural. Since Cuba is big on cigarrs it's a big chance that smoke liquid is the same as nicotine water. Nicotine exists naturally in tobacco plants, even those ornamental varieties that are popular here in Sweden.
The last commersially produced pesticide with nicotine as active substance sold in Sweden, Nicotoxin (link in swedish), lost its aproval 1990 and was made entirely illegal New Years Eve 1992. This was for a good reason, nicotine is one of the strongest nerve toxins we know of, it affects the nerve cells of the entire body and stronger doses leads to paralysis and death. Nature is in many cases a mother with more in common with the violent aspects of Kali* than Mother Mary.
Believe it or not, but of all pesticides I've tried, clean water has proved to be the best. In addition it's non-toxic and may be easy to get and cheap too. You shower the plants with a high pressure spraying can once a week, flushing away any pests living on and on the underside of the leaves. If the water is soft were you live you can lift the plants into the bathroom and use the shower (and if you need to save the precious drops some creative use of the shower curtain and plastic tubs makes it possible to collect the excess). For my own part I soften the water and use my trusty "pflanzensprüher". Showering the underside of the leaves is crucial, and this may take a while. The advantage of indoor gardening though, is that the 'gardens' are so small that this isn't very timeconsuming anyhow. Keeping this routine religiously keeps most problem away - appart from mold that thrive in moist.
It is possible to use this method outdoors. When I finally put my New Dawn in the rose container, a few wads of fluff developed. My last rose, Polstjärnan, was lost to this disease, and I was in no mood for sacrificing another plant to it. I investigated one of the tufts closer, and found the shell of something spiderlike. Now, I don't have a clue of which pesticide to use for them, but I do know that few insects can do harm if they are removed from the plant. Armed with the pflanzensprüher (heeheehee) I attacked the wads and cleaned the rose completely, including the undersides of its leaves. (Remember that I only have one bush, and it's quite small.) I've done this for some days now, and intend to do it for a week or two.
If it works?
So far. No more wads, and as a bonus I have no green aphids feasting on the buds like they usually do. The cherry tree, too big to be sprayed at all, is infested with black aphids, so I know the little buggers are active. (Luckily some ladybugs has decided to make the tree their nursery. Sometimes nature is kind.)
*Kali is mostly known as the violant and destructive goddess she's portrayed as, but there is a school of hinduistic theology the worships her motherly love. This was one of my most fascinating encounters while I was in religious studies.