Homemade Organic Pest Control

Organic Squash

It’s getting to be that time of year again where the insects are coming out full force to munch on the organic vegetables in my garden! I hate aphids the most. So, what’s the best way to control them while still remaining organic? Here are some homemade remedies.

If you have beetles, caterpillars or larger bugs, remove them by hand. It’s the most thorough way without using insecticide. I get a lot of satisfaction pulling off these little monsters one at time and tossing them in a small bucket of soapy water (I’m not fond of smashing them to kill them).

If you have to many bugs or hard to pick off soft insects like aphids, the best way to remove them is to pull out your hose and spray the plants top to bottom, and underneath.  This alone will make a huge difference. If you find them quickly settling in again and literally infesting, it’s time to create a homemade spray that will be harsh but harmless to you, your family, your pets and of course your tender plants.

Start with a quart of water and add a tablespoon of oil soap cleaner (like Murphy’s). You can also use a very basic dish soap that does not include a degreaser or antibacterial chemical.  Then add one or more of the following; 2 garlic cloves pureed, 1 medium onion pureed or 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  Strain anything that may get stuck in a hand spray bottle and you are good to go.

Direct this spray right on the infested area including the bottom of the leaves. You want it liberally applied in the infested area, but limited anywhere else. This spray may kill beneficial insects like lady bugs and pollinators like bees, so you want to be careful with it.

If there are only a few bugs, you really don’t need to take action. Nature has a way of fixing itself.  I found this out when I grew exasperated trying to get rid of a swarm of aphids, and days later lady bugs had moved in and ate them all up. Another time caterpillars defoliated one section of my garden, but once they moved on, the foliage grew back in thicker and sturdier.  In nature, plants and insects live together and there is still a harvest for the creatures that live there.

The best way to simplify organic gardening is to accept imperfection and bask in the natural process. Only go out of your way to destroy the bugs in your garden when they are gaining too much ground for you to get the harvest you want.

Good Luck!

Greek yogurt versus regular yogurt

Greek Yogurt

You may have noticed that Greek yogurt has been dominating the store shelves that used to be filled with only regular yogurt. I know I did. 30% of Americans are now eating Greek yogurt.  It took me awhile to give it a try, and my first impression was it seemed more like sour cream than it did yogurt. It was much thicker and creamier in texture, even in the non-fat version.  But what is the true difference between Greek and regular yogurt? Is one nutritionally superior over the other?

Greek yogurt originated in Greece where they strain it more times than regular yogurt. Many yogurts are not even strained and may be thickened with additives. Read labels on both Greek and regular yogurts if you want to avoid these thickners. Look for “cultured in the cup” if you are trying to avoid thickners and maximize probiotics.

Because of the thickness difference, I found Greek yogurt great as a substitute for sour cream. I had been using non-fat yogurt as a substitute for sour cream in cooking, baking, for dips and as a condiment to lower calories, fat and increase health benefits. Greek yogurt as a substitute is a no brainer. It withstands cooking far better than regular yogurt!

Nutritionally, both yogurst have roughly the same calories and probiotics, but as usual with any product, read the label and check for added sugar.

Greek yogurt has roughly twice the protein compared to regular yogurt! That’s great news for vegetarians and people who make yogurt smoothies for recovery drinks after work outs!

Greek yogurt also has three times the calcium! This is great news for women who are trying to prevent osteoporosis.  If you are lactose intolerant, you may want to give this yogurt a try. Many lactose intolerant people have found it digestible.

Finally, there is less sodium in Greek yogurt for those of you with salt restrictions.

Most of these nutritional differences are related to the straining process which removes the moisture and leave more of the hearty goodness. Unfortunately this also results in a cost difference. Remember, because of the density, you are actually getting more of the good stuff and it comes at a price. Add the competition of supply and demand and you’ve got an added price bump.

So, now that you know the difference, do you plan on switching from regular to plain yogurt? I plan to use them each differently, depending on what I need. I just hope if you weren’t a yogurt eater before due to texture issues, you may be motivated to give this a try. The nutritional benefits are too good to pass up!