If insects are bugging you by devouring more than their share of your garden produce, you can take a few steps to tip nature's balance in your favour.
Toxic pesticides will kill the bugs, but they won't help your garden, because any poison strong enough to kill insects indiscriminately will probably kill the important living micro- organisms in your soil, and it will kill the beneficial insects, too.
With the help of a blender you can make sprays of water and garlic, with hot peppers and combinations of strong-smelling herbs - and they'll do a lot to make your plot unappealing to insects. Certain herbs repel insects and sprays made of these herbs are repellant, too. They last only until a hard rain, but I get to try out new ones all the time.
Wormwood tea, cooled, blended and strained, repels flea beetles by making the plants taste bitter as wormwood for a while. Other plants with strong repellant properties are nasturtiums, marigolds, yarrow, garlic, onions, sage, thyme, penenyroyal, dill and radishes. The following insect information will give you some tips:
APHIDS - Little bump-like insects that come in many colors and suck the juices from plants. They indicate a lack of lime, so a dressing of bone meal may send them packing. Hose them off plants with a hard spray of water and they might not return.
BORERS - More dangerous and more insidious. They eat their way into squash vines and very often you won't notice them until the plants collapse. Copper-colored flies lay the eggs for the white larva. If they really devastate your patch, use a natural insecticide like rotenone. Otherwise, look for the little brown slits in the stems. Stab them with something sharp and cover the vines with soil.
CABBAGE WORMS - Cabbage-colored worms that hatch from the eggs of white moths. Wormwood, garlic, sage and thyme are repellant. A heavy infestation can be controlled with Dipel or Thuricide, brand names for a bacillus that is specific and effective, but still germ warfare. Red cabbage attracts fewer worms.
CUCUMBER BEETLES - Striped or spotted. They eat plants and carry a bacterial wilt disease. Wood ashes and lime will help, and so will nasturtiums, glaric, radishes and dill. Cups of water with floating oil will trap some of them.
TOMATO HORNWORMS - Not common, but big. If the leaves start disappearing from your tomatoes, look for a big green worm in the foliage, and pick it off.
SQUASH BUGS - Diamond-shaped with a hard shell when they're adult. Radishes repel them, but hand-picking when they first appear is effective. Drop them into a can of oil and water and squash the masses on the undersides of the leaves.
SLUGS - Can be trapped with saucers of beer or any yeasty mixture. They'll climb in and drown. A rough mulch or wood-ash sprinkling will keep some of them out.
Many garden insects will fall for traps. Boards placed in the paths at night will provide shelter for many insects you can collect in the morning. A can with molasses in the bottom will catch some, too.