Okay guys, I’m excited to finally share with you the results of the get-rid-of-nasty-garden-bug experiment I’ve been conducting on my poor, bedraggled basil plants and trumpet vine that I shared a bit about here. I know I’ve teased you with my testing for long enough – we all deal with bugs, so I know you’ll be as happy to see the results as I was!
The background to this experiment is a tale known to many organic gardeners (and maybe even would-be gardeners who gave up when faced with seemingly destroyed plants?): years of either ignoring it (and losing plants or living with damaged plants) or trying many different remedies from diatomaceous earth (works on many things though tedious to apply, sometimes hard to find, needs a lot of reapplication, may kill good bugs) to soap and water (this never really did much in my garden). And for some reason, while I don’t have much of a problem beyond cucumber beetles in our large, main garden (and most years I don’t lose plants to them), our herb garden hosts something(s) that have eaten the basil every year since we added it to our backyard. I created this spray last year (adapted from a Keeper of the Home article) to use on them, but didn’t really keep track of it, although I do remember that it worked.
So this year when our basil was hit particularly hard as well as some marigolds I planted among the herbs and the trumpet vine growing up the gazebo across the path, I mixed up a new batch, wrote it down and documented in pictures so if it really did work, I could share it with you. And you’re not gonna believe how well it worked – in fact, as I was putting this together I was thinking I was going to have to add disclaimers on the photos like “I promise these really are the same plants” or something, so you’ll believe me!
So I’m pinky-swearing or whatever you need from me: the three photos in the collage above really, honestly are the same plant from beginning to four weeks later. I know, can you believe it?
And also honestly: even after 20 years of growing things, seeing stunted, bug-eaten plants like my poor basil makes me want to throw in the towel sometimes. It’s just…ugh. These were three basil plants that I grew from seed, nurturing them along and to see them look like this in just a few weeks after planting out? It’s hard. And so I sprayed my homemade garlic-mint spray all over that poor plant, but I didn’t really think it was much for this world. It had only one growing tip left, but seriously, look at it – who would give that guy a chance?
Well, I started seeing results within days – new growth! After a week I still was a bit skeptical – was that old bug-bitten leaves or new? But by week 2, I knew we had a winner and I snapped a picture before applying one more light spraying and then waiting another 2 weeks.
Look at this beautiful, healthy basil plant! There’s a bug-bite here and there, but I can live with that (and we organic gardeners do, often, a-hem), but most of the new growth is blemish-free and I’ve started harvesting and making our not-so-secret-ingredient frugal pesto to freeze.
Now, I had to share this with you as well, even though the photos were not taken in great light. This plant on the left was the worst of the three basils – stunted beyond anything I had seen with every growing tip eaten off and the remaining leaves were hard and leathery. It was so bad I did dig it up and was just about to drop it in the compost (which I probably would’ve done if I hadn’t been planning on sharing this with you all), but at the last minute I planted it in an empty spot out in the main garden, spraying it with the garlic-mint spray. And while it took longer to rebound (duh, I would, too!), I took the photo on the right just a few days ago, hardly believing what I was seeing.
Is this stuff a miracle worker, or what? I should probably mention, too, that when I applied it the first time, we got a ton of rain the following week and I was sure it wasn’t going to work. Garden M-I-R-A-C-L-E.
And, you can probably see where this is going (should I have saved all the afters for the end? I was just too excited to share with you!) but here we have a reminder of the trumpet vine damage. This insect (I still don’t know what – I’ve never seen anything so it must be nocturnal) ate leaves like other bugs, but seemed to zero in on the new growing tips, which is a sure way to kill a plant.
And now the vine is growing like trumpet vines are supposed to (that would be out-of-control, for those not familiar with trumpet vines, ha!), full of lovely leaves and new growing tips. I think this thing has grown 3 feet in just a couple weeks, that’s how much the insects had stunted it.
So, are you dying to know what is in the spray and how to make it? It’s super easy and uses easy-to-find (or grow) ingredients – I created it up by combining a couple of sources, none of which had a clear ‘recipe’ (though I’m crediting a main source below) so I’m writing it out for you so you can make it whenever you need it. I’m so happy to gift this to your garden, ’cause I think you’re going to love it as much as I do.
Oh, and the mint? It makes this smell good – no yucky concoction here for you to suffer through.