Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Homemade Garden Remedies

As you're perusing your favorite social media outlets, you may spot pretty pictures touting this homemade weed killer or that remedy for mildew and fungus on plants. Before gathering the ingredients and dousing your plants, STOP! While homemade remedies may be fine, it's important to "do your homework" and research any remedies you see shared on social media.

Why It's Important to Research Homemade Garden Remedies

I was speaking with a friend the other day who said that her impatiens had died. We chatted for a while as I tried to diagnose the problem. It wasn't until she mentioned that she had whipped up a batch of homemade weed killer that I realized the problem. She's sprayed her plants with almost pure saltwater!

"But it's meant to kill the weeds," she protested when I broke the news to her that her homemade weed killer may have also killed her flowers.

While that's true, spraying your garden beds with such a homemade mixture actually sows salt into the soil. Do you remember how, in ancient times, invading armies would sow salt into fields to starve out the population? That's because salt kills plants and makes it impossible for new ones to grow.

Now this particular homemade remedy may have been fine to kill weeds in sidewalk cracks, but it wasn't a great idea to use it on her annual flowers. The same goes for many of the "miracle" cures I see touted all the time on social media. Some may work, some may not, but all should be used with the same care you would take if you bought chemicals at the store to spray on your garden.

Before using any homemade remedies in the garden, take the following steps to do your homework. Your plants will thank you for it.

  • Read the instructions carefully: Many of these social media posts are in the form of pictures with just a few lines of text. Use a search engine to research the remedy thoroughly. Read pros and cons, if you can, or any cautions.
  • Search the Cooperative Extension sites to see if they've tested the remedies: You can do this by typing your search query into your favorite search engine, then typing " + ext " after it. This returns only Cooperative Extension websites. The Extension conducts thorough, scientific research into many areas. That remedy everyone is raving about may have been tested by actual plant pathologists or horticulturists; find out!
  • Conduct a test: Conduct your own scientific test and use the remedy on only a small section of your garden. Wait a few days or weeks to see the results. You may save a few pennies but not creating a big batch of homemade weed killer, fertilizer or fungicide. You may also save your garden by not spraying something that harms the plants!

Just because something says "organic" doesn't mean it is without risks. After all, things like poison ivy are "organic" and "natural", but you wouldn't want to make a salve out of poison ivy sap. The same goes for organic, homemade remedies. Many offer useful applications in the garden, but do use care and common sense. 

In this day and age, when anyone can share anything with the click of a mouse, a lot of misinformation gets into your news stream. By searching on Cooperative Extension research, testing remedies, and using your common sense, you'll save yourself a lot of heartaches and headaches in the garden.

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