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All you Casual Gardeners - Let’s get a jump on garden pests this year. You’ve started your seedlings indoors or have scouted out your favorite brands of potatoes, tomatoes, Bush or pole beans (I prefer the yellow Romano pole bean, a prolific producer of long, large, tender, tasty stringless beans), summer and winter squash, onions, garlic and spinach from last fall. Now it‘s sweet tea time in the old Adirondack chair in the shade, positioned just right to watch your garden grow, Merry Mary (see below).

Now just about time you git real comfy, here come the pests! Yep, they’s a gonna be a buzzing and a fussing and a fighting over your vegetables, eating your precious crops. But! But I got some real good advice from James R. Rickety, III, that will give you a leg up on them pests and varmints. James comes from a long line of Appalachian farmers and TV repair men. His initial advice was to get out there and squish them buggers. I told him most my readers were not real fond of the ole’ squish method, he then leaned in, looked me right in the eye and said one word, “Neem Oil, Sonny! The real pure kind. Not that stuff in your wife’s cosmetic bucket.”

J. Rickety recognizes neem as an EPA-registered pesticide that’s non-toxic and has no adverse effect on beneficial insects including bees. It is effective in treating:

  • Aphids

  • Beetles

  • Stink Bugs

  • Caterpillars

  • Leafhoppers

  • Leaf miners

  • Mealy Bugs

  • Midges

  • Mites

  • Nematodes (when used as a soil drench)

  • Scales

  • Thrips

The prep and spraying is simple: mix 2 tablespoons of pure neem oil and 10 drops of dishwasher soap into One gallon of warm water. Shake well, shake often and spray everything, tress, plants, roses as they start to put out foliage and regularly throughout the bug season. Spray trees even before they bud out. Small amounts of neem oil you can get at any garden store. I buy mine by the gallon from The folks that grow the neem oil trees, Neem Tree Farms, a family business outta Florida

In several sections of my book, Casual Gardening, I explain several other tried and true methods of managing pests with natural (organic) potions, p55. My favorite is my All Purpose Concoction: a mixture of aspirin, Tums, baking soda and neem oil. You spray it on the foliage of plants, tomatoes, trees, roses, just about anything.

Irish Spring Soap

Vinegar rags will deter varmints large and small. Do not spray on plants unless you’re trying to get rid of poison ivy. Mix liquid Cayenne pepper into your bird seed. Bears and squirrels won’t touch it. Birds don’t have a sense of smell. My favorite is to cut up Irish Spring soap into 1” chunks and place at the perimeter of your garden, one chunk on each corner of your raised beds. Nothing! Nothing, deer, squirrels, rodents will bother your garden. Renew the chunks when they turn pale and lose their scent. P57.

Attract ladybugs red with black (friend of Jack) spots, not the pesky orange with black look-a-lacks. Birds, snakes and the neighbor’s cat will tend your garden. “Got thrip? Gotta get aphids.”

So sit back, relax and casually watch that garden grow. Oh! And be sure to spank your tomatoes daily😎

*special thanks to James R Rickety, III for his input to Casual Gardening.

Photo in public domain of a tomato horn 🐛

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