From home made moth repellent to red-hot onion spray, forget expensive pest remedies and make your own from items you already have at home.
Catch up on pests inside the home including moths and silverfish. Make moth repellents using dried herbs such as lavender, rosemary, bay leaf and wormwood, and stuff them into old single socks or old pantyhose.
Make a clove-orange pomander as a moth repellent and clothes deodoriser. Press a fresh orange all over with the stalks of whole cloves then roll it in cinnamon and nutmeg, dust it off and tie with a ribbon loop. This is a fun job for children, too. Cut clear milk and drink bottles with a handle diagonally across to form scoops. Cut the base off a drink bottle (two-litre or larger) and keep the neck section, with or without the cap. Place over young seedlings for frost and pest protection.
It’s time for a clean-out of weeds and clean-up of dead twigs, old growth and finished crops to start a new compost heap. On cool, wet days, snuggle down with some inspiring books and do some garden planning.
If your soil has been very wet and sodden most of the year, look at improving the drainage. Raise the height of your garden beds by up to 30cm above the surrounding soil level. Improve your soil structure by adding in well-decomposed compost and organic matter to all soils. Add clay to sandy soil and coarse sands to clay soil. Reposition or realign paths and driveways to direct rainwater towards the garden beds to naturally water the beds and make surface water work for you. Keep a garden diary noting what worked well and what were the big successes, and look at different approaches for the coming season. Add cut-outs of seed and plant catalogues and garden pictures for inspiration. This is a great activity for children, either keeping their own diary of observation or sharing the responsibility with all the family.
In the orchard:
Choose and plant deciduous fruiting plants that do well in your area. Give them a well-drained, sunny position with some wind protection and the best-quality soil you have. In tiny gardens, grow fruiting plants as espaliers, pruned so they spread out only 30–40cm from a wall or fenceline. Wood-burning stoves and heaters can be a wonderful source of extra garden potash. Pure wood ash and charcoal is best. It contains potash for strong growth, flowering and fruiting. For control of woolly aphid on pome fruits, and aphids and scale on other plants in winter try this:
Vegetable oil spray:
4 litres vegetable or olive oil
500g soap (use grated natural soap)
Boil and stir vigorously until all the soap has dissolved. To use, dilute 1:20 parts of water, then spray. Use on an overcast day in temperatures less than 24°C to prevent spray burn of leaves. Repeat after heavy rain.
In the vegie garden:
Prepare a couple of new raised beds for your spring vegetable planting. Cabbages and other cruciferous crops that are growing or ready for harvest can be attacked by white cabbage moths and green caterpillar larvae. Put on garden gloves and squash the grubs by hand. Dipel is a safe spray suited specifically to caterpillars — its made from a naturally occurring bacteria that kills caterpillars — or make your own bug spray:
Red-hot onion spray:
6 medium-sized onions
3 hot chillies or 2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 litres water
6 cloves garlic
Blend together at high speed.
Mix a tablespoon of grated soap or soap flakes in warm water until dissolved. Combine the soap mix with the onion mix and you are ready to spray. Use to repel possums and other chewing pests attacking young buds of magnolias, camellias and lemons.
Any bugs can be used to make a spray that repels the rest of their kind. Collect up the pest in question, squash and place them into a container with an equal part of water. Strain the mix, add some soapy water and spray once a week.