by Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener
Yesterday I was lamenting the fact with a friend, who has just celebrated her 90th birthday, that something had been eating the leaves on my fruit trees. She went away and quickly returned with a book that in her own words talked about using an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach which consisted of making home pesticides using ground up insect pests.
Having piqued my interest with visions of myself running around in my pajamas early in the morning trying to catch said insects, I felt that I had to read the book, The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard, edited by Dan Wallace and published in 1982.
The section in the book that I most focused on was the section entitled ‘Outdoor Formulas’. Topics described include the importance of nourishing and rebuilding the soil using organic methods such as composting and mulching, crop rotation, interplanting, companion planting and succession planting, along with fertilizing and managing garden pests. The book does a good job explaining what each of these terms means and gives a detailed explanation on types of composting, how to achieve the correct balance between carbon and nitrogen, and what materials to add.
Natural fertilizers are discussed in detail and the reasoning behind using natural or organic fertilizers (as opposed to chemical alternatives) is laid out reasonably and convincingly. Formulas are included for making your own general purpose organic fertilizers, as well as specific fertilizers for trees. What I like about this book is that detailed descriptions are included that explain the reasoning behind each ingredient and how to apply the fertilizer. An example of the all-purpose tree fertilizer formula is as follows:
- 3 parts soy or blood meal
- 2 parts finely ground raw phosphate
- 3 parts wood ash, granite, rock or green sane
- 1 part dolomitic limestone
Managing Garden Pests
Managing garden pests is outlined in the book as follows
‘There is more than one way to approach garden problems and so-called pests, Insects, soil diseases (like fungi), prolific weed control, and trespassing wildlife can be viewed as enemies that need to be obliterated as soon as they are discovered – or they can be considered natural occurrences that call for careful management’.
IPM is described as a way to structure your garden or farm so that different animal and plant species can coexist and complement one another thereby creating a stable growing environment where no individual species takes over; balance is created.
Steps to achieve this balance include achieving good soil health, choosing the correct plant varieties, and growing crops at specific times when pests are less active. If however balance is lost, there are a number of formulas included for making your own organic sprays. These formulas are given with the suggestion that you should first try spraying with cold water from the hose for at least one week before resorting to other sprays. Again, the formulas are given with detailed explanations on how and when to spray along with the reasoning behind the individual ingredients. Sprays include liquid soap sprays, plant and insect sprays, dormant oil spray and botanical sprays.
At the time of writing this review, I have not tried any of the recipes or formulas in the book, I am therefore not recommending that we all start catching and grinding up our garden pests. However it is an interesting read and does offer us alternative options.
Used copies can be purchased through Amazon.ca or your local used book store (links to Peterborough area stores below)
NOTE: The book explores more than just gardening/outdoor solutions – it also has detailed directions for making polishes, stain removers, detergents, shampoos, herbal remedies, baking mixes, cereals, and other household products from easily available ingredients.
For more information on IPM, please check out the following links:
National (US) Pesticide Information Center on IPM