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Suzanne Bovenizer cmt, cst

Aromatherapy and Pest Control

Essential Oils to the Rescue in the Garden

In the summertime, gardens can be an absolute joy or can be such a frustration – especially if bugs are getting the better of your plants. I found a fun little book called “1001 All- Natural Secrets to a Pest-Free Property” by Dr. Myles H. Bader that had some fun recipes for home and garden. I tried some of his suggestions out, only I added essential oils to my solutions and found I got great results (for the most part). So, if you find that bugs are making your flowers their lunch, try some of these home remedies and let me know how they work. Please remember that none of these measurements in the recipes need to be followed exactly. They are only guidelines, so feel free to use your intuition on the amounts that seem right to you.

A basic recipe for keeping aphids off your prize plants is a combination of oil, soap and essential oils. In 1/2 gallon of water, put a squirt of dishwashing soap (Ivory liquid is the mildest), 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and 10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil and stir gently. The soap should break up the oil so it can be mixed evenly. Then spray the solution on the plants, making sure to spray underneath the leaves as well as on top. The oil will smother and drown the aphids and the eucalyptus smell will deter other aphids from coming back. Lemon essential oil can be used as well as tea tree. You can also ‘paint’ the solution on with a brush if you wish to be more area-specific and/or make a smaller batch.

Fungus is another challenge to plants. Dark brown or black spots are unsightly and can sicken the plant. A solution of baking soda in water can help to maintain a healthy plant. Mix some baking soda (around 2 tablespoons in a quart of water). Put 6 drops each of lemon and ginger essential oils in ½ teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and add this to the baking soda solution, then spray directly on the fungus. For mold, use ½ cup of white vinegar in a quart of water, with tea tree, lavender or any of the citrus essential oils added, and spray onto the affected area.

Spider mites and caterpillars have a similar spray to stop them. In water, mix quite a few drops of Tabasco, a small squirt of dishwashing liquid and add a few drops of spearmint essential oil. Actually, any of the mints oils will be also effective in this solution.

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For ants in the kitchen, put a mixture of honey or jam in a small container and mix in boric acid. Apparently the worker ants will take it back to the queen, and because it is so yummy to her, she will gorge on the mixture and get such bad indigestion, that she will swell and die. (well, you want to get rid of the ants, don’t you?) Unfortunately household pets will also find this mixture good and it will make them sick as well, so please hide the container out of reach of pets and small children. Another trick is to place whole bay leaves and/or whole cloves in cabinets and drawers, which will also deter ants. If you know the route that ants take, mix a solution of window cleaner with peppermint, cinnamon or citrus essential oil and spray it on their path. They won’t return on that journey! Outside, if you find the hole to the tunnel of the ant colony, sprinkle turmeric around the hole and they won’t be able to exit over the spice. A few drops of any of the essential oils dripped directly into the hole of the tunnel will assure that tunnel is dead.

Roaches can be a dreadful nuisance both inside and outside the home. Roaches hate to be clean so mixing a solution of Dr. Bonner’s Peppermint Soap with a few drops of citronella essential oil, and spraying it directly on the roach, will kill them. To deter roaches (and ants) from frequenting a place, spread a solution of borax mixed with crushed black pepper and bay leaves on the area (again, away from pets and children).

Flies hate the smell of eucalyptus, cloves, basil and lavender. Having aromatherapy lamps or essential oil burners going in the kitchen with any of these oils discourage flies from hanging around. You can also spritz your windowsills and counters with a water/essential oil solution, which will not only freshen the room, but also dissuade pests from lingering. Lemongrass is another handy oil to have around for pest control. I’ve sprayed my window screens with essential oil water and found flies don’t land there for a long while, and the breeze that wafts in smells divine.

Your cat or dog can also benefit from a little aromatherapy. Combining a mixture of peppermint, tea tree, citronella or eucalyptus in water and spritzing them will keep fleas and ticks at bay. The only problem is that these oils have a powerful smell, and animals are very sensitive to smell. So don’t over do the intensity of the solution. A mild amount will work just as well. And keep the oils away from the animal’s eyes and inside the ears.
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All essential oils have therapeutic qualities and if you don’t have any of the above mentioned oils at home, try an essential oil that you do have. Some of the garden herb scents are great bug deterrents and you can make your own herbal spray by boiling fresh herbs (like basil, rosemary, oragano, parsley and/or mint) in water and letting it cool. The solution won’t be as strong, but will still have some efficacy. Experiment and see what happens. Generally the killer oils are citronella, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree, rosemary, and the citrus family. These essential oils have many uses and at this time of year are great to have around the potting shed, kitchen or in the medicine cabinet.