3 great organic pest solutions

If you’re keen to cut down on those chemical nasties in your veggie patch, while still protecting your precious crops – then keep on reading!

Petroleum Free White Oil

Off the shelf white oil stinks and to be honest it feels like a bad idea covering your edible citrus crops with it. If you have problems with insect pests such as scale, white fly, leaf miner and aphids, then take five minutes to whip up this concentrate. It will last for ages.

1 cup of vegetable oil

1/4 cup of dishwashing detergent (I used Eco brand)

Citrus scale

Mix this together by shaking in a jar or bottle. This makes the concentrate – you only need to add 2 tablespoons of this concentrate to your spray bottle for every litre of water and away you go!

Caterpillar Soap Spray

Caterpillars are pretty harmless…until you find those beautifully camouflaged green buggers hiding in your home grown broccoli. You only need to eat one before changing to blanching or other cooking methods…yuk.

Anyhow, they unfortunately go with the territory when trying to grow cabbage family crops anytime other than the middle of winter. Try this soap spray to reclaim your greens:

1 Litre of warm water

2 tablespoons of Lux soap flakes (you’ll find it in the cleaning section of your supermarket near a bunch of other stuff you haven’t seen for 20 years)

Lux

Add the soap flakes to the water and stir until dissolved. This is ready to use and as well as dealing with your caterpillars, it will also help with aphids.

Short Black Spray

Yes, even snails and slugs are learning to embrace our cafe culture. With a bit of luck they won’t be embracing much at all after this great home made remedy…

espresso

1 cup of water

1 shot of espresso (or brewed stove top coffee from a mocha pot etc)

Mix together and spray this over the soil, around and onto the leaves that snails and slugs can’t resist. Great for delicate seedlings.

Important!

Although these are less nasty than your standard chemical pesticides, always remember to keep them in properly marked spray bottles and jars WAY out of reach of little people and pets. You’ll find they don’t hang around as long as commercial sprays so be prepared to spray after rainfall etc.

Oranges and Lemons…

Eureka and Lisbon lemons are joined by the more recent Meyer variety – great if you’re more interested in the sweeter juice and hate thorny trees!

Try fitting this into your Corona…a great example of a Lisbon lemon

There’s also a myriad of orange varieties and mandarins available, including my favourite at the moment – the blood orange.  A recent discovery, blood oranges have an almost strawberry/orange taste and look great in desserts and mixed drinks.

I’ve grown two tahitian limes in Geelong and they love our frost free urban micro-climates and I’ve also had good results from a so called native lime which I actually think might be a ‘Kassia Lime’ as its flesh was a yellow/orange colour – not the usual green flesh.  Citrus trees make great sustainable gifts for weddings, new family editions and look spectacular in pots and who wants to part with $1 every time they want an organic lemon!?

Location, location, location – getting the most out of your citrus trees.

Citrus work really well in pots, as well as the ground.  The most important thing to remember is that their fruit often takes twelve months to ripen.  So unlike our stone fruit which are quite happy to be in shade all winter, your citrus trees need FULL SUN over the winter.  Just take a wander around your neighbourhood with a compass and I’ll guarantee the healthiest looking lemons are coming from trees with lots of access to the northern sun.

Even better is siting them in a courtyard or against a north facing masonry wall.  Remember the reason these varieties are grown commercially in Mildura is because of the long clear sunny days which aid ripening and help them get to market earlier.

Here’s a very happy looking Valencia orange backed onto a north facing wall

Planting tips

With the below average rainfall we experienced in recent history, the idea of planting new trees was met with some trepidation.  Would it survive?  Can I be bothered keeping the water up to the new tree with prohibitive restrictions?  Well after almost two years of fantastic rain, sub soil moisture is back and water restrictions have eased.  Of course we need to continue to be careful about our water use, but I also think we need to take advantage of the much improved growing conditions and get some trees established while the going’s good!

A good technique before planting is to dig the hole to the required size (usually twice the width and at least the depth of your pot) and to fill it with water.  See how long it takes for the water to drain.  If it’s several hours or more then you will have drainage issues and your tree may not survive – especially as we have nearly 6 months of rain ahead!   You can mix in some gypsum sand, compost and see how that works.  If still no luck then build up the soil and essentially plant close to ground level.

Lemons are also beautiful ornamental trees with scented flowers and lush foliage

Troubleshooting with citrus trees

Ants are usually a sign you’ve got scale or whitefly as they’re chasing the sweet secretions from other pests – use the white oil recipe below and make sure you cover tops and bottoms of the leaves.  The ants will be grumpy but it won’t kill them!

Prune any dead wood at the end of winter and fertilise around now (Autumn) with an organic based fertiliser or manure.  Oh, and if it’s acceptable in your household and not going to upset your neighbours, yes wee on your tree.  It provides liquid urea fertiliser…why give you nutrients away for free!

Most problems with citrus can be fixed using a homemade white oil recipe:

1 cup of vegetable oil

1/2 cup of water

Teaspoon of washing detergent

Mix vigorously in a bottle until white and cloudy.  This becomes your concentrate which you mix 1 part to 40 parts water in a sprayer bottle.

Look after you citrus trees, plant a few varieties and you’ll have access to your very own fruit all year round!