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)


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…


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.


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.

Spring Nettle Tart

I’ve been obsessed with eating nettles for a little while now, so I’m always after a new way of preparing them! This is a tasty tart that’s filling enough for a main meal where you’ll want to serve it with a salad (it’s pretty rich!)

I actually made this with my Mum as I wanted to learn our family’s shortcrust recipe (actually belonging to my Dad’s mum – Una Lucas). While catching up with Mum she showed me her first cook book!

yvonne school cook book no label

Una’s Short Crust Pastry

10oz plain flour (approx 300g)

2oz S.R. flour (approx 50g)

6oz butter (approx 150g)

3 tbsp cold water

1 whole egg

pinch salt

(and if making a sweet short crust add 1 tbsp of caster sugar)

I found this left enough shortcrust over to do almost another tart…maybe a dessert?

First up you need to rub the diced butter into the sieved flours and salt. This helps to coat the flour and prevents the gluten forming. VERY important as while we want gluten when making bread it’s the enemy of delicate short crust pastry!  Okay now give the egg a quick whisk then add it and the cold water to a well in the flour mix…

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Using a cold knife helps to keep your warm hands off the mix, and cutting the ingredients together rather than kneading helps prevent the dreaded gluten forming!  Once the mix is just starting to come together, tip onto a dusted surface. Gently knead until it just forms a ball…well kind of a ball.

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Wack some plastic wrap or a damp tea towel around the pastry and pop it in the fridge for approx 30 minutes.

This gives plenty of time to prepare the other ingredients:

8-10 slices of pancetta (chopped)

1 large leek (sliced, mainly the white)

2 spring onions (sliced)

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

Approx 400 grams of tender stinging nettles (I harvested around a 9 litre bucket loosely filled and this was the correct amount) These need to be dropped in boiling water for a few seconds to lose their stings, then you can go ahead and chop the leaves off the stems.

3 eggs

150g nice cheddar or Gruyere cheese (grated)

50g parmeson (grated)

200ml milk

150ml pure cream

seasonal herbs (I used dill this time around)

Asparagus – trimmed to fit (about half a small bunch)

Cook the diced pancetta and once the fat yields, pop in your garlic and spring onions – you won’t need extra oil.  Squeeze the excess water out of your nettles and chop them finely

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Take your nice and chilly pastry out of the fridge and roll it out until it’s big enough to fit comfortably over a pie dish. I’ve used a 23cm pie dish that’s around 5cm deep.

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Gently push the base down and use a spoon or fork if you’re feeling like making fancy patterns.

Now you NEED to blind bake this pastry so it stays nice and firm after cooking. Pop some baking paper in and cover with beans (keep using the same ones)

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Blind bake for about 15 minutes in a 180 C fan forced oven

While that’s going on you can whisk the three eggs, milk and cream. Add the chopped herbs too.

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Once your shortcrust is done take the beans out and if the base is still soft, pop it back bean-less for another 5 mins.

From here it’s an easy few steps of assembly. Put the nettle and pancetta mix in first.

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Then cheeses and finally the milk/cream mix and top it off by pushing in the asparagus spears…

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Drop the oven temp to around 160 degrees for a fan-forced unit and cook for a further 30-40 minutes until just set and golden.



kaleslaw main

If you’re lucky enough to bring little people into this world, please DON’T let their first experience of Coleslaw be from Kentucky Fried Chicken AKA – ‘The Dirty Bird’!

KFC coleslaw

Even well paid food stylists can’t make this stuff look good…


This sickly sweet sloppy mess remains one of the few salad offerings from the big fast food providers and really doesn’t deserve the name sake – originally taken from the Dutch “Koolsla”, the shortened version of “Kool Salade” meaning Cabbage Salad.

With two types of Kale still growing with vigour in my garden (Purple Russian and Tuscan) I decided to make them the main raw veg ingredient in a little dish I like to call…KALESLAW!

I’ve also added some sweet, just picked baby savoy cabbage from my garden.  Staggering the picking of cabbages i.e. using some young and some more mature helps to avoid the:

“Oh my God – I’ve eight giant cabbages that need to be used and I don’t like sauerkraut!”


Backyard Harvest Kaleslaw Recipe:

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)

2 cups of grated carrot

1/2 small Spanish onion (or a couple of spring onions)

1 cup of thinly sliced purple Russian kale

1 cup of thinly sliced Tuscan kale

2 cups of finely sliced savoy cabbage

Chopped fresh coriander to taste


1/2 cup Whole Egg mayonnaise

Splash of cider vinegar

Salt (I’ve used some black lava sea salt from a recent trip to Hawaii)

1 tblsp Coconut sugar (keeping with the Hawaiian theme)

kaleslaw 1

Grated carrot and finely chopped onion

kaleslaw 2

Red Russian Kale on the left is less known but has a more delicate leaf than the Tuscan on the right.  Both grow with well all year ’round and have far less pest problems than cabbage varieties.  Oh and they’re SUPER FOODS!

kaleslaw 3

Both kale varieties are finely chopped and added…

kaleslaw 4

This sweet, sweet savoy cabbage was picked just moments before this pic and had more crunch than a new season apple!

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Mixed and ready for dressing…

kaleslaw 5

That black stuff isn’t pepper – it’s ‘Black Lava’ sea salt from Hawaii – can’t wait to run out so I have an excuse to go back to Maui!