The grasshoppers are coming out at my house, and though my birds are chasing them like mad, they haven’t been able to keep them under control in the unlandscaped portions of my property—so we’re seeing some damage on my flowers and vegetables as well.
At the same time, I’m reluctant to use pesticides because I don’t want my poultry to ingest any and my cats like to wander through the garden when they sneak out. As LDS people, we have been taught that we have a stewardship over the world, and that we need to take care of it. However, growing organically can be very expensive, and a whole lot of hassle.
There are many simple and inexpensive bug control methods available, however—some even less expensive than that bottle of bug spray. The summer after my husband and I were married we bought a single-wide trailer in a trailer park to live in. My husband was still in school and we didn’t have much money, but it was nicer than the apartment we had been living in, and I loved having a bit of property to do what I wanted. Since we were the last trailer in the park, we had not only a patch of grass in front, but about five foot of dirt and weeds in the back that ran the length of the trailer.
I was determined to put in a flower garden. I spent hours digging up weeds, putting in landscaping bricks for a pathway, and planting my flowers and a few vegetables. All was well until the man who owned the pasture on the other side of the chain-link fence brought his cows in to graze. Suddenly we were attacked by grasshoppers. They even stripped all of the foliage from my marigolds.
I was lamenting the impending loss of my flower garden when my husband’s mother gave me a suggestion. I put two tablespoons of cayenne pepper in a quart or so of water and boiled it for five minutes or so. Then I strained the powder out with some cheese cloth (make sure you get all of the powder out or it will clog your spray bottle, so you may need to pass it through cloth more than once.), then poured it in a spray bottle.
After a couple of thorough applications, the grasshoppers never bothered those plants again. My marigolds leafed out again and my other flowers recovered as well. If you continue to have a pest problem in your area for a long period of time, and you top water or get a lot of rain, you may need to spray periodically, but I just keep a bottle under my sink (well marked) to use for repeat sprays. Cayenne pepper is inexpensive and available at most grocery stores in the baking aisle with the other spices. You may even find it at dollar stores in their spice aisles. It is also said to be a good deterrent for digging cats and dogs if you sprinkle the powder on your flower beds, but I’ve heard mixed results for this. Another simple choice for both bug and pet repellent is to mix citronella oil with water and spray it on your beds. This is supposed to be very effective, but definitely has to be repeated after each heavy rain or watering. I wonder if it works on chickens?