When my son was small, a sure-fire way to keep him busy was to put him in the herb garden with a bucket of water. He would pick the pungent herbs and add them to the pot. Sticks, dirt, and a few hapless insects went into the brew as well. When I’d look up from my gardening he would say “Don’t bother me! I’m making a potion!” His magical-mix kept him busy, and I would discretely pour it into the garden when he was through.
I remember these pre-school concoctions as I peel garlic for my own garden brew. Only my mixture isn’t made of herbs. I blend water, garlic, hot pepper, and liquid seaweed. When sprayed on plants, this potion repels insects and provides nutrients.
Recipes vary, but the main ingredients are several cloves of garlic placed in a blender half-filled with water. After these are blended, I add hot red pepper flakes and liquid seaweed.
Some gardeners use fish-emulsion instead of seaweed, and others add homemade compost-tea. Liquid seaweed and fish-emulsion are purchased at garden supply stores; compost-tea is made by mixing several cups of compost into water, stirring, and straining before use. Liquid seaweed, fish-emulsion, and compost-tea all provide nutrients the plant absorbs through its leaves.
Once these ingredients are blended well, pour the mix through a fine sieve or cotton dishcloth. All solid bits must be removed so they won’t clog the sprayer.
Finally, add about three tablespoons of insecticidal soap. This mild soap does smother some insects, but its main purpose in this elixir is to help the brew stick to the leaves. Insecticidal soap only kills small insects it covers…the hot pepper and garlic will repel bugs and small animals for days to come. But don’t use dish washing detergent, and whatever you do, don’t mix the soap in the blender!
Put the strained mixture in a spray bottle, and use it to mist your plants. (Apply in the morning or early evening, but never spray anything on foliage in the middle of a hot, sunny day.) Spraying with a fresh batch every two weeks will keep plants fed and insect-free. The garlic and red pepper doesn’t smell like roses, but we can think of it as a perfume for plants. We’ll call this scent “Prevention.”