Ward Off with Wine Bottles
Keep mosquitoes and biting flies from crashing your patio party with appropriately-themed wine bottle tiki torches. Fill a few empty glass bottles one- to two-thirds full with sand, small stones, or marbles. Then pour citronella-scented lamp oil in up to the neck of each bottle—this will give you several hours of burn time. Drill holes through the corks and thread a piece of cotton rope through it, with enough length to reach to the sand or stones at the bottom and an inch exposed above the cork. As soon as the wick soaks up the oil, light and enjoy a bug-free backyard.
March Them Out of the House
Ants are as big of a nuisance inside the house as they are at the picnic. To keep them away from your food prep surfaces—and everywhere else, for that matter—deter them by washing countertops, floors, walls, and other surfaces with a mixture of equal parts apple cider vinegar and water.
No Ants Invited
Another method for turning ants away from your picnicing zones involves mixing 1 cup borax with ½ cup flour. Carefully sprinkle the clumped solution around the foundation of your house. Note: Borax can be toxic if ingested by people or pets, so don't use this around the house if you have young children or small animals.
Say Goodbye to Slugs
It might seem like a shame to waste a good brewski, but beer will help rid your garden of slugs practically overnight. Take a wide-mouthed plastic or glass container, then bury it about two-thirds in the ground and fill'er up about a quarter of the way with beer. The fermented yeast in the drink will attract slugs, causing them to fall in and drown. Empty the container every day or so and refresh the beer until your slug problems are a thing of the past.
Related: 10 Zero Dollar Garden Hacks
Take Out Tiny Terrors
A mixture of ½ cup rubbing alcohol and 1 quart of liquid soap can make an effective pest control spray to get rid of whiteflies, aphids, mealy bugs, scale insects, and thrips. Fill a spray bottle, shake, and spritz directly on your plants. Let sit for 20 minutes, and then rinse the plant thoroughly to avoid damaging the leaves. But save this garden maintenance 'til dusk; in direct sunlight, this can burn the leaves. Spray every three days for two weeks, until the bugs are gone.
Prevent biting flies, horseflies, and mosquitoes from lunching on your skin with natural repellents. For example, lemongrass contains citronella, so mash up the inner leaves and rub the juice on your skin. Or, try making your own skin-safe bug spray: Fill a spray bottle with ½ teaspoon of pennyroyal essential oil, 1 cup isopropyl alcohol, and 1 cup water. Mix well and spray on skin, making sure to shield your eyes.
The Anti-Beetle Juice
If beetles are giving you trouble in the garden, whip up this recipe to protect your plants. Soak 2 cups of chopped tomato leaves in a pint of water overnight, strain to remove the leaves, then add another pint of water and 1/4 teaspoon liquid soap. Spray foliage and soil with this diluted mixture as needed. This solution also works against earworms and maggots.
Nematodes—tiny parasitic worms that live in the soil—as well as caterpillars and grasshoppers can wreak havoc on your vegetable garden. But molasses “tea” can be the natural solution for helping preserve your produce. To make, dissolve 3 tablespoons of molasses in 4 cups of warm water in a spray bottle, and shake well. Spray on your plants and the ground around them every few days to keep these pests at bay.
Quit Bugging the Cook
You can have your bananas and eat them, too, without fighting off fruit flies in your kitchen. Craft a simple homemade trap by pouring a thin layer of apple cider vinegar and a squirt of liquid dish soap in the bottom of a plastic jar or butter dish. Then cover the container with plastic wrap and poke a few small holes in the top, so you can lure the flies in without them slipping back out.
Save your pet from endless itching—and your home from picking up the biting pests, too—with a little DIY repellent. Simmer 2 cups of water, a sliced lemon, and fresh lavender sprigs in a saucepan for 30 minutes, strain out and discard your larger pieces, then add 2 tablespoons alcohol-free witch hazel to the cooled recipe. Transfer it to a spray bottle so that you can mist and rub the solution into your pet's fur before he heads outdoors.
Save your friends and family from stings this season with a homemade wasp trap. Cut a recycled water bottle in half, inverting the top (the bottleneck) and slipping it inside the bottom half like a funnel and tape together. Then fill with a seasonally appropriate bait: In spring, wasps go for grease from cooked meat with water and a little dish soap, but in summer they're more attracted to sugary fruit preserves with water and dish soap. The buzzing pests will fly in easily, but won't be able to leave out through the funnel's small hole.
Related: No Sweat - 7 Best BBQ Shortcuts
Stuck on You
Sticky traps can be wildly effective at snagging winged pests before they swoop in on your garden plants, so why not recreate their magic with the materials you have on hand? Mix 1 quart corn syrup with 1 quart water on the stovetop until it comes to a boil, then brush it on a brightly colored paper to attract the offending insects. The sticky corn syrup spread shouldn't dry, and you can stick it in your garden on the end of a popsicle stick or clothespin, or by hanging from string.
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