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Stock Your Plant Pantry


By Paul James

My food pantry was full before life as we know it abruptly changed, but my plant pantry wasn’t. I realized that when I discovered thrips on my parsley and went to my shed for some Spinosad, only to discover that I was out. If you’re looking to restock your plant pantry with pest and disease controls — like I obviously need to — here are what I consider the essentials.

And by the way, all the products listed below are all-natural and approved for use by organic gardeners, because that’s the way I roll.

Horticultural Oil: This is a must have for every gardener. It controls soft-bodied insects such as aphids and red-spider mites, as well as a number of fungal diseases.

Neem Oil: Neem does everything horticultural oil does, and then some. It controls dozens more insect pests, especially if you spray when the insects are young.

Bt: Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacteria that controls one pest and only one pest — caterpillars. Use it to kill cabbage loopers, imported cabbage worms, tomato hornworms, cutworms, and the like. Just keep in mind that it will also kill good caterpillars, such as those of Monarch and swallowtail butterflies.

Spinosad: This is my go-to control for really troublesome pests. It’s a naturally occuring bacteria that was discovered in an abandoned rum distillery (which is reason enough to use it, right?) and it kills a considerable number of garden pests. It’s also available as a number of brands, but my favorite — if only for the name — is Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew.

Serenade: This a bacterial fungicide, and it controls over 100 different fungal pathogens. In my own garden, I’ve yet to find a fungal disease it doesn’t control. Use as a preventive spray or at the first sign of disease.

Fertilizer: The number of fertilizer choices is staggering, so let me make this simple. Espoma makes an extensive line of excellent fertilizers, and they’re formulated for the needs of specific plants: Rose-Tone, Holly-Tone, Tomato-Tone, etc. They also make an excellent all-purpose fertilizer called Plant-Tone that’s great for anything that grows.

I’m also big on Milorganite, which is made from processed sewage. It’s primarily thought of as a lawn fertilizer, but it’s okay to use on all plants. Though not technically considered organic, it is all natural. It’s poop, after all.

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8 responses to “Stock Your Plant Pantry”

  1. Becky Brady says:

    Thank you! I’m going to print this out and tack it on my garage wall next to my “plant pantry”.

  2. Karen S Hall says:

    Paul, what do you recommend for my weeping redbud that gets attacked with leaf rollers each year?

  3. susan jeffrey says:

    heres my problem. rabbits eating hostas and flowers. what do you suggest? someone there suggested animal urine but cant find it..

  4. Ann Paris says:

    What do you recommend for mildew on phlox?
    Thanks for this list.

    • Paul James says:

      Phlox, especially tall Phlox, is definitely prone to mildew and it’s difficult to control once its on the plants. Try an all-natural fungicide such as Serenade.





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