potted herbs
Photo: RF123

Concoct your own arsenal of pesticides and fertilisers. Chilli- or garlic-infused water is particularly effective against ants, aphids, spider mites and other soft-bodied pests such as slugs and snails. “They work by coating the leaves with smell and spiciness, and that repels the pests. The infused water also burns the soft bodies of the aphids, but doesn’t harm your plant,” explains Debbie Han, permaculture consultant and founder of Co-create Nature. 

The gist of most recipes is to boil or ferment chillies and garlic in water. Experiment to find the right level of spiciness that works without “burning” the leaves. Debbie suggests spraying early in the evening as the plants are dry from the day’s sun, and because most insects like to come out to eat at night. Coat the underside of leaves as well. If there is no rainfall, reapply every three to five days. Or, apply immediately after it rains.

Natural fertilisers such as coffee grounds, rice water, fish guts, and even the water used to wash fish, can be used to enrich the soil. 

Add mulch to prevent the soil from drying out. Make it from organic materials such as dry leaves, grass clippings, hay, and coco-fibre. They add nutrients to the soil when they break down. Place mulch around plant stems, never touching, as it traps moisture, which causes stems to rot.