This spray is really an all-in-one gardening tool. It fights insect pests, fungal diseases, fertilises and builds the probiotics in your soil and on your plants all in one. It is based on the information and recipes in this book.
Many of us are becoming increasingly aware of our own inner ecosystems of probiotic microbes, and research on the human microbium and it’s myriad of impacts on our health and well-being is all around us now. However, few seem to realise that the same applies to the plants in our gardens. The soil, which has a huge living component, as well as the plants we grow, should ideally all be populated by healthy probiotic organisms. These organisms help the plants to better extract nutrients from their environment and protect them from pathogenic microbes, amongst other things. Like humans, healthier plants are less prone to disease and can fight it off better.
Even in organic farming, we often aim to kill or eliminate a certain microbe or insect to stop it’s negative effect on our crops. However, if we, for example, spray an organic copper-based fungicide to kill rust or other fungal diseases affecting our plants, we will at the same time kill any good fungi in the soil or on the plants. This can in fact be detrimental in the long term. Soil fungi play a vital role in assisting plants to extract nutrients from the soil, especially for trees like fruit trees.
The concept of Ecological farming, sometimes also called Biological Farming, aims to create balance int the agricultural ecosystem, where the creatures cohabiting with our crops are in balance. Thus,we may always have a few of the undesirable ones, but they will be kept in balance by the other living things in the ecosystem. Thus it is never our aim to eliminate anything, but rather to restore balance.
It is a basic principle of ecology that diversity brings stability. Therefore, the more diverse we can make our agricultural ecosystems, the more stable they will be. We should thus aim to avoid monocultures where we plant a lot of one thing, but have small patches of different plants mixed in together. We should also aim to promote as high a diversity of insects, small animals, birds and probiotic microbes as we can.
This spray follows the principles of Ecological Farming. The Neem oil is a contact insecticide and fungicide, so it should not be sprayed whilst plants are being pollinated by insects as you will affect the pollinators. Neem oil is also used in skincare, so is very safe for humans. After spraying, it leaves a residue on the leaves, and will then only affect insects who bite into the leaves – which are those that may damage your plants. Along with the Neem, we mix probiotics in the form of Efficient Microbes, Molasses to feed the probiotics and Fish emulsion to fertilise the plants and further feed the probiotics. The Fish Emulsion should ideally be unpasteurised, so that the omega 3 fatty acids from the fish are preserved as these feed probiotic microbes. Unpasteurised fish emulsion is not available in South Africa as far as I can ascertain, but turns out to be really easy to make, I had great success using this recipe. I thought it would be a super gross and stinky process, but it was not at all. It was super easy and the end product is odourless. Alternatively, you can buy a commercial product like Seagro, you’ll just have to tolerate it’s awful smell.
It’s really important to use non-chlorinated water to mix your spray. You can simply let your tap water stand overnight so the chlorine evaporates or use filtered or borehole water. If there is chlorine in the water it will kill all your precious probiotics.
So, enough rambling, let’s get down to gardening…here’s the recipe…
Makes 5l of spray
5ml bio-degradeable soap (such as Triple Orange detergent or wonder gel)
25ml pure Neem oil (like the one from Nautica)
15ml Efficient Microbes
15 ml black-strap Molasses
50ml fish emulsion
5 l non-chlorinated water
Mix the soap with the Neem oil to emulsify it.
Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Put into spray bottle and coat plants generously in spray, ensuring that the upper and lower sides of leaves are covered. Also spray the soil under the plants, or allow enough to drip off. Repeat about every two weeks or as needed.
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