25 September 2007

The organic house

Most of us see the sense of not spraying pesticides and herbicides in the garden, nor using chemical cleaners in our homes. There are many recipes for good garden bug sprays and cleaners so no one needs to resort to buying products that will help keep the bugs away and the house clean. That sensible thinking should also extend to how you manage the various bugs and pests in your home too. Flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, ants, rats, mice, spiders and a whole range of other pests can be controlled with natural remedies too. And as usual, what is safe and environmentally sound is also frugal.

Good housekeeping plays a big part in keeping your home bug-free, so make sure your benches are clean, food isn't left lying around, your compost bucket has a lid on it, all your food is in containers, vacuum once a week and sweep daily. You should also block the places where bugs can enter. Blocking small holes to prevent creepy crawlies from entering your home is the first line of defense.

We do this in the garden too. Instead of spraying for fruit fly, we put exclusion bags on our fruit so the peaches can ripen naturally inside the bag where the fruit fly can't get at them. You'll see what I mean in the photo below. It also keeps the parrots away from the fruit.

Fly screens are a good way of keeping bugs and other pests out of your home. Fly screens on windows and doors are quite common in Australia and, I expect, in most other countries where flies and insects are a problem. If you have fly screens, make sure you look after them so they do the job they're intended for. Every couple of months, wipe the screens to remove dust and grime and check the rubber seals are firmly in place. If there is a tear in a screen, replace it.

So let's imagine you've blocked up all the holes, your fly screens are in place, but you're just about to serve up dinner and you see a fly. The best way to get rid of flies is with a fly swat. I grew up in the age before aerosol fly sprays and really hate them. You can easily kill flies with a swat and all you need then is to pick it up, either with the swat itself or a piece of scrap paper, put it in the bin or give it to the chooks. I keep my swat on top of the fridge and I make sure it's washed in hot soapy water every month or so to keep it clean. You can also use your fly swat to kill other insects like cockroaches, beetles and spiders.

Cockroaches can be a real pest in warm climates too. I have no idea how these creatures enter houses but I know once in, they're hard to get rid of. There is some very useful information here about natural cockroach baits. Boron or boric acid is available in Australia here or at most pharmacies and diatomaceous earth is available in Australia here or at garden centres. You can also make a cockroach bait by mixing borax and a little honey. Put it in an upturned lid in a dark near where you've seen cockroaches. Make sure borax and boron are well away from children and pets. They have a low toxicity but you always need to be cautious.

I have a selection of bug screens that I use on food too. I have milk jug covers that are used on any jugs I take outside, I also use it when I have a glass of water beside my bed at night. I use a little cotton cover for my sourdough (see below), which needs to be open to the air but protected from bugs. You can make a lovely outdoor food cover simply by cutting some netting or cotton to size and sewing a cotton border on it. So think about where you have problems with insects and make some covers to protect your food. Here is a pattern for a crocheted milk jug cover. Or you can make a very simple cover with some netting or fine cotton held down by buttons or shells. See what I use in this photo.

Organic fly spray (from Grass Roots Magazine)
1 tablespoon eucalyptus oil
1 teaspoon bergamot oil
5 tablespoons vodka
2 tablespoons white vinegar
5 cups water

Dissolve eucalyptus and bergamot oils in the vodka.
Add the vinegar and water and mix well.
Store in a spray bottle and shake before use.

General purpose bug spray
1 teaspoon of eucalyptus oil
1 teaspoon of liquid soap or ½ teaspoon of grated soap dissolved in water.
500ml of water

Mix the ingredients together in a small sprayer. Always shake thoroughly before each use. You have to spray this directly onto the bug.

Organic mosquito spray recipe here.


  1. I just love all the information I get each time I visit. thanks!

  2. thanks for the mozzie repellant link ~ we have plenty of lemon grass to use!

  3. Great post Rhonda! I remember as a young boy at my grandmother's being suffocated by the fly spray she would liberally apply to get rid of the flies, she loved the stuff. We keep a number of swats about the place for swift extermination of such menaces :)

  4. So funny you posted this today. We are just now having a major fly problem as the nights get cooler and they are coming indoors to stay worm. I can't wait to try your sprays :-)

  5. Rhonda Jean,
    You don't have to replace a torn screen, you can repair it. Now true, it won't be as "pretty" as a replaced screen. But if you're short on cash here's what you do.

    Take some heavy thread or even thin wire and "sew" the tear up. Just like you would a tear in clothing, weaving the thread back and forth across the tear.

    The other thing I have done, if there's a piece missing from the screen instead of a cut is to take a piece of screen that is a little bigger than the tear and just patch it - just like you would a pair of jeans. Center the bigger piece over the hole, start at one corner and sew around the edges.

    The only time this wouldn't work is if the screen is a nylon type screen and has "dry rotted". That is, the sun has caused the screen to disintegrate in places. Then you do have to replace it, just as you would dry-rotted fabric.

  6. I now read your blog every day. Thank you for all the helpful information. I just have spend the day decluttering the study.

  7. Hi Rhonda - I'm so glad I came across your blog. It's beautiful and sooooo helpful. I'm in Texas where it's hot most of the time, and I'm going to try your pest remedies. I, too, can't stand spray cans. Thank you for the great site!

  8. Two more tips:

    Cinnamon or cayenne can be sprinkled along baseboards and at entry points to keep ants out. It blocks their ability to find the chemical paths they lay down so they don't care to cross it. Existing trails can be cleaned away with diluted vinegar.

    Spearmint gum laid around the pantry will keep flour bugs from spreading from one infested container to others.


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