Monday, May 9, 2016

Blasting Garden Pests

A while ago a friend sent me a news article about using water to spray bugs off of plants. Since then, I've read a few more news articles relating to this topic. Two of them I thought had bits of interest applicable to my homestead. 
1- In low tech areas, workers will daily walk through a field using a stick or wisp to knock/chase pests from the plants. Sometimes a flock of chickens, ducks, or geese are herded through a field to eat insects and weeds, keeping them moving to avoid them damaging the crop. 
2- In home garden situations, the gardener will wisp the plants twice a day to remove insects. 
3- Gardeners can use a powerful spray from a hose to remove aphids and other pests from plants. (I've done this myself to remove aphids, mealybug, and ants from my mother's hibiscus plants.) 
4- Commercial organic farmers are mounting sprayers on their equipment so that crops can be sprayed to remove pests while their equipment passes through a field doing some other task, such as cultivating. 
(Above, a critter in going to enjoy blasting! Grasshoppers! The only problem is that they will hop back, of course. But it will still feel so good blasting them. )

I got to thinking how I could use the idea of pest removal via a jet of water in my own situation. Problems :
...I don't have high water pressure via my water hoses. Besides, I normally need to conserve water since I'm not hooked in to municipal water. 
...big commercial sprayers with their big tanks and pumps are expensive, plus require a hydraulic PTO to operate the pump. 
I'm trying to stay low tech, so I started thinking about other solutions. 

First of all, simply wisping my plants twice a day is really low tech. That's appealing. While it wouldn't work for quite a few of the pests in my area, it might help with some. So I'm trying to get into the habit of wisping plants as I walk by them for other reasons. Just a gently wisping to dislodge stinkbugs, grasshoppers, and such. I notice that just running my hand over the bean plants causes some stinkbugs to drop to the ground. So that's a definite plus. The less time they are on the plants, the less time they are feeding, finding mates, causing damage. Plus I squish any that I see drop to the ground. Ah ha, less bugs! 

Second....and this is what I'm experimenting with right now.....finding a way to water blast the bugs off. Since my pathetic hose pressure isn't up to the task, plus the problem that most of my garden areas are not within the reach of a hose, I need another solution. Some sort of sprayer, for sure. 

Some of the issues to consider with a sprayer. 
...Most handheld sprayers don't hold much water. So it would need to be big enough to do an entire bed without having to reload. 
...Hand spritzed ones fatigue my hands really quickly. Therefore I'd want one that could be pumped up for pressure. 
...My gardens are mostly not near an electricity source. A sprayer needing electricity is out. 
...Large sprayers requiring a motorized pump would need to be mounted on a trailer/cart that my ATV could pull. While this is an option, it's not one I'm ready to take yet. Plus many of my garden beds are not ATV accessible. 
...Some sprayers cannot have the spray adjusted to a sharp stream. Thus the nozzle needs to be adjustable. 
...Water is heavy! About 8 lbs per gallon. So weight will be a consideration. Do I plan to hand hold the sprayer? Or tote it with me? Or mount it on wheels? Or use a cart? Things to decide upon. 

I have several small pump-up sprayers already in the farm. The first one I tried is this little, simple one.

 It only holds a quart and a half of water, so it will only be useful where I am close to water for refilling. Adjusting the nozzle to stream and pumping it up to a good pressure, I gave it a try. Yup, it blasted the aphids right off the plants. I didn't have any other pests in the garden I was at to test it on, but it seemed strong enough to blast anything away. One other note -- this sprayer is cheap and easy to use. I could afford several and place them at strategic locations, thus always having one ready and on hand when I needed it. That's an asset. 

I next tried larger sprayes that hold more water.  I found the one gallon sprayer in the barn. Gee, when did I buy that? I haven't a clue! But it is light enough to easily carry. I also have a 2 gallon sprayer. It's a bit heavier when full, but still easy enough to tote around. I tried both, and they did a good job, were easy enough to use, and had enough water to spray several garden beds. 

I also have a well used Solo backpack sprayer. It holds two gallons, but being a backpack unit, it's easier to haul around. Being able to walk around plants and jump from aisle to aisle is better than dragging a two gallon sprayer behind me. So this backpack sprayer suits me pretty well. Perhaps this may become my favorite sprayer. Time will tell. 

Larger sprayers, which I don't currently own, are an option. But the negatives would be expense to but them & difficulty hauling them around. I have to ask, do I really need to haul that large a volume of water? I don't think so. 

So for right now I'm going to stick with these little pump sprayers and the backpack sprayer. I plan to start using them regularly and see what comes of it. Will they really make a difference with the bug control? Will I tend to use one type sprayer more so than another? Give me a couple of weeks to toy with them and I'll report back. 


  1. I use a water pistol, with a drop or two of dish washing liquid added to the water. The liquid aids in repealing other Bugs.

  2. Yeah, water pistol. You can even get pretty big ones through Amazon Prime.

  3. Oooo, using a water pistol sounds like so much fun!

  4. "S" commented via email...."Really hate to bust yer bubble, but most bugs have wings...."
    How true! I recently talked with two commercial greenhouse growers who have installed air blaster systems which uses a blast of air to dislodge pests. Computerized and high tech. Sounds like a cool "toy" to have. But seriously, both said that if pests were physically removed and allowed to return only to be removed again and again, the bug would quickly reach a critical point where it would run out of energy due to disrupted feeding. While I'm not going to stand there and flick each bug I see all day long, I'm just hoping to disrupt their lives enough to have an effect on their eating and mating. If I can slow down the damage, I'll be happy. Be gee, I'd really like to have one of those computerized air blasters! Zap! Zap!

  5. su ba would love to connect with you via email mine is i am charlotte from, would also like to speak with you on the telephone.