Early harvests are already coming out of some gardens. But as the summer heats up and the bugs return and hatch -- many homeowners will be left fighting a never ending battle for the fruits of their labor. Literally.

While many pests simply can't be eradicated without special chemicals, the majority of them -- think aphids, caterpillars, slugs, and mites -- can be easily removed with homemade remedies that don't harm you or your food.

And while there are store bought products that boast themselves as all natural, studies have indicated that these "all natural" products still have cancer causing agents. One such study by University of California scientist Bruce Ames showed that of the 52 "all natural" pesticides used on foods today, 27 caused cancer. Yikes.

But you don't have to rely on these products, you can simply mix up some cheap versions on your own:

Aphids: A tried and true homemade method for relieving your plants and flowers of these pests is mixing dishwashing soap in a spray bottle with water. Simply spray the leaves and stem of the infected plant. You may need to repeat this in days to come, but the aphids will more than likely move on.

This method also works on slugs.

Mites: Spray with a mixture of water and salt.

Caterpillars: Mix up a strong solution of chili powder and water and spray on the areas.

Microscopic Pests: Viruses can attack our plants -- and the usually are made manifest though wilting leaves, spotted leaves, dried stems, or diseased, shrunken looking root structures. Some experts recommend that dried milk dissolved in water and sprayed on the infected leaves can rid the plant of a virus, though many times it many make more sense to destroy the plant in hopes that the disease will not spread to others. Use caution, though, as the virus could spread from your hands to a healthy plant.

For fungal control, try the dried milk solution above or a strong mixture of soaked garlic, mineral oil, water, and soft soap. Use this the same way as the other herbal sprays.

Ants: Place a sprinkling a chili powder in the ants path. They'll rethink going into you garden!

Using the Food Chain:

  • Lady bugs deter/feed on aphids, scales, and mites.
  • Praying mantis eats all sorts of insects.
  • Don't let them scare you: spiders, parasitic wasps, and bees are all part of a healthy food chain that can eliminate unwanted insects.
  • Some popular gardening sites note the importance of the green lacewing, which feeds on such insects as mites and aphids.

Whatever your garden, a balance between mayhem and harvest can be attained. Do a little research as to what bugs are native to your area and how to identify them when they attack your prized vegetables. And then breathe a sigh of relief as you serve up a summer's worth of organic treats!

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