Nobody wants toxic sprays on their food – it’s one of the main reasons one should avoid the supermarket. Likewise nobody likes to see their plants covered with bugs though – so what to do?
Check your plants as often as you can and investigate if any seem to be in worse condition than the others – it is definitely the first sign of a problem. An infestation can have become really serious before any damage is obvious on the upper parts of your plant, but the more carefully you look, the sooner you will spot it!
Lift plants up and look at them from all angles. Most bugs hide underneath leaves or cause leaves to curl over and disguise their presence, sometimes even sewing or glueing them into place! Any damage is more likely to become obvious on the underside initially.
Position plants at eye level so you can see the undersides of the leaves when passing by. If you put them in the window, sunlight shining through the leaf highlights any imperfections or bugs, and helps display the beauty of nature in your home, which is good for everyone’s morale.
Snip off with scissors cleaned in alcohol or peroxide, any damaged and visibly infested leaves and remove them well away from the area. Consider having a separate compost heap that you leave for longer and hotter to kill off any eggs from pests – I use a black plastic “Earth Machine” placed in full sun for any really noxious pest residues or weeds (e.g. GOUT WEED!) and leave the contents until it is a brown crumbling dust.
Blast bugs off with a hose spray. Experiment with using different settings and flow-rates because some plants are more sensitive than others. You should use as strong a blast as your plant can tolerate to remove tiny critters like thrips from between the ribs of leaves, but try to avoid damaging and stressing the poor plant any further! Some plants are more tricky to clean thoroughly with this method. Genovese basil for example has very curved leaves and it is vital to get the water right up inside them, whilst being as gentle as possible with its delicate and fragrant foliage.
Use an oil-base for your spray to suffocate pests. You can use any edible oil, but some are more effective than others because they contain other active ingredients (e.g. neem oil which interfers with insect reproduction). Insects and other pests breathe through tiny pores in their skin, and if you smother them with oil they can suffocate. Be careful though as oil can also damage plants if applied at too high a concentration, or during hot and sunny conditions when it acts as a lens and concentrates sunlight enough to seriously burn leaves.