Saturday, February 18, 2017

How to make your own Insecticidal Soap

Insecticidal soap is a safe, effective way to deal with an insect problem both indoors and out. Unlike pesticides, this simple soap solution is biodegradable, so it won't leave a residue that is harmful to birds or beneficial insects like pollinating bees. Sprayed on an infected plant, it kills only the targeted insects.

There are ready-made insecticidal soaps that you can purchase at most garden supply stores. To apply them, follow the directions on the label. You can also make your insecticidal soap.

When to use Insecticidal Soap:

The fatty acids in this simple soap solution work by disrupting the cell membranes and dissolving the natural waxy coating on soft-bodied insects. Unwanted pests suffocate as a result. Insects that can be treated with insecticidal soap include:

• Spider mites
• Aphids
• Mealy bugs
• Thrips
• Immature White Flies
• Immature Leafhoppers

Aphids. Photo by Ken Sproule

Here's the materials and supplies you need to make your own insecticidal soap:

• Measuring cup
• Funnel (optional– it just makes it easier to pour the liquids into the bottle)
• Tablespoon
• Pure all-natural liquid soap such as Castile soap
• Empty spray bottle (look for one at the Dollar Store)


2 and 1/3 cup of water (note: hard water can reduce the effectiveness of the soap)

1 tablespoon of pure liquid soap such as Castile soap (Note: don't use dish soap, regular laundry detergent or any soaps with degreasers, skin moisturizers or synthetic chemicals.)


Remove the top to your empty spray bottle.
Measure the ingredients and using the funnel, pour the them into the spray bottle.
Reattach the lid on the spay bottle and shake the contents gently to combine.
Label the bottle and make sure to store it out of the reach of children.

Before you spray:

Before you begin to apply your spray to an infected plant, there are a few quick things to note.

• Some plants are sensitive to soap sprays, so do a test first. Spray a few leaves or single branch of the plant. Wait a full day to see if there is any signs of burning before proceeding to spray the entire plant.
Sensitive indoor plants include ferns, ivy, succulents, palms, lantana and azaleas. Outdoor plants that might be adversely affected include cherries, plum, Japanese Maple, Bleeding Heart, Ferns, Nasturtiums and Sweet Peas.

• Plants that are stressed should not be sprayed. Don't spray a plant that is wilted and thirsty for water.

• Spray your plant early in the morning when it is cooler and the sun is softer.

• Don't place a plant that has just been sprayed into the bright, hot sun.

Using the Spray:

If it is too cold to work outside, place your plant in the kitchen sink or the bathtub.

Gently shake the bottle to evenly disperse the soap in the water.

Your spray will only work when coming into direct contact with soft-bodied insects, so spray your plant throughly with the insecticidal soap. Turn the plant around in a circle and place the plant on an angle to try to catch all of the leaves including the underside of each leaf.

Thoroughly rinse the soap off after 10 minutes to prevent leaf burn.

Repeat the application of the insecticidal soap once every 4-7 days for a total of three applications to insure that the problem has cleared up.

You might be interested in the article on Unexpected House Pests by Jean Godawa 
on the main gardening blog. 

Many thanks to Ken Sproule and David Cappaert of for 
providing the photographs of insects.

Friday, December 16, 2016

DIY Holiday Gift Boxes

What's the first gift they'll want to unwrap? The one in a box that looks extra special! Here's how you can take generic gift boxes from the dollar store and transform them into something magical.

Materials you need:

• Plain cardboard boxes of various kinds and sizes
• Figure or object for the box top (a little house, an animal-let your imagination be your guide)
• White acrylic paint
• Acrylic paint in a color of your choice for the body of the box
• Paint brushes
• Quick-drying craft glue
• Glue gun and glue sticks
• Glitter (optional)
• Epson salts (for the snow)
• Ribbon

For this first set of boxes, I used plain brown cardboard boxes of various shapes and sizes.

Step 1: Paint the body and the side of your box lid with acrylic paint in a color of your choice. I pulled the color red from the little houses I planned to use on the box tops.

Step 2: Paint the top of the lid with white acrylic paint. 

Step 3: Next attach the object, figure or animal onto the top of the box lid. (The little snowman was found at Walmart by the way.)

Depending on the object you choose, you may or may not require a glue gun to attach it securely. White glue alone wasn't going to hold this snowman, so I resorted to hot glue. 

Step 4: You could leave the box top with just the white paint and that would look fine, but I wanted my lid to have the sparkle of snow. 

Warning: This is where this project gets a little messy! I recommend you lay down some newsprint for easy clean up. 

Once your object or figure is dry on the box lid, spread a generous layer of quick-drying craft glue on the remainder of the lid (I used a popsicle stick to spread the glue). Sprinkle epsom salts over the surface of the glue. Add a few glitter sparkles as well, if you like. Press down the epsom salt and sparkles into the glue with your fingers. Allow the lid to dry.

Once the salt and glitter is set, turn the lid on its side and gently knock off any of the surplus salt and glitter that did not adhere.

Step 5: Attach a ribbon to your box. I used a bead of white glue under the ribbon to keep it in place. 

This box had a deep lid, so I used a plaid ribbon and ran the ribbon around the centre of the box. (You can find similar vintage Christmas houses at Michaels craft store.)

On the two round boxes, I used a narrow gingham ribbon and wrapped it around the circumference of the lid.

To create this box topped with a church, I painted a plain cardboard box sage-green. Next I stenciled some snowflakes in a slightly lighter shade of sage. 

To finish off the box, I ran white ribbon all the way around the lid (a fine bead of white glue under the ribbon secured it in place). Then I topped the white ribbon with a narrow band of gold ribbon (again a fine bead of glue holds the ribbon in place). At the front, I attached a bow in the same gold ribbon (I used hot glue to attach the bow).

This next group of boxes were even faster to create. These dollar store boxes already came with a nice silver print. 

To top this box, I used a reindeer and some mini-Christmas trees (which mirrors the theme of the silver print on the box). All I did was paint the lid white. Then I attached the reindeer with some hot glue. 

The next step was to add the epsom salt and glitter (see method above for attaching the salt and glitter).

To secure the trees, I twisted off each tree from its cork base. Then I used the wire at the bottom of the tree to poke a small hole in the top of the box lid. 

Next I applied a little hot glue to the base of the tree and inserted the wire trunk back into the hole. On the underside of the lid, I reattached the cork with a little hot glue.

Isn't this bear sweet? I think this box would make a great gift for a toddler or a baby's first Christmas.

Again my box had a nice silver snowflake pattern, so all I did was fancy-up the lid (see working method above). Around the lid, I ran a pretty, baby-blue ribbon with a bow at the front (again see notes above about securing the ribbon and bow).

I hope you've found some inspiration to make your own gift boxes extra special this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Diamonds & Pearls

This little craft idea couldn't be any easier! In fact these ornaments are so simple to make, you could easily do this project with the kids or grandkids. (When working with kids just make sure to choose large stickers that are easy for little hands to work with.)

The list of materials you need is pretty short in all my examples.

Materials you need for these DIY snowflake ornaments:

• a box of ornaments with a pearl finish 
• snowflake stickers with a diamond-like finish on a transparent backdrop (I found my snowflakes at Michaels)
• a sheet of individual blue diamonds (not shown- also available at Michaels)
• pair of scissors
• ribbon or a metal hook to hang the finished ornament

Step 1: Detach a snowflake sticker from the transparent backing paper. Place the sticker on the face of the ornament, but don't press it down just yet! When a sticker is roughly tacked into position, it is still easy to lift and move. As you build your design on your ball, you may need to lift and adjust the spacing of your stickers. 

Step 2: The fun in this project is creating your own snowflake pattern on the surface of your ornament. Once you are happy with the layout of your pattern, press the snowflakes down with your thumb to secure them in place.

Let your imagination be your guide in creating your pattern. 

To create my ornament, I placed a row of snowflakes around the middle of the ball. On the bottom centre of the ball, I put a full snowflake. At the top of the ornament, I used fan-shaped sections, which I created by cutting up full snowflakes with my scissors.  In between the snowflakes, I filled the empty space with individual blue diamonds. 

For this next group of ornaments, I used small individual diamonds and diamonds in a wave-like swirl.

Materials you need for these diamond swirl ornaments:

• a box of clear ornaments 
• stickers with diamond swirls on a transparent backdrop (I found these at Michaels)
• a sheet of individual diamonds (to fill in any gaps- also available at Michaels)
• pair of scissors
• ribbon or a metal hook to hang the finished ornament

There are an amazing array of stickers on a clear backing available. You can find stripes and swirls as well as individual diamonds and pearls to personalize any plain ornament. 

Materials you need for this ornament with bands of pearls:

• a box of ornaments with a pearl finish 
• stickers with bands of pearls (I found these at the Dollar store)
• a sheet of individual pearls (to fill in any gaps -again from the Dollar store)
• pair of scissors
• ribbon or a metal hook to hang the finished ornament

For this ornament, I used a band of different sized pearls. Around the middle of the ornament I ran one long stripe of pearls ( two bands pieced together). Then I cut the band into smaller sections and used it to add v-shaped lines of pearls that run from the top and bottom of the ornament to the middle. If you have any gaps, fill them in with individual pearls like the ones you see on the righthand sheet.

Letters are a great way to tailor an ornament to a gift recipient. For the next ornament, I used a sheet of pearl letters. 

Materials you need to make the ornaments with a recipient's name:

• a box of ornaments with a pearl finish 
• letter stickers with a pearl-finish
• pair of scissors
• ribbon or a metal hook to hang the finished ornament

To frame the name, I used pearl swirls (see an example of one of the sheet of swirls later in this post).

If you don't care for the pearl letters, there are glittery options as well.

Place your finished ornament on a colorful napkin along with a sprig of fresh greenery and you have a keepsake guests can take home after a holiday meal.

Materials you need for these ornaments with a pearl swirl:

• a box of pearl ornaments 
• stickers with swirls that have a pearl finish (I found these at the Dollar store)
• a sheet of individual pearls (to fill in any gaps)
• pair of scissors
• ribbon or a metal hook to hang the finished ornament

I found that the complicated swirls could be become a bit of a nightmare to deal with once you pulled them off the backing paper, so I cut the swirls into smaller sections with my scissors and pieced the sections back together on my ornament.

Super easy and really pretty, these ornaments are a snap to make!

Bookmark this post with a Pin.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Grape Harvest Wreath

I really admire the creative people who come up with original craft projects in magazines and books. It's a fun type of work, but it is not without its frustrations. Take this Grape Harvest Wreath. It got off to a couple of bad starts.

This odyssey first began when I came across bunches of yellow grapes at the Dollar Store. They were cheap plastic grapes, but in the sunlight, they had a lovely glow about them. So I bought all the bunches the store happened to have.

Then I went home and tried to hot glue them to a wreath form. What a disaster! Each bunch of grapes had so many moving parts (grapes)! By the time I had them glued down, there was wads of glue and yet they still weren't entirely secured to the wreath. Discouraged, I set the whole project aside until I could come up with a better idea.

Fresh inspiration struck. I decided tie the bunches of grapes to the wreath with fishing line. This worked perfectly, but it wasn't going to be easy for someone else to replicate. Then I had another creative flash: pin the grapes down first and then secure them permanently with the fishing line! So much easier! This worked like a charm. 

In the end, I am really pleased with the way this wreath turned out. I hope my pictures do it justice because, in real life, the wreath is really pretty.

Here's how you can make this wreath for yourself:

Materials you need to make a Grape Harvest Wreath:

• Assorted faux grapes (see notes on the grapes below)

• Styrofoam wreath (size of your choosing)

• Fireline fishing line (10 lb weight)

• 18 gauge wire (to make pins to hold your grapes on the wreath form)

• Ribbon to hang the finished wreath

Tools you need:

• Wire cutters

• Scissors

A note about the grapes: 

I used two different sized bunches of grapes. I found that the smaller bunches came in handy on the outside and insides edges of my wreath. I also cut a few of the larger bunches into a couple of smaller pieces.

I used a mix of different colored grapes, but you could easily reduce the palette to a couple of colors or even a single color. The grapes I used were yellow, off-white (seen above), medium red and dark red (seen above).

As to the quantity of grapes you'll need that may vary according the size of the wreath you select. For my project, I was very generous with the grapes. For a 12" wreath I used:

8 large bunches of yellow grapes
6 large bunches of off-white grapes
3 large bunches of medium red grapes
2 large bunches of dark red grapes
4 mini bunches off-white grapes
4 mini medium red grapes
4 mini dark red grapes

The wreath (10"inches) I have pictured in this how-to demonstration would use less grapes.

How to make the wreath:

Step 1: Using your wire cutters, cut 2" segments of 18 gauge wire. Bend the wire segments into U-shaped pins. 

Step 2: Using the pins you've made, start pinning the grapes onto the styrofoam wreath. Try to catch the main branch holding the grapes together with each of the pins to make your bunches are well fastened to the wreath. I'd recommend using at least 4 pins for a large bunch of grapes.

Step 3: I worked with the large bunches first and tried to drape them attractively over the hump of the wreath. 

Step 4: Go back and fill in any gaps with smaller bunches of grapes. 

Step 5: As I indicated earlier, a single bunch of grapes has many small moving parts/grapes. Once you have all the grapes pinned to the wreath, you want to secure them so there is no way they can move and pull the pins loose.

Work a length of the Fireline fishing line in among the grapes on the face of the wreath and then gently turn the wreath over. Make a knot on the back of the wreath and pull it tight. Don't cut the ends!

Step 6: Circle round and round the full circumference of the wreath feeding the fishing line in among the grapes, so it disappears. The goal is to tie down all the grapes, so they are really secure and won't move. When you have finished wrapping the entire wreath, cut the fishing line and tie a knot to close the line.

Step 7: Make a loop of ribbon and a bow to hang your wreath. Your done!

 Hang and enjoy your Grape Harvest Wreath!