Q: I've planted vegetables and herbs this year, but they're getting kind of buggy. Are there safe pesticides I can use?
CLAUDIA V., BOISE, IDAHO
A: Pesticides are responsible for allowing farmers to grow huge quantities of crops for an ever-expanding population, but - and it's a big but - we keep finding out they have all kinds of unintended side effects that damage bees (fewer bees, less pollination, fewer crops), disrupt hormone function in people, animals, fish and insects, and trigger cancer (such as leukemia).
Pesticides that are banned for use on agriculture in this country (and manufactured by U.S. companies) are shipped overseas for use on vegetables that are then imported back here.
Many home gardeners make their own pesticides. Some of our favorites:
Throw a kegger for slugs. Shallow plates of beer set out around plants (slugs love strawberries, corn, beans, lettuce ... and beer) will distract and drown the plant-munching pests.
Bugs hate garlic and onions. Soak leftover skins and ends, with a hot pepper in a bucket of water for 48 hours. Strain and spray to discourage aphids, grasshoppers, and chewing and sucking insects.
Juice 'em up: Use the peel of four organic lemons and their juice; steep in 1 gallon of hot water. (Some people add a teaspoon of natural soap.) Strain and spray to control aphids.
Counterattack: Plant radishes next to cucumbers to scare away beetles; and rosemary, mint and thyme near cabbage to scare away cabbage worms.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.