This year, as your garden sheds its winter mantle, consider safer alternatives for keeping your plants healthy and pest-free.
Make use of natural predators and encourage plant-friendly insects and other creatures, such as lizards, frogs, beetles and ladybirds, into your garden, where they will devour many harmful pests.
Don't allow plants to become overcrowded by growing them too close together. They may grow weak and subsequently be prone to insects and diseases.
Plant species according to their needs, and don't plant shade-loving varieties in full sun and vice versa.
It is also important to practice basic garden hygiene by keeping your garden free of weeds, removing any diseased plants, and pick up fallen fruit from the base of fruit trees.
Herbs have great pest-repellent qualities.
Basil will repel house and fruit flies, mint will repel ants, flies and black beetle and rosemary repels carrot fly and cabbage moths.
Bitter herbs such as southernwood, wormwood, rue and mugwort (Artemisia spp.) will not only repel slugs and insects, but also discourage mice and birds from eating newly-planted seeds.
Dry the herbs first, then powder them by rubbing through a fine wire sieve.
Sprinkle this powder over the garden bed and cover with a sprinkling of earth.
Mustard (Brassica nigra) is also an excellent pesticide, so grow a bed of it, and when in flower cut it down and dig into the ground to eliminate insect pests and their eggs.
Cayenne powder can be dusted on fruit trees before the fruit ripens to discourage fruit flies and also be dusted on cabbages, cauliflowers, and tomato plants to kill caterpillars.
To make cayenne powder, grind up dried red chillies with a pestle and mortar until they are powdered.
Store in a suitable container with holes in its lid and use as required. Wear rubber gloves, and do not touch your face, mouth or eyes as it burns and irritates for quite a long time.
If you must spray, an insecticide that is particularly effective against scale, thrips, mites and aphids, can be made from onion and garlic.
Put three chopped onions, four chopped garlic cloves, two tablespoons of cayenne pepper and half-a-litre of water in a liquidising blender. Whirl at high speed until thoroughly blended and liquid. Next dissolve one tablespoon of pure grated soap or soap flakes in half-a-litre of water and then mix this soap solution with onion/garlic liquid.
Store in a tightly-sealed glass bottle, label and keep out of reach of children. Spray as required on affected ornamentals or vegetables.