SACRAMENTO -- July could be called Summer Beasty Month for home gardeners. There are yellow jackets to make our picnics less enjoyable, weeds to distract us from our smooth lawn, corn smut and earworms to make eating our corn difficult, and tomato hornworms to beat us to our reason for gardening in the first place. Yellow jackets That unwelcome buzzing confirms that we forgot to put out the traps last spring to catch the queens. Now, we're tempted to grab the aerosol pesticide to blast the nest from as far away as possible. The happy news is that you can, but with mint oil instead of a toxic pesticide. A product called Victor Poison-Free Wasp & Hornet Killer (Woodstream Corp.) is available at a variety of retailers, including most Ace Hardware stoes. Besides the killing agent of mint oil, the product contains sodium lauryl sulfate, a foaming agent commonly used in toothpaste, shampoo and other household products. Weeds, especially dandelions Prevention, of course, is the first step. For lawns, keep them healthy and thick through proper irrigation, fertilization, aeration, overseeding and mowing high. For other areas, mulch will keep plant roots cool, conserve moisture and deter weed seed from germinating. In driveway and pavement cracks, flame weeders and natural herbicides made from essential oils, soap or vinegar are a good bet. An organic herbicide, Burnout, is made from clove oil, vinegar, citric acid (lemon juice), lecithin, mineral oil and sodium lauryl sulfate. Mechanical tools work well when soil is moist and you get most of the tap root. Corn smut Those scary-looking galls are normal corn kernels that have mutated into bloated gray-black puffs of spores. Smut prefers dry conditions and temperatures between 73 and 93 degrees. Infection is made worse after heavy applications of nitrogen (including manure) or after plant injury. Spores winter-over in the soil and get onto new plants by splashing water and air currents. No chemical spray is effective to control smut. Instead, use varieties adapted to our area that may have some resistance. Use organic slow-release fertilizers following the recommendations of a soil analysis. Rotate crops. Remove and dispose of infected ears - don't put them into your compost pile. Corn earworms This little caterpillar mined its way into the tip of the corn, leaving mushy droppings along the way. Trichogramma wasps, lacewings, minute pirate bugs and damsel bugs provide some control. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) can also help combat this pest. Applying mineral oil to the silk of each ear with a medicine dropper will help deter the worm from entering. Perhaps the easiest approach is to simply cut off the damaged end before cooking. Tomato hornworms This caterpillar is usually hard to find because it's the exact same color as the plant it eats. Its distinguishing marks include diagonal stripes and its "horn" on its tail. They're easier to find on the plant by looking above an accumulation of the black pellets and by sprinkling the plant - the hornworms will wiggle trying to get the water off them. Mother Nature's organic controls include braconid wasp larvae, tiny white cocoons riding on the caterpillar's backs. Another is trichogramma wasps, which lay their eggs in the hornworm's eggs, preventing them from emerging. A third is a caterpillar disease, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is most effective as a spray and is generally available at nurseries; it breaks down within a week of spraying, so as more moths lay more eggs, you'll need to reapply it. Rotating crops also helps minimize this pest problem.