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GARDENING Tackling garden pests

Outdoor Living

How to handle those garden pests

Hans Wieland

There are many enemies lying in wait ready to attack your vegetable patch. The organic approach to pests and diseases is a preventative one, whereby through a variety of methods such as companion planting and crop rotation we create the conditions where such problems are less likely to take hold in the first place. However, no garden can ever be trouble free, and the key thing in pest control is constant vigilance.

Slugs and snails

In our damp climate the menace of slugs and snails is a continual threat. After a spell of rain they will advance voraciously consuming any tasty veggie in their path! Seedlings that have been sown directly into the soil are especially vulnerable. Plants raised previously in modules are more established and have a greater chance of survival so choose this method of propagation wherever possible.
There are organic slug pellets on the market, completely harmless to birds and other wildlife, but try one or more of these organic approaches:

*Predators will eat slugs and snails. Encourage wildlife into your garden; a small pond is ideal, but an upturned dustbin lid with fine gravel in the bottom will attract birds to bathe and drink. Birds, beetles, centipedes, hedgehogs and frogs all eat these pests.
*Wood-ash is a great deterrent to slimy slugs. Just as new growth emerges, spread a good layer of it over delphiniums, hostas and any other plants you noticed being attacked previously. This deters slugs but doesn’t kill them.
*Slug sun shades - Slugs and snails like cool, dark, moist places, so orange skins, marrow shells, small wet pieces of carpet and flat bits of rotten wood or stone put on the ground near vulnerable plants will make excellent traps. Look underneath these regularly, and drop the pests into salty water.
*Save all your egg-shells, dry and crush them, and store till needed. Sprinkle them round plants you want to protect – the shells are spiky and unattractive to molluscs.

Other pests and diseases
Greenfly/Whitefly - Grow nasturtiums or marigolds in small groups round the vegetable garden and among tomatoes. Catmint or lavender will repel these pests in the flower border and rose-bed.
Carrot-fly - Grow onions, leeks or perennial tansy (which is the best) alongside your carrots.
Blackfly on broad beans - Sow Summer Savory seeds along the outside of your bean row: the smell of the plants will repel blackfly. To be safe, do this with French and runner beans as well.
Fleabeetle - attack the leaves of radish, turnip and Brassicas. Scatter sprigs of mint, bergamot or catmint to disperse them.
Potato Scab - A mixture of wilted comfrey and grass mowings in the bottom of the potato trench is said to prevent this. Lime causes scab, so only apply after the potatoes have been harvested.
Wasps - Early in the year are useful, as they eat aphids, but in the autumn you will have to hang bottles with a little sweet water on your trees, to trap the wasps and protect your fruit.
Pigeons - They will strip your Brassicas of leaves, especially sprouts, which they love. Buzzline bird-scarer tied to canes round the patch will whirr in the wind and deter them.
Rooks - Rooks love apples, so tie Buzzline bird-scarer as high up as possible from tree to tree, and the noise will keep most of them at bay.