Part of keeping your plants in good condition is to be able to recognise and deal with pests promptly. Having a garden microscope can be useful. Using biological controls can be powerful – and knowing what deficiency diseases look like can save you time, money and energy.
We have got used to the idea that to get rid of pests we need chemicals. However we need to be more aware of what we’re really doing. Fundamentally when we garden we are manipulating nature to produce food for ourselves or to create a pleasant environment. And we can work with the natural ecology with respect or we can impose our will on it – in the short term at least.
Because we are creating unbalanced environments, this means that in the natural order of things, some specific predators will be attracted, particularly if we have created, lush sappy growth by too liberal fertilisation that’s just soft and easy to pierce for the mouthpieces of our pests. If we plant a whole stand of stuff that’s all the same (like 4000 acres of wheat or even a hectare or 2 of lettuces it just asks for the pests to pitch up knives and forks in hand.
What can you do? One tried and tested technique is to mix blocks of planting around so there’s never too much of one crop together. Sometimes you can plant “companion” plants which help mask the scent or even secrete compounds that deter pests – like our friendly tagetes (marigold) plants we have round the tomatoes this year.
However you can also take a leaf out of nature’s book as it were and set pests to catch pests. Mostly these work best in a confined space like a greenhouse but some, like nematodes can be watered onto the ground outside to attack slugs or the chafer bugs and leather jackets that make such a mess of the lawn. In fact nematodes of different types attack a wide range of pests including vine weevil, sciarid fly, thrips and caterpillars.
Other pests that can be dealt with by biological controls are aphids, red spider mite and whitefly. Encarsia, aphidius and the larvae of ladybirds and lacewings are all useful tools to keep pests in balance in the greehouse.
They are working with nature to reduce the pest population to a manageable level rather than eradicate it entirely. And they are a great example of the application of science to maintain a balanced growing environment.
Common pests and their solutions
- All you ever wanted to know about how these wonderful little worms are the gardener’s friend – and the pest’s nightmare
- How you can use biological controls to deal with this perennial garden pest
- Red Spider Mite
- What you need to know to tackle this very common green house pest.
- Death to Caterpillars
- Nothing is more dispiriting than watching your cabbages being munched up. Here’s an organic way to get back at the little blighters.
- A prevalent greenhouse pest that saps the life out of crops from brassicas to tomatoes