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Pests and Diseases

 

We all know about making a garlic spray but make a similar spray from chillies and combine the two. The garlic acts as a repellent and the chilli acts as a pesticide.

Aphids


A family which includes all those sap-sucking beauties like greenfly, blackfly and whitefly. They seem particularly fond of tender young growth and are a menace on all sorts of plants: apple tree leaves, cabbage leaves, runner beans, roses, they are everywhere. It is nice to know there is also a huge varierty of creatures that love to munch on aphids: ladybirds, wasps, hoverflies and birds. This means it could be a bit counterproductive to spray them with chemicals as you could also be killing off the very things which control them and some pollinating insects necessary for any sort of crop. So what can you do? It depends on how squeamish you are; the easiest way to remove blackfly from runner beans is to run your finger and thumb along the stems and leaves and just squidge them. If you can't face that a blast of water will get rid of them but, as ever, prevention is better than cure so on the plot just covering vulnreable crops such as lettuce with a fleece may do the trick. If you feel you must resort to chemicals try and choose an organic, environmentally friendly one. Some of us even use a washing up liquid solution which at least means very clean aphids if it fails to kill them. Or boil 2 cloves of garlic in some water, put cooled water into spray and apply to affected plants

Blight

If it happens at all it happens very quickly and can spread through the whole site.

The Potato Council advise on blight but see also blightwatch.

Caterpillars

It is nice to know that there are birds and insects that like to eat caterpillars. Some of them turn into lovely butterflies but those we are likely to come into contact with are the dreaded "cabbage" whites. These caterpillars are voracious and happy the gardener who sees them all eaten by birds. I wish! Fortunately they are relatively easy to spot (the little green ones can be tricky admittedly) and grab hold of so just use your fingers and remove them then you can dispose of them. (I leave this to your imagination but throwing them onto someone else's plot is very anti-social). Some gardeners try to protect their plots with netting or fleece but be careful on soft fruit bushes as you could keep out pollinating insects. One of their favourite crops appears to be cabbage and if left unchecked they will shred your plants. The answer is to inspect them regularly and look for the clumps of eggs on the underside ot the leaces and just squash them. You will be lucky to get them all but it will have a sicnificant impact and you will be able to pick off those that emerge.

Slugs and Snails

The gardener's worst enemies? Practically impossible to eradicate. Of course you can dose them with piles of little blue pellets but the poisoned slugs probably don't do a lot of good to our gardener-friendly hedgehogs and toads, so here's some alternative strategies:

Barrier techniques

Crushed egg shells, grit, gravel, pine needles and soot around your plants have all proved useful barriers which slugs do not enjoy crossing but what about porridge oats? Apparently when the slugs eat them it does something to their insides and can even cause them to explode. Nice! Reputedly there are some things they don't like the smell of so growing chives, garlic, mint, geraniums, fennel or foxgloves round the edges will afford some protection. They do say human hair placed around plants is a slug deterrent.
For plants in containers you can get adhesive copper tape which is supposed to give them a shock or smear petroleum jelly round the pots. Gravel in my pots protected my hostas for years ........... to some extent.

Traps

The best known of these must be the beer traps. Just put some in a fairly shallow dish and they can't resist it and they drown in the process. Don't waste GOOD beer, they're not that discerning. In fact some hardened beer drinkers reckon you're as well off using Coke or coffee - the caffeine has a funny effect on them.

Then there's grapefruits. You get to eat the grapefruit yourself but the upturned skin of half a grapefruit is pretty irresistible to a slug and you'll find them collected underneath. If you want, you can even cut a bit out and make a door for them to get in.
Strips of old carpet soaked in water have a similar effect and can be used time and again until they get just too slimy.

Predators

Some critters actually enjoy a bit of a munch on slugs and so are to be encouraged. A little pond should bring in a few slug-gobbling frogs and a bird table + feeders some birds to pick them off. Birds also like caterpillars and greenfly but don't make your bird table too big as you don't want to encourage those cabbage-fancying pigeons.

Hunting

Slugs are nocturnal feeders by and large so when it gets dark get your torch and hunt them down. If you're squeamish about squidging them under your boot or slicing with a well aimed spade or trowel, you can always sprinkle a bit of salt over them and watch them bubble dry in about a minute. If you are not so squeamish gather them up and drown them in a bucket of salty water.You can always try keeping your garden area nice and tidy and free of all the rubbish they like to hide under in the daytime but it's not easy so arm yourself for the forthcoming war.

See also Slugs and Snails and Old Wives' Tales