Organic pest control vegetable garden
Tips for organic pest control in the vegetable garden
There is nothing so heartbreaking nor infuriating in equal measure as finding a row of fruit or vegetables you are growing and eagerly awaiting eating has been attacked by pests or blighted by disease. It is a waste of time, effort and money. Pre-emptive measures are easier and more effective than trying to deal with the problems once they have been established. This is particularly true if you like me are a weekend grower and make infrequent visits to your plot. A vast amount of damage can be done in a week and quick fixes don’t really exist – once a seedling stem is gnawed through it is dead, as soon as rabbits find the salads leaves they are gone and once butterfly eggs hatch into caterpillars on cabbages they are done too!. I choose not to use any chemical sprays as a part of my organic pest control vegetable garden. So the what I’m trying to say is prevention is better than cure. Protect crops from the most likely diseases and pests and where possible choose cultivators that have a disease resistance variety, this is a great strategy if you have had associated problems in previous years.
Other general strategies can help keep potential problems in check. Growing healthy hearty plants in the best conditions you can provide will better equip them to withstand an attack. Buy plants and seeds from reputable sources, don’t be seduced by lavish, lush forced growth that is attractive to pests. Tidy up when you can. Never put diseased plants on the compost heap as spores and viruses will probably survive the composting process and be spread around the garden the following year. beware of gifts from other gardeners; it may seem ungrateful but those spare bare root fruit canes, rhubarb crowns or whatever may be the gardening equivalent to a Trojan Horse, hiding any number of pests and viruses.
Predators in the organic pest control vegetable garden
Slugs and snails
I have tried numerous methods to deter slugs and snails. They are one of the most universally destructive forces lightly to damage the vegetable garden, as they will eat entire seedlings, ravage brassicas, eat into potatoes and savage salad crops- the list is endless. the good news is once they are large enough most plants can withstand a little damage. there are various gels and crushed minerals that can be spread around vegetable plants to prevent the slugs and snails getting near the plants. I have tried many but most have little to no effect in the long term, as they often wash away and there is also the cost to consider. Some gardeners swear by that give a small electric charge that deter slugs, but to protect everything would be quite an investment, although they can be used year after year. You can attempt to reduce the population with beer traps and by constructing dark damp slug hiding places for them so they can be collected. However, you would have to be very determined to have a significant effect.
Slugs have some natural predators such as ground beetles,
although to entice them into the garden you would have to create the same environment that the snails and slugs thrive on. hedgehogs frogs and toads also do the job if you can entice them into your garden.
I have found simple physical barriers as effective, if not more effective than anything else. A simple plastic bottle with the bottom cut off, pushed well into the ground, will form a cloche around a seedling to protect it until it is big enough to withstand attack. Plastic rings with down turned lips from a garden centre will do the same thing, just keeping the place tidy will help, leaving nowhere for the slugs and snails to hide.
Rabbits and Dear
rabbits and dear can cause tremendous damage to crops. In the case of dear it seems to be a case of inquisitiveness that causes them to uproot plants. The only way to really protect your garden does take an incredible amount of effort- a fence that is dug in to the ground to a depth of at least 8-10 inches will thwart rabbits and one 7-8 ft tall will stop deer jumping the barrier.
mice will dig out pea and bean seeds, leaving a depression where you are expecting a seedling.Sowing when other food sources are scarce is more risky. the first time I planted brad beans to try and over winter them I couldn’t understand why every single seed had failed until I looked closer to discover a zigzag pattern of holes over the bed- every seed had been eaten. now I always pin down double thickness chicken wire over the beds
until the seeds are through. You can soak peas and bean seeds in seaweed fertilizer to put the rodents off the scent, or try using spiky holly leaves to protect the seeds, but this seems a little haphazard to me.
Birds will eat soft fruit, peck holes in young brassicas and pull onion sets out of the ground. There are two options: scare them away or cover the vulnerable crops. Moving and shiny objects will deter birds, but it pays to move them every so often. I have made my own shiny aluminum spirals that twirl on thin elastic and while I like the look of them the birds don’t. I also use old CD’s that glint and shine in the sun light. To protect crops I use chicken wire tunnels, which help keep the butterflies off too. There are thin meshes available but I find the number of birds liable to get tangled in it unacceptable.
Aphids include greenfly and blackfly in their prodigious numbers. They suck the sap of plants, slightly weakening them,but the main problem is that they can spread disease. preparing salad leaves littered with greenfly is tedious and off putting. Covering salad crops with a floating layer of fleece solves this problem and pinching the tips out of broad bean plants will slow down the blackfly that almost inevitably infest them. As a group these are perhaps the most common pests and the best way to keep them in check is to encourage their natural predators, which are ladybirds, lacewings and hoverfly. All should be a part of a bio-diverse garden, but they can be encouraged by companion planting and providing special boxes for over wintering.
Pesticides are available for edible crops, although there number is becoming even more limited. I choose not to use them, but if you do, carefully read the manufactures instructions and apply them only to the crops recommended. It is a personal choice but I would rather rely on all the other measures listed here to protect my crops and tolerate a little damage than use synthetic pesticide on plants I give my family to eat.
Butterflies are one of the joys of the garden in summer and in most parts of the garden they are a welcome visitor, with many of us planting nectar rich plants to encourage them.
Sadly they don’t stay in the flower garden and the caterpillars of a few species can wreck brassicas. The biggest problem is cabbage white, which lay its eggs on the brassicas’ leaves where they hatch into caterpillars who then eat the cabbages until the leaves look like lace. The easiest solution is to prevent the butterflies getting to the plants using home spun chicken wire cloches or sheets of insect proof mesh.
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