We thought we would cover this subject and hope that you find it helpful. Although we can't cover absolutely everything in huge detail in one blog we will do our best to give you a clear and concise overview.
The first thing we can do is to realise that we can do things to attract pests but equally there are some management techniques we can apply to deter them too. We have used both The Allotment Book by Andi Clevely and Allotment month by month by Alan Buckingham for reference. We highly recommend both books, especially if you are just starting out,
Due to our 'green' ethos we will not be advocating use of any chemical solutions although we do have to acknowledge that they are widely available. The trouble is they kill off the good as well as the bad.
Pests are inevitable, and are just part of our gardening journey. Here are some easy points to try to reduce your risk.
- Strengthen the health of your plants by keeping your soil well drained and its biome healthy (see Novembers blog for more details on soil biome). Dress at least once a year with organic material.
- Till around and between crops to expose pests living in the soil to predators. If you have chickens you could hand pick any exposed grubs and larvae and give them as a snack - they will love you for it.
- Do not sow in cold conditions.
- Follow a good crop rotation regime - See February 2024 blog.
- Carefully handle plants so as not to cause damage and weaken them.
- Do not take shortcuts when it comes to hardening your plants off.
- Use companion planting to attract friendly predators to assist you.
- Create habitats preferred by your allies. e.g. a pond area for frogs, toads and newts. A small stumpery, bug houses and rocks for insects to over winter in and under.
Let's move on to specific pests.
Aphids - Can be black, green or grey, some with wings and some without. These will suck the sap, weaken and distort growth and transmit virus and disease. Their excretions support mould. Protect vulnerable plants with fleece, encourage the aid of friendly birds and insects, manually rub off or spray off with water or use insecticidal soap.
Caterpillars & Grubs - May be easily seen on your plants or in your soils. They mostly damage your plants by eating them. Manually pick off and destroy, spray with salt water and cultivate your soil, as mentioned above, to expose to predators.
Slugs & Snails - Also covered in the blog of June 2023. Thrive in damp conditions and do most damage at night. Some live in the soil and eat tubers and leaves of your plants. They devastate seedlings. In brief hand pick in the evenings, especially on damp days and check under leaves etc. Set beer traps or create barriers, for more in depth information please do read the June 2023 blog. Encourage frogs, toads, newts and birds.
Red Spider Mites - Another sap sucker, these however thrive in warm, dry conditions so therefore they love a greenhouse. You will notice leaves with yellow spots and a bronze glow. Keep your plants moist, mist foliage and regularly damp down when under glass. Spray with insecticidal soap and there are some predatory mites that you can introduce.