When I asked for suggestions for future Top 5s recently both Amber and Nina requested posts about pests. This particular idea is Nina’s but I think it will cover some of the areas Amber asked for as well. Thank You to both of you!!!!
Pests are a pain and even if you aren’t evangelistic about organics I don’t know many gardeners who want to be spraying stuff all round their plot. These are my top 5 organic ways to limit the damage caused by common garden pests.
1. Avoid them in the first place. Whilst this doesn’t work for all pests you can limit the damage of a great many of them by avoiding them in the first place. This is best achieved via planting a variety of plants and keeping those plants as healthy as possible. The variety of plants ensures that you don’t give pests an obvious place to congregate. Keeping them healthy ensures that they both resist pests and put on enough growth that a bit of damage becomes far less of a problem. Plant health revolves around favourable growing conditions – right amount of warmth or cold, usually full sun, water and most importantly really good growing medium. Look after your soil and hopefully the plants will do a lot of your pest resisting work for you.
2. Create a physical barrier. Whether it be elevating your pots to avoid carrot fly as Mark does, bagging your fruits as L from 500 m2 in Sydney does to protect tomatoes from fruit fly or netting entire plants to prevent bird attack as Bek does, the barrier should hopefully keep the pests away from precious crops. Personally I have some cages that I place over newly planted seedlings to keep both small children and marauding blackbirds away from developing seedlings.
3. Round up. No I don’t mean the weed killer, I mean a systematic plan to ferret out pests and dispose of them. To seek and destroy slugs & snails turn over pots, look under stones, in the inside of pot rims and so on. Better yet go out at night with a torch and catch them in the middle of destroying your precious lettuce seedlings. For cabbage moths I find the easiest way is to run your hands over the underside of brassica leaves thus squashing the eggs and tiny caterpillars before they cause much damage. Of course this technique only works with pests big enough to spot and slow enough to catch but quite a few of the most common pests fall into that category.
4. Pyrethrum spray – When all else fails I have to admit I do find pyrethrum quite useful. Pyrethrum will kill all insects including beneficial ones so it is important to both; only use it as a last resort – for me black aphids usually fit this category, and to check for ladybirds etc before spraying. Pyrethrum is made from pyrethrum daisy flowers so it is often regarded as organic, but spraying it out of a bottle isn’t really ‘natural’ so this option will not appeal to everyone.
5. Traps – We use mouse traps in the garden occasionally (although not altogether successfully). Ditto rat traps. But the most effective traps I know are beer traps for slugs and snails. Placed near a valued seedling I find that they are generally effective at keeping the slugs and snails away from the plant and happily(?) drowning in beer. The down sides of beer traps are: less beer to drink, it is a fairly expensive option unless you brew your own and it only works on a comparatively small area.
So what measures do you really rate? Coffee grounds? Chilli and garlic spray? Copper Rings? Pyrotechnics? or something else? I would love to hear what works for you.