Controlling pests used to be a matter of which chemical to spray or dust over your plants – but in many cases these chemicals have now been withdrawn from sale. Gardeners today must find pest control methods that don’t cause damage to people or the environment. Here are some popular and useful methods to try.
Insects and other pests evolved along with plants and will always be present. The sensible gardener accepts that low levels of pest attack are inevitable. The time to take action is when intensive attacks cause real damage, and as soon as any pests are seen. Prevention is better than cure.
Good growing conditions
Strong plants are better able to resist attacks from pests and also diseases. So keep plants weed-free and well-spaced to ensure they have adequate access to light and nutrients in the soil. See Controlling Weeds for more tips on battling weeds.
Good drainage is essential for healthy growth. It’s best to correct problems before any new planting. Avoid over-applying fertilisers – this causes weak, sappy growth that is attractive to pests. Start right by rotating vegetable crops and selecting plants more resistant to pests and diseases.
The biggest enemies of pests are other insects and animals that eat them! So encourage birds, beetles, frogs and toads into your garden to keep down pest numbers. See Wildlife Gardening for more tips on encouraging wildlife into your garden.
If you grow nectar-bearing plants they will attract insects such as hoverflies and ladybirds that help control aphids. Avoid planting large numbers of the same plant together, especially vegetables, as this helps pests spread.
Always examine new plants carefully – they can bring new pests into your garden.
Examine your garden regularly to reveal pest attacks that can be halted before they become a major problem. Spotting and squashing aphid attacks on new growth can prevent massive numbers of greenfly in future. The same applies to moth and butterfly eggs which soon develop into caterpillars. If numbers are too high for this approach, try washing off pests with jets of water.
Use mechanical barriers and traps – such as codling moth phenemone traps on apples. Fleece will stop almost all flying insect pests taking hold. Slug traps will help control one of the worst plant pests.
Using chemicals to control pests should always be a last resort and then should only be used infrequently, never used widespread over your garden. Think twice before using chemicals on crops that will eventually be eaten. Never use old chemicals – they will have been withdrawn from sale for good reasons!