Hunting Out Those Pests!

May 17, 2012

It’s so satisfying seeing one’s hard work paying off in the garden with healthy plants blooming making a garden look great… however lurking in the undergrowth are some unwelcome garden visitors that are just waiting to munch away and destroy your hard labour.

Number one on the garden pest hit list are slugs and snails. These invaders will quite happily eat through soft young growth on herbaceous plants and vegetables. Nature’s way of controlling these pests is to encourage birds, hedgehogs, frogs and toads into the garden to help eat them up.

Another way is to collect slugs and snails after dark by torchlight on mild evenings, as this is when you’ll more likely to find them feeding. What you then do with the slugs and snails is up to you, but I always prefer a biological approach to eradicating these pests from my garden.

Vine weevil is another pest you need to look out for. The adult vine weevil beetle emerges at night and damages plants by eating around the edges of leaves leaving tell-tale irregular notches. It then lays its eggs mainly in flowerpots and the larvae (which look like maggots) will feed on the roots of the plant and will cause the plant to wilt and quite possibly die. To try and get rid of them you could search for them by torchlight and remove the feeding beetle from the plant.

You can also use a biological control method whereby you water the soil with nematodes, which then in turn will eat into the vine weevil grubs. Remember to use this watering method by watering your flowerpots in late summer while the soil is warm and moist.

You may recall that last year we have a mini-invasion of ants. Although ants cause little direct damage to plants they’re more of a nuisance than a pest. They make nests by heaping small mounds of fine soil on lawns, flowerbeds and pathways. Ants also collect the sugary honeydew that is excreted by sap-feeding aphids and in the process the ants drive off the useful aphid predators. Although we can’t totally eliminate ants from our gardens, we can reduce their numbers by hunting out their nest site and then dealing with the source of the ants.

One rather troublesome sap-feeding aphid is the Woolly aphid, so called because of the fluffy white waxy substance it develops on the bark of trunks and branches of trees and shrubs during the middle to late spring. There are various sprays that can be used but a heavy infestation is difficult to control. If you have the patience, then you can use a soft bush with which you could brush away the fluffy white substance.

Another method I have heard of, but not tried myself, is to paint menthylated spirit onto the affected area. You could also try some companion planting of Nasturtiums around under the infected tree or shrub.

So, if you think that your garden looks nice and that all is well… beware… as there may be hidden dangers lurking… just waiting to eat away at your favourite plants and shrubs.

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