The good news for gardeners is that right about now, as summer establishes itself, we are seeing the fruits of our labour begin to reveal themselves in our garden spaces and we can begin to (literally) taste the rewards of what we have grown. Whether it be the first crop of carrots picked from the ground or raspberries that are ripe and heavy on the vine.
Sadly, we are not the only ones aware of the bounty available and it is around this time that pests will start to make themselves known in our gardens, eating or causing damage to produce. What we will share here are techniques and practices used to deter these pests from your vegetables and plants, allowing you to find your produce free from being nibbled, or in some cases chomped on, before you have the chance to sample it yourself.
Let’s start small shall we, and work our way up in pest size? Starting with the blackfly.
Blackflies are tiny aphids that can coat the underside of leaves and stems, of beans in particular, and draw out sap from the plant. Weakening the plant and producing misshapen produce.
Natural deterrents exist already as blackfly have many predators already out in the garden including ladybirds, hoverfly larvae and wasps. Ants are also known to harvest blackfly and will often be seen going about their business amongst them. If numbers are monitored and kept low in spring, it could be that nature lends a sufficient helping hand in keeping blackfly numbers low over the rest of the growing season.
It may be worth producing your own homemade organic control by mixing garlic and washing up liquid with water which can be sprayed on plants to ward away any troublesome blackfly. Just try not to do this when plants are in flower so as not to confuse any potential pollinators.
Wearing gloves, you can also brush the blackfly off your vegetables. The reasoning for the gloves is that as you do this you will more likely squash the blackfly and produce a surprisingly large amount of gunky residue that you won’t particularly enjoy on your hands.
It is worth remembering that caterpillars that will happily munch through many of your brassicas, so you want to catch them before they have the chance to get near them. So, we are looking at deterring not the caterpillar itself but the butterflies that lay the eggs that produce them. In particular the cabbage white butterfly with its distinctive white colouring.
Butterflies can be kept away physically using netting. Just make sure you get it up early otherwise you may be creating a butterfly menagerie in your garden. Hoops may enable the meshing to not touch leaves but can also stretch the meshing to allow some smaller insects in. If the netting should touch the leaves of your plants, smaller eggs can still be laid on them. The edges of the netting should be dug or healed into the ground to at least 5-6cm.
Pathogenic nematodes are also available online. These will keep caterpillar numbers down but are most effective in damp conditions so it is worth remembering to water your plants once released. The positives of applying nematodes is that they are biological deterrent, and are therefore chemical free and will not cause damage to your plants or to wildlife around them.
In many people’s eyes the most unfavourable of the pests we come up against. In favourably wet conditions these glutenous gastropods can lay waste to many of our best planting efforts.
There are many tips shared amongst gardeners about what can be laid around your vegetable bed to deter slugs and snails from your growing area, these include coffee grounds, baked and ground up eggshells and copper wire. These can have varying levels of success but unfortunately in our experience none of these have proved to be the silver bullet. Beer traps can also prove to have some effect without having to turn to chemical means.
If you do however decide to turn to a chemical solution, there are slug pellets on the market that can be effective. It is worth remembering however that these can have a negative impact on some of the more welcome visitors to the garden, such as birds, which can mistakenly ingest the pellets. For this reason chemical pellets are frowned upon in many circles. Wool pellets however are organic and biodegradable and are of less harm to surrounding wildlife.
It is also worth remembering that slugs are a favourite tipple to birds, toads and hedgehogs alike. All of which should be encouraged into our green spaces.
There is also the physical option of staying up late with a torch at night when slugs and snails are at large. But you are then faced with what you do with a bucket/shoe box of slugs.
Pigeons may take a fancy to some of your growing endeavours and are prone to ripping off leafy material from plants until all you are left with is bare stalks. The same netting put up to stop butterflies should also stop this feathered foe from nibbling your vegetable leaves.
In our current climate with fewer restaurants open and therefore less food easily accessible it has been noted that rats may make their way towards our own back gardens to find sustenance.
In this case, the best solution is to make sure your home is not attractive to this particular pest. Make sure your compost bins are secure and that you are not putting in meat products or anything that may entice rats to it. Make sure bird feeders are not overly laden with food also.
Should you find rats are becoming commonplace in your garden you can contact your local council for advice.
Squirrels are more of an issue in the winter and spring when they are on the hunt for any bulbs they can get their paws on, they are still very happy to dig up many a newly established planter in their mission to stash nuts and other food for themselves.
Broken up cd’s can be effective at warding of squirrels from your growing areas as they do not like shiny objects. This reasoning has been used to such an extent that at Thrive we have also deployed lengths of tinfoil wrapped around string, and the odd toy windmill and tinsel in the height of summer on vegetable beds as well.
Some also suggest that cayenne or chilli pepper being sprinkled around plants and on beds may deter them.