How to Prevent and Control Garden Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases are killers for plants and need to be kept at bay. Pest and disease control falls into two categories: prevention and cure.

Prevention

Firstly buy only the choicest plant specimens. Choose the most healthy, vigorous-looking plants and cheek that their roots are not pot-bound, and that the plant is not dried out or already harbouring some pest or disease, you can often tell if a plant has been too long in its container as there is moss growing on the surface of the compost. Check also that you are not inadvertently buying some weeds along with your plant – the last thing anyone wants to do is to introduce vet another problem into the garden. Certain plants have been bred with disease-resistant varieties. Seek these out wherever possible as it will save a lot of trouble later on, especially if you are growing roses.

gardening diseases How to Prevent and Control Garden Pests and Diseases

Follow the recommendations as to planting position and conditions exactly, for if you place a plant in an unsuitable position it will not thrive, no mailer how healthy it is initially, or however much love, care and attention you lavish on it.

Practice good husbandry. Clear away weeds and debris which could provide hiding places for pests or act as a breeding ground for disease. Remove any dead, damaged or diseased parts of plants, and always burn such material. Clean out the greenhouse regularly and be meticulous about cleaning and disinfecting your tools, especially secateurs, shears and pots to prevent the spread of infection.

Erect barriers to deter pests. For example net vegetables and grow soli fruit in a simple cage to keep the birds away. Protect fruit trees from pests by putting a grease band around the trunk in winter.

Spread gravel, prickly holly leaves or soot around the base of vulnerable plants, or, if they are grown in pots, paint pest-control glue around the rims. Slugs and snails cannot bear to cross such protective barriers and gravel has the added advantage of acting as an excellent mulch.

Cure

If you still have a problem there are numerous methods of controlling pests and diseases. However, do remember that the safest wax is the organic way.

Companion planting

Certain plants, especially vegetables, benefit from companion planting, the growing of one plant beside another specifically to deter pests, distract them from the main plant or attract their predators. Strong-smelling herbs, such as mint, are excellent for this job.

Most people are aware that French marigolds (Tagetes patula) attract hoverflies. which love to eat aphids, therefore it makes sense to grow them beside any vegetable, that is susceptible to aphid attack.

Rosemary and lavender are dried and used as a deterrent to stop moths from attacking linen and clothes, and grown in the garden these herbs protect plants from caterpillar attack. Moths also hale the strong smell of wormwood (Artemesia absinthium), which can be grown as a companion plant, or made into an infusion to spray plants in need of protection.

As a preventative against diseases, horsetail is a herb which works as a natural fungicide, it is effective against blackspot and mildew on roses.

Natural predators

Avoid the necessity of chemical controls by encouraging beneficial predators. Learn to distinguish the goodies from the baddies, for example centipedes are good, millipedes are bad: carnivorous beetles are good, herbivorous beetles are bad. Once you have identified friends and foes you can start to encourage beneficial predators by avoiding chemicals and creating a habitat that your insect and animal helpers can enjoy.

Insect-eating birds such as blue tits, are very welcome, as are ladybirds. Encourage these natural predators by filling a box with hollow steins from dead herbaceous plants and fixing it high up a tree, or on a wall where they can hibernate. You also want plenty of spiders, hoverflies, facewing larvae, centipedes, carnivorous beetles, frogs, loads, shrews and hedgehogs – which can eat an amazing two hundred slugs a night.


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