BLOOM: Vegie gardens are beginning to grow - but watch out for pests.
BLOOM: Vegie gardens are beginning to grow - but watch out for pests. Contributed

Common garden pests guide

BY NOW, most gardeners will have planted out their vegetable patches for the warmer months.

It's a great thing to do with the whole family because it is easy, most vegetables grow fast so there is reasonably instant gratification and the best part is that you literally get to enjoy the fruits of your labour!

What is the secret to a healthy patch? Healthy soil. Always start the vegie season with a top up of compost and manure.

A soil conditioner of some kind will also help to stimulate all of the good bacteria and minerals that are needed for soil to produce healthy crops.

Healthy soil equals healthy plants and healthy plants are more able to resist disease and recover from pest damage.

Healthy plants also produce better flavoured vegetables and fruit.

Once your crops are planted, water and fertilise regularly.

Inevitably there will be pests who try to steal your bounty during the season. You can simply learn to share and eat holey lettuce leaves but here are some of the most common critters and simple methods to control them.

Aphids

Plant Damage

Aphids are found clustering on the growing tips of stems, where they suck sap, distort leaves and flowers, and spread plant viruses.

In addition, aphids secrete clear, sticky honeydew, which attracts ants.

Control Method

Ladybugs and other beneficial insects typically bring aphids under control.

In addition, a strong spray of water from a hose can knock them off plants. Insecticidal soap works, too.

Caterpillars

Plant Damage

Caterpillars feed on plants, chewing holes in leaves and stems.

Control Method

Natural predators such as birds might help; install a birdbath to draw winged visitors to the garden.

Discourage moths from laying eggs by using covers over plants, but make sure to remove if plants need to be pollinated.

Or pyrethrum, a botanical insecticide, can be used.

Mealy Bugs

Plant Damage

Mealy bugs secrete as they eat, which can lead to plant diseases as well as sooty mould and ants.

Control Method

Grow flowers such as alyssum or scabiosa which contain nectar; this will attract natural predators including ladybugs and green lacewing larvae. Insecticidal soap, summer oil, neem, or an insecticide with carbaryl can also help.

Scale

Plant Damage

Scale insects suck out vital plant fluids, which leads to stunted leaves and needles, yellowing, and twig and branch dieback.

Control Method

Spray plants with white oil to suffocate the pests. Scale and mealy bugs can be treated in the same way.

Slugs and Snails

Plant Damage

Both slugs and snails love moisture and rasp holes into leaves and flowers. They feed at night and cloudy days, leaving shiny slime trails.

Control Method

Keep your garden clean and free of debris as this is where they like to hide. Wood ashes or sawdust scattered around plants will dehydrate and lacerate both pests, too.

Or, set shallow saucers of beer under plants, which will lure and drown snails and slugs. Snail baits with iron phosphate are not toxic to birds and pets.

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