Gardening Magazine

Coping with Pests and Disease

By Notcuttsuk @notcuttsuk

Coping with pests and diseaseAdult Vine WeevilMost plants in our garden grow each year with no problems at all. The biggest ‘pest’ that we have is windy weather due to the exposed nature of the site, but by choosing the correct plants and building a strong fence, we have a good protective layer of tough shrubs to act as a windbreak.

Slugs and snails are a problem in most gardens especially during mild, wet weather which is often the case in late spring when plants start to grow away and have plenty of soft, young growth which provides gourmet meals for them! I grow Hostas in pots and one variety in the ground, watching them closely as the leaves unfurl from tight spears that are dramatic in their own right as they pierce the soil. I do not like to use traditional slug pellets but am happy to use the organic ones which have a different chemical in them. They are just as effective if put down in small quantities and renewed after heavy rain and guard my beans, courgettes and other crops on the allotment as well as my beloved Hostas!

Apart from Hostas, I tend to only grow bedding plants and bulbs in containers. Because these plants are replaced each year, the compost is replaced as well and we see very few Vine Weevil grubs which love to chew the roots of plants such as Busy Lizzies, Fuchsias and Cyclamen. The adult weevils are dark gray in color with the typical weevil ‘snout’. They cannot fly and make a satisfying crunch when squashed under the heel of my boot but are mainly nocturnal, hiding in leaf litter during the day. Symptoms of adult Vine Weevil activity is mainly on evergreens where the leaves are notched out on the edges. I tend not to worry too much about this but it can be controlled with a systemic spray that is taken up by the plant and kills the weevils once they have ingested it. Where there is adult Vine Weevil damage there are eggs, resulting in grubs, which are a more serious concern!

One good thing about gardening on an exposed site is that the plants grow ‘hard’ and even soft spring growth is not excessive, so Greenfly and Whitefly are not too much of a problem here. Occasionally there will be one shoot of new growth that is smothered in these tiny flies and I rub them off with my fingers. They are more of a problem on the allotment, where, no matter how hard the Ladybird larvae work my Broad Beans always get an attack of Black Bean Aphids. I do spray against this with insecticide as soon as the first flies are seen. An attack debilitates the plants and makes picking the beans an unpleasant experience as aphids are squashed in the process!

Caterpillars, as readers will know, are the bane of my life once I have planted out my brassica plants and the ‘Cabbage Whites’ (larvae of the Small and Large White Butterflies) can strip plants overnight! I check the plants each day while the white butterflies are on the wing and rub the yellow and green eggs off from the underside of the leaves. They hatch extremely fast and most days there are plenty of fat caterpillars to cut in half with my scissors as well. Brutal I know, but an essential part of protecting the vegetable garden so that we have winter and early spring crops to eat!

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