Food Growing Tips – Read and watch our video on how to protect your plants and seedlings with our tips on natural pest control.
June is a busy time for gardeners and growers. There are seedlings ready to be planted out, plants that need to be watered and outdoor spaces to be tidied. Not to mention the problem of slugs, snails and aphids as well as other animals.
During the last “Grower’s Question Time” many of you told me that you had problems with cats and squirrels.
“How can we protect our plants from cats and squirrels digging everything up?”
By definition a pest is any kind of organism that invades or uses the plant (and garden space) in a way that can damage it or interfere with the plants health. So if your kitty uses your raised bed as a litter tray, then it should be considered as a pest.
Of course, we are not going to kill or or endanger cats and similarly we should try to build and maintain a safe environment for all creatures. And this includes people too. That’s why I opt for non-chemical pest control to ensure a healthy and safe environment. I don’t want to eat food that has been grown with the use of synthetic chemicals.
Sometimes solutions come in the easiest of ways: back to the cat problem, the first thing I suggest is to use Physical Barriers.
Physical barriers address a number of different solutions related to the pest we are coping with. Generically speaking this can be a fenced area where pests cannot access. In the case of cats and squirrels, you can protect your vegetables with an upside-down crate or perforated basket. Some people also use pointy objects such as wooden skewers or prickly foliage, such as holly, placed above the ground amongst the plants to obstruct the passage of these animals.
For smaller animals like pigeons, blackbirds, and cabbage butterflies a fine net can do the work. But do check that smaller birds or mammals haven’t got trapped in the net.
To control the number of pests, such as snails or caterpillars, the easiest and immediate solution can be hand-picking.
I regularly check the underleaves of my plants and, wearing gloves, I try to remove as many pests as I can find. Mind though: not all the insects in your garden are pests. Ladybird’s larvae can be quite different from the adult one, but still, it’s a beneficial insect that can eat about four times more aphids than adults and we must learn to recognise them. Do some research and observe your garden inhabitants before removing any kind of insects from your plants. That brings me to the next point that is encouraging beneficial animals in your garden. Those are usually predatory or parasitic organisms that contrast the life of unwanted animals. You can create a bug hotel, a mini pond, or choose to grow native plants that can attract this kind of insects, birds, frogs, hedgehogs etc.
Using living organisms to control pests is called “biological control”, and some of them are available to buy or can be ordered at garden centres but are usually supplied by mail order as living products (ladybirds larvae and nematodes).
As you check for pests try also to keep your growing space clean and tidy.
A garden, patio, or balcony can be as wild and informal as you like, but if they become a landfill of empty pots and plastic rubbish, you are basically creating the perfect hiding place for slugs and snails. It’s time to tidy up and make your green space a proper Eden.
PEST REPELLENT PLANTS
Are you planning to be greener? If so, well done! My last suggestion is to choose pest repellent plants like garlic and mint and usually plants that are strongly scented. These kinds of plants have an unattractive smell for pests such as aphids and other insects.
You can also create your own garlic spray – do this by boiling two cloves of garlic in 1 litre of water and adding a teaspoon of paprika to it. The liquid can be sprayed on plants attacked by aphids now and then, it’s quite mild, so will need to be reapplied after it rains, but it can help.
Those were my “natural” tips to cope with the most common pests you might find in your growing space, I’ve recorded a video with more specific suggestions against slugs and snails, you can watch it HERE
If you are growing in a coir pellet, the process is even easier because you can directly transplant your pellet in a larger pot filled with compost, when the plant has
I’d be curious to know if you have other remedies or suggestions against pests. Or if you are dealing with some kind of animal I haven’t mentioned here. Don’t forget to share your plant’s photos and your results: You can tag us on social media and use #KeepGrowing. Tweet: @Wen_UK Insta:@Wen_UK Facebook: @WEN.UK1988.
Happy gardening to all you growers!
CLYO PARECCHINI, LIVEWELL COORDINATOR
Clyo heads up Wen’s Live Well cooking and food growing courses in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Classes explore in a practical way how diet and lifestyles has an impact on the planet. Attendees learn and try new plant based recipes, spend time in the community garden and enjoy a delicious lunch.