Pests are a common challenge but that doesn’t mean they need to gain the upper hand. In fact, in most cases there are ways to prevent your crops from getting infested in the first place.
Here, then, are seven simple, savvy strategies to help you prevent garden pests.
1. Grow Resistant Varieties
Our first strategy is to make life easier for yourself by selecting varieties that are known to have some resistance to common pests. Spend a little time researching seed catalogues for suitable varieties to reduce pest problems later on. Look out for carrot-fly-resistant carrots, for example, or seek out potatoes that shake off eelworm attacks.
2. Confuse Pests
Interplant crops with one another. This confuses passing pests because they will find it harder to home in on their preferred crop. You can interplant different vegetables, or mix up vegetables with herbs or flowers to create a more diverse – and confusing – planting scheme. Obfuscate some more by growing vegetables with coloured leaves, like purple varieties of cabbage or kale, that insects won’t expect.
3. Plant Outside of Peak Times
Another deceptively simple strategy is grow vegetables outside of the peak times for their pests. Take the example of flea beetles, which chew tiny holes in the leaves of brassicas. Their activity peaks in midsummer. So grow vegetables such as Asian greens and mustards in the fall, when fewer beetles are about. You can also plant before a pest arrives. This works well with fast-growing early peas, helping them to dodge the destructive attention of pea moths.
4. Grow Out of the Way
Physically move vegetables out of harm’s way. Grow carrots and cabbage family crops in pots at least 18in (45cm) above ground, well out of the way of low-flying carrot flies and cabbage root flies. Raised pots also reduce problems with slugs and other soil-dwelling pests.
Starting seedlings off under cover in pots is a reliable way to avoid early setbacks from the likes of pigeons and slugs. By the time they’re transplanted your plants will be bigger, sturdier and more capable of withstanding minor attacks.
5. Use Physical Barriers
Make good use of barriers to physically separate pests from plants. Insect mesh or horticultural fleece will stop just about any pest from getting near your hard-won crops. Allow covers to rest on the plants or support them on hoops. Secure them around the edges so pests can’t gain access by just walking in at soil level. Covers are a great solution for caterpillar-prone brassicas and for barring entry to the likes of carrot fly and aphids.
6. Attract Beneficial Bugs
Ladybirds, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, lacewings – just a few of the beneficial bugs that help control pests by either eating them or hatching their young inside them. Tempt more beneficial bugs into your garden by growing lots of the flowers they love, like cosmos, sweet alyssum, dill, yarrow and many more besides. Grow them among or immediately next to your vegetables for maximum impact.
7. Keep Plants Healthy
Finally, make sure plants are as healthy as they can be, because strong, healthy plants are less susceptible to pests. Stress-free plants have their own pest defences which more often than not allow them to see off pests without help from us. So grow plants in the right conditions, keep them well fed and water well in dry weather. Don’t forget to feed the soil too – with plenty of well-rotted organic matter such as compost – to promote a thriving root system that supports healthy growth above ground.
Those pesky pests keep us on our toes don’t they! But arm yourself with the right strategies and you can keep them well away from your crops. Please share your own pest prevention techniques down below - how do you take care of common pests and how successful are you?