With vegetables growing rapidly, one thing is pretty much inevitable – pests! It’s frustrating, but it’s also important not to get too downhearted about it. Take a pragmatic approach and accept that pests will always raise their unwanted heads. Like the weather, they’re just another challenge that makes a successful harvest all the more rewarding.
We’ll offer some tips on protecting your plants and controlling unwanted pests below, but first we’re asking for your help.
The Big Bug Hunt
It’s no surprise that in a recent survey you told us pests are your biggest nuisance in the garden. Well, we’ve listened and we want to help you. But to do that we need your help!
We are launching a major new project called The Big Bug Hunt. The Big Bug Hunt invites you to report the pests you find in your garden. Why? Because by understanding what is being spotted, where and when, we can start to build up a picture of the conditions common pests need to spread. Imagine receiving a notification of when a pest is likely to appear in your garden! This is exactly what we hope The Big Bug Hunt will help us to achieve.
It’s a massive project, but by bringing together the many thousands of reports you give us, we can begin to identify which conditions trigger an outbreak of a particular pest. But we can only do this if everyone gets involved by reporting!
Reporting a bug couldn’t be easier. Just head to The Big Bug Hunt website at BigBugHunt.com then click on the ‘report a pest’ button. Enter the details of which pest you saw and which plant it was on or near. Type in your location and then click Send to submit your report. You can also learn more about the project on the home page.
With input from gardeners like you in our growing online community, the data we collect from The Big Bug Hunt has the potential to make a lasting impact. For example, we could use that data to alert you when unwanted pests have been spotted in your area and provide you with recommended actions to safeguard your plants. An intelligent warning system like that could save a lot of wasted effort and money.
With enough reports The Big Bug Hunt could even go on to help farmers in developing regions of the world, providing the information necessary to help them to avoid catastrophic crop failure. The power that your combined bug reports could provide is immense!
So stay vigilant this growing season and report your pests. Visit www.BigBugHunt.com to send us those reports and help us to help you.
Ideal World Gardening vs Real World Gardening
Gardening magazines and television programs can sometimes portray gardening as trouble-free. Pests are barely mentioned and, when they are, it’s only in passing. True, most vegetables will reach harvest-time without any problem, but it’s unrealistic to expect a pest-free ride every time!
How many times have your leafy salads succumbed to slugs, or your cabbages been decimated by caterpillars? Whether it’s a crafty caterpillar, worrisome whitefly or root-ravaging carrot fly, common pests turn up time and again. But while there’s little you can do to stop them appearing, you can at least raise the defenses and, if necessary, launch an offensive.
How to Protect Plants From Common Pests
No matter where in the world you garden, there are a few pests you are almost certain to encounter at some point. Here are three of them.
Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails are the bane of many gardeners, but don’t get mad – get even.
You can prevent them from getting near your plants by putting up barriers. For example, copper rings around plants or containers will deter the malevolent molluscs by giving them a small electric shock. Some gardeners also like to try barriers of hair or eggshells – though you’ll need to eat a lot of eggs first!
Or get proactive. Set up beer traps – slugs love the yeasty liquid and will drown attempting to get at it. Or why not install a small pond? Ponds are great for wildlife, and any frogs or toads taking up residence will make short work of the local slug population. If you keep chickens, allow them to roam sectioned off areas of bare ground where they’ll snap up lurking slug eggs while depositing fertiliser for the next crop.
If you can’t see any slugs, look for telltale signs such as slime trails and irregular holes in leaves and stems. Some slugs will even burrow into the roots of vegetables like carrots. And if you come across the pearl-like slug eggs, be brave and destroy them.
Cabbage White Butterflies
Some caterpillars, such as those of the cabbage white (also known as the ‘imported cabbageworm’) have an insatiable appetite for members of the cabbage family. Serious infestations will quickly strip leaves bare. The tiny eggs are pale yellow and are found on the undersides of the leaves.
Stop butterflies from laying their eggs by erecting butterfly netting over your plants. Netting can be draped over a simple wooden frame. Make sure it is properly secured at the bottom. Another clever tactic is to plant decoy, or sacrificial plants at the ends of rows. Plants like nasturtiums lure the butterflies away from the crop, bearing the brunt of any damage and saving your vegetables.
Aphids come in many guises, including the black bean aphid or blackfly, green aphids and whitefly. Spraying colonies with a mixture of soapy water offers some control, but they’ll eventually return.
Thankfully there are a number of beneficial bugs lining up to feast on them. Insects such as the hoverfly and ladybird actively seek out aphids; one ladybird alone can eat up to 5,000 aphids a year! Get them on side and aphids need never reach epidemic proportions.
Attracting beneficial bugs into your garden couldn’t be easier. Plants such as calendula and poppies are a real magnet, with nettles particularly sought after by ladybirds. Provide places for these bugs to overwinter and you’ll keep them in your garden from one year to the next.
We’re hugely excited by The Big Bug Hunt. There’s no denying this is a massive undertaking but we think you’ll agree, the potential outcomes are worth it. So grab your smartphone, tablet or computer and please send us those reports so we can warn you of impending pests. It’s time to launch the fight back against the bugs that would eat our crops before we can!