The recent warm wet weather we’ve been experiencing has been a boon to our gardens after the hottest spring on record. Plants will have been thriving and isn’t it nice to wake up in the morning to the sound of rain signalling a restful day without having to worry about rushing around the garden hosepipe (or watering can!) in hand quenching our dry plants thirst!?
However the welcome wet weather is not without its challenges – just as the plants thrive in humid conditions so do most garden pests!
I thought I’d give a quick rundown of the most common garden pests and how best to deal with them.
Common garden pests and how to protect your plants
We all know how disappointing it is to spend hours toiling away at your flowerbeds and vegetable patches, only for them to be ruined by swarms of annoying slugs, bugs, caterpillars and aphids.
There are many different bugs in the UK that can harm flowers, shrubs, trees and crops, and I’m listing six of the most prolific to watch out for and advised on a variety of ways both chemical and organic to deal woih them.
- Box tree moth
In their prime from April to October, box tree caterpillars feed within webbing and can completely destroy all of the foliage on box plants. The organic way to deal with buxus caterpillars is to sit by your box shrubs and remove the blighters by hand or with a pair of tweezers. If you’ve only got a couple of buxus shrubs this method is alright however if your dealing with a whole hedge then you may want to use Xentari which is classified as a biological pesticide targeted specifically at buxus caterpillars and will not harm bees or birds.
Prevalent in most gardens, ant nests can cause damage to lawns and flowerpots as small heaps of soil appear above the surface. Ants are best left alone, but you can brush away the soil heaps on a dry day. If the ants are coming into your house then Doff have a range of chemical products which are very effective against ants.
- Slugs and snails
Slugs and snails can cause real damage in the garden as they eat their way through leaves, flowers, stems, and bulbs. Adult slugs can eat 40 times their own weight in a single day! Copper tape placed around plant pot rims and slug taps stationed in your borders are an effective organic method of dealing with these slimy devils – they have an affinity for beer so use some dregs as bait in the traps. If you want to go chemical then the new ferric phosphate pellets are a good alternative to the old metaldehyde pellets.
- Woolly aphid
Woolly aphids hide under white fluff on apple tree trunks and branches, and attack the bark by sucking the tree’s sap. This weakens a tree’s vigour and leaves it open to attacks by other pests and diseases. To control an infestation on smaller trees, scrub the aphid colonies with a stiff-bristled brush. You could also try and encourage their natural enemies – ladybirds, lacewings and hoverfly larvae. For a chemical control use a permethrin based insecticide and spray directly onto the aphids trying to avoid over spraying which may kill useful insects.
- Vine weevil
Adult weevils eat leaves during spring and summer, but the grubs cause the most damage over autumn and winter as they feed on plant roots. Where vine weevils are suspected, take a torch out an hour or so after dark and pick them off by hand before placing them in a jar of water, as they cannot swim. You can also place a 2cm layer of grit on the compost surface to make it hard for the adults to lay eggs. For chemical control a permethrin based powder can be applied around the plants you wish to protect.
- Southern green shield bug
This species can cause damage to some vegetables, especially runner and French bean pods. It feeds on the sap, causing misshapen fruit to grow. Perhaps surprisingly, you can use the hose attachment on a vacuum cleaner to suck up the bugs from the affected plant. Remember to replace your vacuum bag or clean it out thoroughly afterwards. You can also spread fly tape around plants so catch them as they make their way to your precious plants.
Hope this helps – enjoy your gardening!