Pests and Problems

Here are a few top tips to help you keep your crops healthy.

  • You won’t be able to prevent all problems – bad weather, birds, slugs and snails, for example, are natural parts of your  garden.
  • Making sure your soil is rich in nutrients and your plants have enough water and food is a sound first base. Just like us, healthy plants are less prone to attack and can cope with problems, and prevention is better than cure.
  • Read up and look out for problems that affect the particular plants you are growing. Keep watch on your plants for signs of problems. The quicker you react, the less likely that the problem will get out of hand.
  • Rotate your crops around the plot to help prevent any build up of problems in the soil. The simplest way to do it is to divide your area into four. On a rotating basis, grow the following crops in each area:
    • legumes (beans, peas);
    • root vegetables (beetroot, carrot, potato, onion, radish, swede);
    • leafy green vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kale, spinach);
    • fruit-bearing plants (aubergine , courgette, cucumber, pumpkin, sweetcorn, squash, tomato).
  • Covering plants loosely with fleece, with the edges buried in the soil, can protect plants from problems such as carrot fly, as well as from hungry birds. Cloches or fruit cages are also useful barriers to pests.
  • Plant flowers among your vegetables to attract beneficial insects. For example, a clump of nettles will feed aphids that will attract ladybirds and lacewings, which will also feed on any aphids on your crops. The scent of marigolds will deter aphids and beetles from damaging your peas, while sunflowers will attract ladybirds.
  • A ‘wild’ area with a small pond will attract slug- and insect-eating hedgehogs and frogs.
  • Birds can eat problem insects but can also attack your plants. The old-fashioned remedies of a scarecrow, strings of milk tops or cds, or twigs stuck into the ground around seedlings are all worth trying.
  • Sink a bowl filled with beer in the round to attract and drown slugs.
  • If you do need a pesticide or fungicide, make sure you identify the problem correctly before going to your garden centre for the most appropriate remedy.