I know we have talked about pests already, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the ones you are most likely to encounter. There will be others, but these are probably the top five to watch out for.
Slugs and snails
To be honest these are more of an early season pest while plants are short and tender, and the conditions are damp. Once it gets hotter and drier and the plants get taller and woodier there is significantly less slug and snail damage. Not to say they won’t be around and ready and willing to seize the opportunity to have a munch. Mulch, while great for so many reasons can provide a nice moist place for molluscs to hang out. Or even worse halfway up your silverbeet or in the folds of your fennel.
They can be taken care of with the use of Yates Blitzem but follow the directions on the packet – you don’t need much, and you certainly don’t need to create a blue mulch with it. Other things that are said to work are beer traps – a shallow dish filled with beer and sunken the garden to soil level. They are drawn to it and fall in and drown happy. The downside is it can get quite stinky. I can still vividly remember and shudder at the thought of the first time using a beer trap late last century!
There is also suggestion that wool will deter them, but sharp objects like eggshells and sharp sand doesn’t work – I’ve seen photos of them climbing over razor blades! Used coffee grinds is also of limited use as the active ingredient – caffeine, was used in your latte!
Often you notice you have aphids because you notice ants in your plants. The ants aren’t causing harm, but they are encouraging the aphids to suck the life out of the plants so they can harvest the honeydew aphid poop! Although they don’t need the ants and you will find free range aphids in your tender tips. Often you find – as the season wears on, they are less of a problem than they are right now as like with the slugs and snails they are after the soft new growth.
Most of the time they turn up as little green bugs. But in different plants they can look different – black in your chives and yellow on your swan plants. This time of year, you should be looking for them all the time as a few can quickly turn into too many. A small population can be squished, a medium sized population can be blasted off with a strong hose, but for large populations you’ll need to bring in the big guns and spray for them. As they are quick to breed it is a good idea to alternate sprays to avoid building up resistance. My favourite go to Yates products are: Nature's Way Vegie Insect Spray Natrasoap which is based on insecticidal soap and disrupts the cuticle layer, that protects insects from damage and water loss, and Nature's Way Organic Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental Spray that has the combined action of pyrethrum and oil and disrupts the nervous system and smothers them. Both are safe for use on edibles.
Cabbage White Butterfly
This one also requires constant supervision all season as they lay eggs on your brassica at any point of the growing season. They do the most harm now as it doesn’t take long for a seedling to get completely destroyed, but later in the season it is not fun finding steamed caterpillars at the table in your broccoli!
Netting is a good way to exclude them – and one of those pop-up mesh laundry bags work well for individual plants. Or a hooped row cover or even the whole bed with bird netting. The key is not to let the leaves touch the netting or the butterfly will just lay their eggs through it.
You can spray with Nature's Way Organic Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental Spray, or sprinkle Yates Nature's Way Derris Dust over your brassica. You can also rub any eggs off leaves or pick off any caterpillars you may find. Without netting them, this is a constant task to be done in the garden all season.
Tomato Potato Psyllid
This is a relatively new pest, but it can be so devastating to tomatoes, potatoes, and other members of the Solanaceae family. It is a tiny, winged creature that looks like a sandfly, and it lays tiny eggs on stalks around the edge of the leaves looking like pins in a pin cushion. The juveniles look like squashed aphids, but their tell-tale sign is their poop looks like someone has sprinkled sugar over your tomato plant. While being annoying sap suckers – the real problem is they can carry a disease that will destroy your plants. If you catch them early enough you can treat with the big guns Success Ultra Insect Control – Concentrate or Mavrik Insect & Mite Spray. However, if you struggle to get it under control it is better to pull the plant out before the disease spreads to other plants. It can be devastating. You can also throw an insect net over your tomatoes to keep them away.
Green Vegetable bug
This guy is also a sap sucker, and you can hear him in the garden as he sounds like a helicopter when flying in to feast on your plants. It is tricky to control him as he doesn’t settle down and is always on the move. Where he sucks, plants and fruit are left with scars and distortions and is often why you find white patches under skin of tomatoes. Squishing is very satisfying but can stain fingers and be stinky. Also keep an eye out for their unwanted family member – the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug who is a national biosecurity threat and MPI would love to know if you see one.
Sorry I’ve gone long again! But I thought you’d be interested.
In my garden I’m using Yates Thrive Natural Fish & Seaweed+ Plant Food Concentrate as a quick pick me up for the plants I planted last week as some of them are still looking a little peaky.
I hope you find this helpful.
Happy gardening and as always – if you want to get in touch leave a comment below.
Sarah the Gardener : o)