Break The Pest Cycle

gvb's been at my berries

The heat, all that tasty food, a bit of plant stress = pests!

Young gardens, are more likely to have higher pest burdens. Rest assured that as you build soil, develop a diverse range of companion plants, get your sowing and planting timings down and discover varieties that suit, the pest burden will shift. Truth is, it will always be shifting. Because of this, stay open to evolving how you manage your pests. One day, you’ll decide your gardens diversity is strong enough and you can leave the pest alone.

Ditching artificial fertilisers and pesticides is a potent way to reduce sucking insects. Ironically the most heavily sprayed gardens are the most pest laden. Too much fresh manure (including liquid manure teas), not enough air in clay soil and under or over-watering are 3 other pest inducing favourites.

Here are 4 immediate ways to bust inside that egg-larvae-adult-sex-birth cycle, and keep numbers down.

1. A daily harvest

harvest

So simple, so obvious – harvest daily. Get out every morning and remove the newly ripe. What a difference!

Plucking a newly ripe berry with a tiny hole is a small victory. Left another day that tiny hole becomes several and now you’ve invited in a whole new guild of pest. Perhaps begun by a shield bug, taken over by earwigs and fruit flies = raspberries full of worms.

80g Autumn raspberries

Dinner is the very thing every living thing on earth needs to build a strong population. A daily harvest removes the pest’s dinner  – slowing down those munching, sucking critters  – and brings you yours … food in it’s prime.

Remove the not so great as well

It’s tempting to harvest only the good and ignore the not so good, but its important to pick them all. Leaving the over ripe, holey, mouldy, funky ones leaves food and nesting sites for pests, and if disease is present harbour that as well. Picking them off is another way to break the cycle.

I harvest with 2 bowls – one for the chooks and one for me.

2. Digital control

Two jobs with one walk – as you go about your daily harvest, another simple pest control method asserts itself – catch those pests between your digits! Don’t underestimate the value of this simple measure. This works for shield bugs, cabbage white caterpillars and aphids.

The joy of little and often is that you don’t need to nail every single pest in the one walk. Just do those you see. Get the others tomorrow, or the next day, or the next…. Its not about getting rid of anything, its about easing the population to ease the load on your plants.

3. Crop Covers

Insect mesh is the cats pjs – a wonderful barrier between the crops and pests. Check out my Goods and Gurus page for suppliers. Use 0.6mm weave for spray free hands off pest control of once harvested crops like spuds (psyllids) and brassicas (cabbage butterfly) and carrots (carrot fly).

4. Neem

a healthy colony of aphids

Pest populations explode when your garden is young and without the beneficial insect pest control team or when you haven’t quite got your eye in as yet and miss the early signs… it’ll come.

Meantime, your options are to either let the pest go. So interesting! Or, if thats not feeling good for you, reach for the Neem. It’s gentle on your beneficial insect populations, unlike touch-it-and-die, knock-everything-dead killers like pyrethrum, rhubarb or garlic, never mind chemical options.

To work, Neem must be ingested by the pest, so its about spraying the foliage rather than the pest itself.

For efficacy you need to:

  • Spray every week in a religious fashion to keep up with new eggs hatching until the pests ebb away. At that point stop.
  • Spray again at the first stirrings of new populations throughout the summer.
  • Be polite, and spray in the evening when the bees have gone to bed, or in the morning before they come to work.

Tough customers

Passionvine hoppers require less Neem at the young nymph (fluffy bum) stage – adults require dedication, needing every three days, as do bronze beetles and shield bugs. If populations are strong use Neem granules as well.

Heres a Good Read about my long-term pest reducing ways.

Comments

  1. Can you please advise the model of the Silvan backpack sprayer? I can’t see it on their website. Where did you get yours from?

  2. Brilliant stuff. We’ve just discovered stink bugs in the new garden, your Neem advice is timely. Thanks!