Break The Pest Cycle

gvb's been at my berries

Pests are part of a gardening life – especially when your vegie patch is full of all their favourite food. Add to that a bit of stress like drought for instance, and immunity and pest resistance are lowered, fanning the flames and increasing the likelihood of high numbers of sap sucking, fruit gobbling critters. With a few simple tricks up your sleeve you can moderate pest numbers in the short term. Today I have 4 measures to help you weather the rest of summer.

Long term look to all your garden’s foundation. 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 fine day, you’ll decide your garden is strong enough and diverse enough to self manage the pests.

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


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.


  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!

  3. Elaine Hope says

    For years I’ve unsuccessfully organically battled with raspberry flea bettle in our fruit cage.. These varmints are particularly annoying as they attack the tasty new growing tips. Daily digit crushing is satisfying, but has yet to make an obvious difference. I would welcome any advice

    • Hi Elaine – good effort on the daily squashing mission! Add a few more things to your tool kit and you’ll reduce them for sure – chickens beneath raspberries in winter/ spring do an amazing job of disturbing over wintering adults and spring laid eggs, Neem granules worked into the compost in spring and Neem sprayed weekly in spring as beetles awaken and continue to build your beneficial insect population providing a variety of nectar/ pollen/ habitat close by your raspberries as there are a variety of predators – eg: parastic wasps, ladybugs, lacewings above ground and nematodes below ground.

  4. Hi Kath, the beetles are best combated with liquid Fish fertilizer + Naturally Neem at the lowest mixing rates and definitely in the evening when the bronze beetle is doing the damage. Testimonial on the website from a commercial Feijoa grower regarding this issue.
    Thanks for your easy-to-read and straightforward gardening advice, as always.
    p.s. I am now also stocking (Morganic’s) a complete fertilizer with all the nutrients needed for all of the gardens, this is a product that we used in our commercial hothouse operation, years back, it is New Zealand-made and safe!

  5. Ta muchly. Will add these to my arsenal!

  6. Rosemary Watson says

    Not exactly a pest, but more a disease??? ‘Dry berry’ in blackberry, loganberry, tayberry etc.
    Always get plenty of fruit set, and fruit develop well until almost full size and even starting to ripen, Then just shrivel up… any insights on what to do to prevent this please?

    • Such a shame Rosemary – I agree. Dryberry is likely the impact of the fungal disease, downy mildew. Foliage will be streaked with yellow if this is so. The weather of late has been very supportive of pathogenic fungi making it tricky for home gardeners but not impossible!
      Be sure the soil beneath your raspberries isn’t soggy or wet – this sets the scene. It can also come in on the plants you’ve bought. Buying direct form a nursery is a safe bet.
      The key is to focus on a strong foundation with – monthly biological feed to keep cells strong and beneficial fungi active, pruning for airflow + tying canes up – heres all my ideas for basic care
      Then, top it off with a biological fungicide next spring as new growth appears Biological fungicides work best in a diverse healthy system.
      Copper is an option, though not my preferred way. But an option none the less.
      If you are happy to play the long game, better berries coming your way!

  7. I have had a major infestation of passionvine hoppers on my raspberries and climbing beans I started using Neem and then stopped when I found I could just squash them ( a bit gross). They seem to be slower when everything is wet just after rain. However I have noticed lot of eggs have been laid in the cracks in the wooden fence and shed behind the raspberries and beans. Is there anything not too toxic I could rub into the wood to kill the eggs before they hatch?

    • Awesome Jean – never even tried squashing PVH’s. Hmmm wiping out the eggs – squashing or rather smushing with a tool? I’d imagine any thing in the shed like meths or fuel would totally do the trick. Use what you’ve got I reckon. Nicely observed!