Prevention and Control
I got a couple comments in my recent survey about methods to control pests such as snails and grasshoppers. It can be difficult to resist the urge to reach for the pesticides but we must if we want to create an environment that is balanced with pest and predator. Striking this balance can take time so be patient and make the garden inviting to predators.
Pest control in my mind does not mean eradicating pests. This is surely impossible if you really think about it! The pesticides often kill the predators or good bugs. Also if there are no pests, there is no food for the good bugs so your system environment will be unbalanced. In general, prevention is by far the best approach and the best way is protecting garden beds with netting. Especially those more susceptible crops like brassica (Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower etc.) Another important defence is using resilient breeds of seeds and plants. I’m a relatively newbie in gardening myself so have not figured this all out yet but my advise would be to make notes of the variety of seeds, the brand, planting times etc and then make notes of pests and the severity so that you can start selecting the variety of plants that have the most resilience for your location. This takes time and experimenting and I dont think there are short cuts.
There are so many pests and prevention, control methods and therefore suggest you get a good reference guide to refer to. I’ve used a few. Check out your local library and web but I’ve found having a resource that I can pick-up when I need to identify an insect is a great tool. Take a photo of the culprit or damage if you can and then start your investigation. My recommendation for Australian gardens is a book called Garden Pests, Diseases & Good Bugs. I’d be grateful if you use my links if you did want to purchase because I make a small commission which helps my costs of running the blog. So head over to Booktopia if you want to purchase. This book has a good range of common pests which I found many other books dont. They structure it with Descriptions, Target plants, Damage, Life Cycle, Prevention, Natural enemies, and control. Also there are many cloud pictures to help identify.
Attracting good bugs (predators)
One blog is to short to cover everything but the best start to getting predators to your garden is not using pesticides as these often kill or deter the good bugs. Having a source of water is very important in the permaculture design. So even the smallest gardens should have at minimum a pond. Include rocks and some logs or branches into the garden so there are hiding places for lizards. Try keep some longer areas of grass such as at the edges off garden beds and incorporate ground covers so that the are places for predators to hide from other predators such as birds, cats and dogs.
Slugs and Snails
In response to some comments I’ll give some tips about grasshoppers, slugs and snails. Theses tips are taken from the book mentioned earlier.
Slugs and snails like the moist conditions and generally hide in the day. Try to find them in the early morning or evening and squish them. Better yet feed them to the chooks. Use gloves. Take note some snails can contain rat lungworm. See article Kids, put down the snails, they could carry rat lungworm. You can also lay down bait such as a a dish of beer that they will be attracted to and drown in. For young seedlings create a barrier such as a plastic milk containers cut in half and with the bottoms cut off. Again protection with netting helps.
The best advise for grasshoppers and crickets is prevention with netting and catching them. If you have chooks many pests make a great meal for them. Make your garden attractive to lizards, frogs, magpies and other natural predators. I’m not certain yet but I first thought that locusts were my biggest problem pest. On closer investigation I’m thinking that cluster caterpillar and other pests may be doing more harm and the locusts are doing more superficial damage. On my brassica I’m finding cluster caterpillar that are not just eating the leaves but burrowing into the heart of the stem where new shorts appear and this is causing a malformed head which is worse than a few leaves with holes that could be cut off. course a swarm of grasshoppers will devastated your garden but take a closer look at the damage and make sure you have the right culprit identified.
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