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Pests, Predators & Prevention

Pests & Predators

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.

Reference Guide

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.

Grasshoppers.

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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Meet the Dome

Dome Pest Net Protection 2017-06-09

Dome shaped crop protection

My strong growing brassicas have been destroyed by an invasion of whiteflies, snails and locusts. Therefore, I made my first attempt at building a frame for netting and providing protection to my new brassica seedlings and spring crops. The arch can also swivel from the floor to the top on each side to provide access. Below is an image.

 

DomePestNetProtectionAccessView2017-06-09

I found snails crawling on the outside of the netting this morning – a delightful bonus! It proved it was working and it was easy to pick them off and feed them to the chooks

I have another bed which has recently had onions planted (direct sowing). I’m afraid that the germination may not be great as all the recent heavy rain has pounded the bed and compacted the soil. I will need to get my second dome up!

Circles and Rectangles

I went with using circle shaped garden beds which was discussed in a previous post. It’s becoming more clear that using circles and domes makes life a lot harder than straight lines and corners. Hopefully, there are more advantages to circles than rectangles that are still to be discovered. So I wouldn’t say the verdict is out but I’ll keep you posted .

This is where I warn you to consider carefully,  when deciding to use circle shaped beds. Design and materials for dome and circular shaped structures may be harder to come by or more expensive and the complexities of using bends can take up precious time.

I used electrical conduit (pvc) for the frame as it is relatively cheap, flexible and reasonably strong. I sourced some steel pipes from the local waste disposal centre slipped neatly over the diameter of the conduit. The pipes are dug at an angle and around 750mm deep into the ground as support to hold the structure. We get some strong winds so I’ll see how it holds up. I sewed two pieces of 4 square metres together and to the frame. One arch goes across the top and stays in one position with a further  arch on either side can be rotated from the top to the ground to provide access.

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What’s down with my potatoes!!

So I planted some potatoes in early Autumn knowing that they may not do so well in Winter but read some posts that they could be grown at this time. Well firstly they took a month before the shoots came through and then seem to go well until… some sudden saggy leaves (first picture). Then I noticed what looks like aphids on the broad beans which are in the same bed. (second picture). So it seems this may be the problem.

Disclosure:  some of the links in this post are referral links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.

So as Linda Woodrow said in her book – Permaculture Home Garden: How To Grow Great Tasting Fruit And Vegetables The Organic Way

“Remember that no matter how effectively you knock off thousands and thousands of aphids, if you kill one ladybird in the process the net result is more aphids than you started with.”

So now I see a ladybird on a unidentified plant next to the potato bed (third picture). Is my deduction of the problem correct and will the ladybirds seek and destroy in time or before all potato plants are infested and ruined?

Wilted potato leaves
Aphids On Broad Bean
Ladybird on plant