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Gardening Tips

Alternative ways to get rid of garden pests (and avoid pesticides!)

As mentioned in the last post in this blog, one of the steps to help attract wildlife to your garden is to avoid the use of pesticides. These can not only kill the pests that you want to get rid of but can also have a side detrimental effect on other beneficial species, such as those of pollinators, birds and even your pets! Moreover, they can also cause adverse effects in humans. These can be short term effects, which occur shortly after a single exposure such as stinging eyes, skin rashes and nausea, and more alarmingly, long-term exposure to pesticides has been associated with serious conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, asthma, some types of cancer, and also infertility.

The single best thing that you can do regarding pests in your garden is to avoid an infestation. To achieve this, the best advice that I can give is that you make a good plant selection for your garden. Choose plants that are suited to the conditions in each spot of your garden, taking into consideration factors such as soil type, moisture, sun exposure, temperature, among others, which is precisely what we do when designing planting schemes for our planting plan clients. A plant placed in an environment that it is suited to not only thrives and looks lush but is also much more resistant to pests and diseases, as it doesn’t have to expend huge amounts of energy simply to survive conditions that it is not adapted to, which happens when the plant is in the wrong environment.

As an alternative to the use of pesticides, there are cultural practices and natural remedies that can be applied in order to prevent and deter garden pests’ infestations. Cultural practices range from the physical removal of the pests, passing through the use of companion plants that deter pests to the introduction of predators of the pest species. Natural remedies include natural oils with a physical mode of action, acting only in the area where they are applied on by paralysing the pests, as opposed to pesticides, which tend to have a systemic and more widespread effect. Regardless of the method used, it is always a good idea to be vigilant so that you spot the infestation in the beginning, as it is much easier to act on a small infestation than on a large one, so always show your plants some love and keep an eye on them! Bellow, I will give specific examples of cultural practices and/or natural remedies that can be used to combat infestations of three common garden pests: aphids, rust and slugs.

Aphids are sap sucking insects. They are mostly green or black and are commonly found in new plants’ growths. Aphids infestations can weaken the plant and cause distorted growth. As alternatives to the use of pesticides, hosing off any newly spotted infestation with a strong water jet, using biological controls by introducing ladybird (one of its predators) in the garden or using natural oils, such as neem oil, that have a physical mode of action can help to keep aphids under control.

Rust is a fungal disease common to roses and ornamental shrubs. It causes mostly yellow pustules commonly on the underside of leaves. It can reduce the plant’s vigour and can even kill it in extreme cases. Alternatives to the use of fungicides include spacing and pruning plants in order to allow air flow, and getting rid of affected leaves as soon as they appear to stop the spread of the infestation. Additionally, affected plant parts should be cut off and burned to curb the spread.

Slugs are molluscs, quite common in UK gardens, that feed on seedlings and soft growths, mostly during the night. A slug infestation can easily be spotted by observing them among the plants or the holes that they make in the leaves. Most established plants do tolerate a certain level of slug damage, but young plants can be killed. Natural strategies against slugs include spreading eggshells, and coffee ground, which are good for the soil, around plants or copper tapes can be placed around pots or beds to deter slugs. Additionally, placing plants that attract slugs, like marigolds, close to plants to be protected (so that they attack the marigolds and not your dear plant!) is another good strategy.

References:

1-Pinterest. (n.d.). Aphids. [Image] Available at: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/551057704375301404/[Accessed 03 Febuary 2021].

2-RHS. (n.d.). Rust. [Image] Available at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=269 [Accessed 03 Febuary 2021].

3- Pinterest. (n.d.). Slug. [Image] Available at: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/572168327629640344/ [Accessed 03 Febuary 2021].

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