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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].

Categories
Wildlife Garden

How to attract wildlife into the garden

Attracting wildlife to the garden is becoming increasingly more important. As we go through a serious environmental crisis and see a stark reduction in the population of some animals, such as pollinators, which poses a threat not only from an ecological perspective, but also to our livelihoods, making sure that we can offer wildlife a refuge in our gardens amid the concrete jungle is something that everyone should aim for. And let me tell you, it is not a hard thing to do.

Providing animals with food, water and shelter is enough to transform your garden in a wildlife heaven. Some things that you can do to achieve that are:

  1. Plant trees and/or shrubs, preferably natives: These are very good sources of food and shelter for insects and birds and even to small mammals, especially the ones that provide flowers and fruits and berries. Good examples are Rowan trees, Hawthorns, Dog Roses and Guelder Rose.

2. Avoid being overly tidy: Not that you should have a messy garden, but leaving some pieces of wood to rotten, some fallen leaves, twigs and stones on the ground (maybe out of sight if you are a very tidy person!) provides food and shelter to a lot of species. If you wish, you can build or buy trendy bug hotels, which consists of nothing more than things like cones, twigs, stones etc. bundled up together in an aesthetic fashion.

I was pleased to see a stag beetle in my patio this summer (a sight that is becoming increasingly rarer!) after leaving pieces of wood (which I used to prop up plant pots that were on the ground) scattered around.

3. Create an area of wild meadow, prairie style planting and/or invest on “Plants for pollinators”: Giving your planting choices a thought can go a long way towards attracting wildlife into your garden. I have already mentioned the native trees and shrubs but having an area of wild meadow or prairie style planting not only creates shelter to a lot of species, including small mammals, but also provide nectar for pollinators. You can create your wild meadow area simply by letting a plot of grass grow wild or you can buy seed mixes and scatter them around an area. Another way of providing nectar for pollinators, is to choose plants that bear flowers containing a lot of nectar and for a long season, such as Lavenders and Verbenas. The RHS has a  good resource to help you choose such plants, which they call “Plants for Pollinators”.

4. Introduce water in your garden: This will not only serve as drinking source, but also as a habitat for animals such as toads. The ideal would be to build a wildlife pond – a pond with a shelf (a shallower area of the pond in at least one of its sides) to help the animals to get in and out of it. You can then let plants and animals colonise your pond or you can give it a kick-start by inserting basically four categories of plants: oxygenators that stay on the bottom, water plants that float (such as water lilies) and that emerge out of the water (such as irises) and marginal plants (such as flowering rush). If you don’t have a space for a pond, any small water containers will already be helpful to wildlife.

5. Finally, avoid the use of pesticides as much as you can! Most of these will have an effect not only on the pests that you are trying to get rid of, but also on wildlife in your garden such as pollinators. The next post in this blog will be dedicated to presenting cultural practices and organic alternatives to pesticides. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, have a look at this garden which I have designed with the purpose to be a wildlife heaven for some inspiration!

References:

1-Pinterest. (n.d.). Rowan Tree. [Image] Available at: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/349451252307217677/?lp=true [Accessed 20 January 2021].

2-Pinterest. (n.d.). Hawthorn. [Image] Available at: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/349451252307217677/?lp=true [Accessed 20 January 2021].

3- Pinterest. (n.d.). Dog Rose. [Image] Available at: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/349451252307217677/?lp=true [Accessed 20 January 2021].

4-Pinterest. (n.d.). Guelder Rose. [Image] Available at: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/349451252307217677/?lp=true [Accessed 20 January 2021].

5-Pinterest. (n.d.). Bug Hotel. [Image] Available at: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/349451252307217677/?lp=true [Accessed 20 January 2021].

6-Pinterest. (n.d.). Wild Meadow. [Image] Available at: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/349451252307217677/?lp=true [Accessed 20 January 2021].

7-Pinterest. (n.d.). Prairie Style Border. [Image] Available at: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/349451252307217677/?lp=true [Accessed 20 January 2021].

8-Pinterest. (n.d.). Verbenas. [Image] Available at: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/349451252307217677/?lp=true [Accessed 20 January 2021].

9-Pinterest. (n.d.). Wildlife Pond. [Image] Available at: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/349451252307217677/?lp=true [Accessed 20 January 2021].

10-Pinterest. (n.d.). Small Water Container. [Image] Available at: https://hu.pinterest.com/pin/349451252307217677/?lp=true [Accessed 20 January 2021].