Pests in your vegetable garden
If your vegs are covered by nasty, green, crawly things, don't panic!
The GardenAdvice team are here to help you with words of wisdom on bug control.
The first thing you need to do, is get a handle on which are the good guys, and which are the bad guys, in your organic vegetable patch. Apart from the obvious slugs and snails, which we all know about, I can only cover a few other common ones here in detail here. So get yourself a good bug and critter book! Also check out our database! It would be easy once you've spotted something nasty munching the lettuces, to behave like Mr MacGregor and blast away with the chemical version of a shotgun! But consider not only do you and the kids have to eat the lettuce, but long-term you're only storing up problems for yourself in the future.
Many chemicals are non-specific, so they can kill the good guys as well as the bad ones. And by continually using chemicals, some of your nasty bugs may become immune. Just like the superbugs we've all heard about in hospitals, which defy all anti-biotics! So, what to do then? I reckon once we know who the bad guys are, we should try to prevent them from becoming such a problem in the first place!
First, we need to look at how we "garden" our veg patch. For example, at the end of the growing season, ensure you tidy up all plant debris on your onion plot. Followed by a good dig over or a rotovate. This will ensure populations of the onion fly maggot cannot overwinter so easily because they'll either get killed off by the frost, or eaten by the birds.
It's also very important to rotate your crops. Using the example of the onion again, if you plant in the same spot year after year, diseases such as white rot, as well as bugs like the horrid onion fly, will become more and more of a problem. So, even if you've only got a tiny veg plot, make a plan every season to help you plant next year. A little extra work, with a pencil and paper, could save you heaps of trouble in the future. You should also take care not to plant members of the same family in the same place. For example, did you know the following are related: peppers, tomatoes, spuds [potatoes], as well as aubergines (nightshade family)? As are cabbage, brussel sprouts, mustard greens and cauliflowers (brassicas). And not forgetting cucumbers, melons and courgettes (cucurbits).
So, you may find it helpful to plant your plant 'families' in groups
or blocks. To make your rotation planning easier. But, if you, or your
neighbour, are having a particularly bad year with bugs or disease spreading
through a particular crop like wildfire, you may want to break up your
planting a bit. With rows, or part rows, of unrelated flowers or veg.
This is called companion planting.
I prefer to pick them (I do it by day) and encourage the critters.
Although this is mainly a greenhouse [and hydroponic] pest, it's certainly worth a mention because once you've got it it's a real bugger to get rid of. A whitefly attack reduces plant vitality, causes premature leaf drop, and may result in the demise of your favourite plant. Yes, that one granny gave you for your birthday last year! Not to mention a nasty black mould, which results from the 'honeydew' excreted by the little darlings. (Yuck!) Now to the control of these little blighters!
Provided you don't have a major invasion, you could allow a tiny parasitic wasp, called Encarsia Formosa, to come to the rescue. These are available from some garden centres and seed companies. The little wasps lay their eggs in the white fly larvae, and that's that. But, if you've got a major outbreak of white fly, then the Encarsia won't be able to cope, as they don't multiply fast enough. So you'll need to take more drastic action and give your conservatory or greenhouse a really good clean up. If possible, you should first move all of the plants outside and give them a thorough spray with insecticidal soap or growing success bug spray that contains natural plant oils(don't forget under the leaves). Next, give the greenhouse, or conservatory, a really good spring clean. (Even if it's July!)
Scrub the glass well, and make sure you get into all those nooks and
crannies. You may, as this will hopefully be a one time major clean
up, like to use something strong such as Jeyes Fluid or washing soda
to get things really clean! Or, if you prefer, you can always use washing
up liquid or soft soap, and scrub a bit harder! Next, if weather conditions
allow, keep your plants outside another couple of weeks, spraying with
soap twice a week. When you finally bring them back in, you may still
see a few white fly wizzing about. Now is the time to introduce your
Encarsia. These little wasps will keep things under control from now
If you have any veg bug or other veg related queries / problems EMail The Veg Doctor, firstname.lastname@example.org