Summer garden pests and what to do about them
After our very long locked-down winter in Melbourne, it’s super exciting to be able to once again ‘pop out to the shops’ and get back into properly sorting out the garden – unless, of course, you’re one of the amazing people who managed to grow an incredible lockdown garden! Either way, being a fairly rainy La Niña year so far, there are a growing number of beasties and bugs out there trying to beat us at our garden game.
In some areas, black aphids were seen eating weeds like sow thistle as early as mid-winter this year! Without any control, aphids are more than happy to chow down on your vegetables, fruit trees and even small ornamental trees.
Preferring the shade, putting your plants in the sun can do a little if you’re able to move your plants around, but if you have a full-scale infestation you’ll need to try something a little stronger:
- Battle of the bugs: Both ladybirds and lacewings are aphid predators. You can try to attract them into the garden by planting things they like, or purchase them and release where you need to in the garden (Bugs for Bugs is one place you can get these in Australia). There are other helpful bugs like hoverflies and various types of wasps that also prey on aphids, so keep an eye out for them and then read up on how to encourage more of what’s already there.
- Plants: You may have heard of Pyrethrum as a spray, but did you know its natural form (not the synthetic Permethrin/Pyrethroids version) is derived from a type of daisy? You can plant this attractive daisy around the garden to repel aphids naturally. Other plants that are said to be resistant to aphids include: catnip, peppermint, fennel and dill.
- Control ants: Aphid problems can actually be due to ants! If you have aphids where you also have a lot of ants, they may be in a symbiotic relationship – ants will farm aphids to feed off the honeydew they extract from the plants. If you notice this is the situation, you can make a simple Borax ant bait to control your aphid numbers.
Nocturnal and partial to small seedlings of many varieties, earwigs can make a real mess of your freshly planted, newly sprouting summer garden. Tell-tale signs of earwigs are small holes in the middle of the leaves or holes with ragged edges. Bearing in mind that they can also eat those pesky aphids we just looked at (thinking about the ecosystem of the garden as a whole is tricky but worth the time!) there are a few ways to manage these if their numbers are taking over:
- Traps: you can make oilpit traps by putting some vegetable oil and soy sauce in a small plastic tub pushed lightly into the soil to lure the earwigs in. Watch this video to find out how to make one.
- Soapy water: For this one, you’ll need to go looking for the earwigs either when they come out at night, or find their hiding places during the day. When you find them, spray them with some soapy water or knock them into a tub of it. Just keep in mind that you can take out all kinds of bugs with the spray, so be careful what you’re spraying (unless you want to take them out too).
- Rolled up paper: If you’re having trouble finding the earwigs or aren’t able to go looking at night, you can place simple rolls of newspaper around the garden to attract them, and then hopefully scoop them up inside the paper while they’re napping in it during the day.
Slugs and snails
Who hasn’t battled the perennial problem of hungry slugs and snails in the garden?
There are many methods people swear by, like eggshells and copper tape – and these may well work – but be aware that these aren’t all backed up by studies as being effective. Some other things to try are:
- Beer traps: A popular solution – use beer or a mixture of vegemite and water (or anything yeasty and fermented) and pop it in an open container (there are many variations suggested of these) into the soil. Remember to check the traps regularly to clear them out.
- Move them:This is exactly what it sounds like! Pick them up and move them – just make sure you move them at least 20 metres away or they’ll come straight back ‘home’.
- Coffee: perhaps the lesser-known drink-based remedy, spraying a dilution of coffee or sprinkling coffee grounds on your soil can repel slugs and snails.
There are of course many more pests that turn up in the garden but hopefully this helps with some common ones around at the moment. Jump onto our Facebook to let us know what you’ve tried and what worked, or what didn’t!