Friend or Foe in the Garden

A word now about friends and foes in the garden — especially foes, which can be combated with a great array of chemical weapons these days. The foes you face are the insects who wish to share the fruits of your endeavours (there are also larger creatures such as birds and mice which are not being considered here); fungal spores which alight and develop on our plants when conditions are right for them, and weeds. Friends occur in the insect camp, notably among the ladybirds and parasitic wasps, and in the soil are found the helpful centipede (who is more active than the harmful millipede), certain burying beetles and the invaluable earthworm. Any damage done by birds is surely compensated by their activity in searching out pests, including slugs and snails.

Before resorting to chemical controls, be sure that other approaches have been tried. There is no substitute for good hygiene in the garden. This concerns such points as removing all trash and litter for composting or burning, avoiding dense, damp tangles of growth which are breeding grounds for pests and diseases. It means attending to hand weeding, cutting back dead growth, digging out the last remains of food crops — and keeping tools clean. It’s attention to detail, for which there is another phrase — green fingers.

But when troubles are rife, as will be the case from time to time in every garden, then go in with modern aids and apply the knock-out before epidemic levels develop. Even so, don’t get carried away just because a suitable spray is to hand. It may be just as easy, cheaper and at nil risk to the environment if, say, a few greenfly are squeezed between finger and thumb, some caterpillars picked off by hand, or a patch of weeds pulled out of the lawn rather than spot-sprayed.

Protection and prevention is obviously wiser than last minute action to combat a big build-up of trouble. There are pesticides (insect-killers) with limited persistence in the plant’s sap stream so that pests arriving the day after spraying will be controlled. These sprays are called systemic. The same property will soon be introduced into fungicides but in the meantime these materials are best sprayed on to susceptible foliage, such as that of the rose, ahead of possible infection so that a protective barrier is formed.

The technical word for weedkiller is herbicide and here too there are innovations of great value. The sooner gardeners forget about that dangerous total growth killer sodium chlorate the better. There are other ‘total’ materials which have no fire risk and which allow the ground to be sown or planted quite quickly afterwards. There are selective herbicides for use on the lawn which will destroy broad-leafed weeds but which leave grasses unaffected. And there are newer ones which if sprayed on clean ground among woody plants prevent fresh weed growth.

01. September 2011 by admin
Categories: Garden Management, Pest Control | Tags: , | Comments Off on Friend or Foe in the Garden

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