Good Husbandry: Growing Fruit and Veg

Emphasis must always be placed on growing a good plant and accepting that good cultivation, proper manuring and all that is involved in the splendid term ‘good husbandry’ form the proper foundations for success. And never forget that good husbandry includes the prevention and control of pests, diseases and weeds.

Making a good start

The gardener should never skimp on seeds but always go to a reputable nursery. This will ensure the best varieties (cultivars) and strains and avoid some of those troubles which can be carried by seeds. So, too, buy plants from a well-known source, especially fruit plants and perennial vegetables. In the sections on fruit, stress is again laid on the wisdom of purchasing certified plants.

Beware of kind friends who offer largesse in the shape of cabbage plants, leek seedlings and the like. There is no better way of spreading the spores of clubroot or the cysts of eelworm from infected to clean ground than through soil attached to plant roots. Be wary of those old, long established allotments as sources of plants. Many such sites, perhaps most, are infected with potato root-eelworm and acid soils in particular are rife with club-root. Both these troubles remain in the soil almost indefinitely and cannot readily be cured.

Crop rotations

Because of the problem of persistent soil borne pests and diseases it is advisable to stick to a rotational cropping plan whenever possible. This means that related crops, such as cabbages, cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, turnips and swedes, should be grouped together and the site for the group moved each year. This will reduce the risk of diseases, such as club-root, which attack only these crops. Similar considerations apply to potatoes and root crops, to peas and beans and to salads and bulb crops.

The large scale grower with plenty of land can, of course, switch his crops around without difficulty; the smaller grower is, however, limited. He will not gain much by moving the cabbage patch or the potatoes a few yards down the garden; and he will find himself further restricted if the family has a passion for a particular vegetable which is occupying a disproportionately large area. Nevertheless he should make what changes he reasonably can.

Feathered friends

Unfortunately birds cause a lot of damage, particularly to fruit buds in winter and to ripe fruits in season. In some districts seedlings of vegetables may be attacked to the point at which it is not worth the attempt to grow lettuce or peas.

The traditional reply is to scare the birds, which simply means that they are moved on to someone else’s crops. Strips of fluttering plastic, cotton threads, stuffed owls and cats and deterrent sprays have all proved to have their value. But none is completely effective.

The best method, if it is at all practicable, is to enclose the crops concerned in a netted enclosure or cage. Materials for temporary structures can be bought but a permanent cage, although expensive, is clearly the more effective. Pears, plums, red currants, gooseberries and strawberries are always at risk. Bird damage to vegetables varies, but in most districts peas, lettuce, sweet corn and the choicer brassicas deserve protection.


A modern development is the introduction of chemicals within the plant itself to give added and longer protection. These insecticides and fungicides are called systemic. Some sprays which can be employed safely by farmers and commercial growers using special equipment should not be used in gardens because of the risks involved. There is much to be said for insecticides derived from natural sources, including derris and pyrethrum. Experience shows, however, that the natural products are not always efficient against some pests, and some, such as nicotine, are highly poisonous when concentrated. Whatever is used the application should be thorough — on a calm day and preferably in the evening when the bees are safely at home.

The gardener’s medicine chest

All garden spray materials should be kept in a dry safe place out of the reach of children. Most plant protection materials are dangerous if wrongly used; herbicides as well as pesticides must be kept under lock and key and the maker’s instructions closely followed.

Occasionally some spray materials produce slight taints in fruit and vegetables. Take special care if you want to freeze or to preserve the produce.


Herbicides can be divided into two categories. There is the herbicide which will scorch any foliage on which it is deposited or which will kill any plant indiscriminately when absorbed by its roots. This is a non-selective weed killer.

The other category will selectively affect some plants but be harmless to others, because some plants possess the capacity to neutralize the chemicals while others do not and therefore succumb.

Also in use are weedkillers which are held fast in the surface soil. This is thereby rendered temporarily toxic to seedlings while existing plants with root systems exploring the deeper soil are free from harm.

Finally, there are those materials which are translocated within the plant, so that if one part is touched the whole weed is ultimately affected.

Herbicides can be of considerable use even though they have a limited function in a vegetable garden. Take, as an appropriate start, the new or grossly neglected garden, covered with weeds of every description. A spraying with paraquat/diquat will kill all save the deep rooted vagabonds. Cultivation will be much easier and the soil will not be contaminated. An alternative approach is to use sodium chlorate, which kills all the plants but as it persists for several months planting will have to be delayed. Paraquat, carefully applied, will kill grass and weeds growing close to the stems of established fruit trees and so reduce competition; casoron can be employed similarly. Simazine can be used to prevent the growth of annual weeds among black currants and sweet corn and propachlor granules can also control annuals among some vegetables.

Biological control

Man has practised the biological control of pests since time immemorial. Modern developments are highly sophisticated.

It is now possible for the amateur gardener to control white fly attacking plants grown in a glasshouse by introducing deliberately a parasite, Encarsia formosa. Similarly another serious pest, the glasshouse red spider mite, can be reduced considerably by the introduction of a predatory mite with the awkward name of Phytoseiulus persimmilis. Both these organisms are bred by specialists and can be placed in the glasshouse at exactly the right stage.

Another form of biological control is represented by what may be called negative action. For example, the spraying of fruit trees can be reduced to a minimum so that the natural enemies of the fruit tree red spider mite are left to carry out unhampered their gruesome but desirable activities.

The use of traps is another form of control, with man as the predator. For instance, loose bands of sacking or corrugated card-board tied around the trunks of fruit trees in July and removed for burning in October will reduce the number of codling moth larvae which will survive the winter. Similarly, greasebands placed on the trunks in autumn will trap the wingless females of the winter moth on their way up to lay eggs.

A summary of advice

It is perhaps appropriate to conclude with a summary of the approach to the control of pests, diseases, disorders and weeds in the garden.

1 Do not spray open blossoms with insecticides; remember the busy bees.

2 Burn the remains of any plants affected with persistent troubles such as club-root or onion eelworm; the compost heap is no place for these.

3 Equally, perennial weeds of the nature of couch grass, ground elder and bellbine (bindweed) should be consigned to the bonfire

4 Be thorough when destroying weeds; ‘one year’s seeding may mean seven years’ weeding’.

5 ’Prevention is better than cure’. Spray well in advance against such inevitable troubles as apple scab, peach leaf curl, blight on potatoes and tomatoes, and grey mould on strawberries.

6 Follow the maker’s instructions—always.

7 Prune as soon as you see shoots affected with mildew or silver leaf; remove im-mediately any diseased fruits, pare away cankers and paint all large wounds.

8 Rotate crops as much as space permits.

9 Remember the beneficial insects and allow them to work on your behalf.

10 The battle is half won before it starts if the soil is kept in good condition.

Note 1: Plant protection materials and herbicides are dangerous if used incorrectly. Keep them under lock and key, out of the reach of children, and follow strictly the maker’s instructions.

Note 2: Some materials—captan for example—may produce occasional slight taints in fruits and vegetables used for processing.

14. April 2013 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Tips and Advice, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Good Husbandry: Growing Fruit and Veg


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