Gardening with Dave Allan: Why nightly patrols for pests pay off

·2-min read
An adult vine weevil

Picture: PA
An adult vine weevil Picture: PA

The garden is bursting into life and our pests are getting their act together but who can blame them? We’ve opened a cordon bleu restaurant crammed with delicious delights. There’s something for everyone: sap-rich roses for aphids, lettuce and countless other seedlings for molluscs, broccoli for rootfly, and tasty roots for hungry vine weevil.

So what to do? No one these days would poison their garden with pesticides designed to destroy every insect they touch.

To solve the problem you must first know the enemy and then use two approaches to outwit it. Try protecting a plant by helping prevent pest attack in the first place, like using fine mesh against carrot rootfly. Or destroy the pest by search and squash or by using a biological control.

Many pests thrive in tangly growth: dead and dying vegetation provides cover for some, such as mice, voles and slugs resting on their way to a seed tray. And fungal disorders occur in these relatively airless conditions.

Many problems in the herbaceous border are preventable. Pests, such as aphids, put the boot in when a plant is weak and struggling.

It may not have enough nutrient or moisture, it may be growing tall and spindly to reach the light or it has received too much liquid feed.

Nightly patrols in the garden also yield dividends. Scour the greenhouse and check out fresh sowings. Look under seed trays or pots for slugs and if you disturb any diners, revisit the site the next night. You’ll find more because slugs always follow each other’s mucous towards plants.

A nightly patrol round patio pots just now might disturb adult vine weevil laying eggs of their root-destroying grubs, above.

As well as picking off the black beetles with yellow markings on wings, a sticky barrier round a pot’s perimeter may catch some adults.

A biological control, using nematodes, applied now or in the autumn is most effective. Many other biological controls, including for red spider mite are available.

Plant of the week

Apple Blossom

The blossom of all varieties of apple is large, often scented, with an open shape allowing easy access for a range of pollinators.

These are most commonly bees but flies, large and small, and flower beetles also pollinate apple blossom.

Apples are not self-fertile so need a different variety flowering nearby at the same time to achieve a good set of fruit.

Scotland’s cold or wet spring weather can damage flowers and pollen when the temperature falls to -2C or below, instead of the optimum 15C. And sodden grains won’t adhere to the few pollinating insects that are around. Or the wet pollen may rot.

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