Managing Pests in your Garden

A Whole System Approach To Managing Pests And Diseases

The GIY 12 Step Programme that will help you kick the weedkiller and slug pellet habit for good.

Step 1: Cultivate an attitude of acceptance. Accept that you will have to share some of your garden produce with the pests. Equally you need to accept that you must attract and share your garden with predators (for example, birds, frogs, wasps, spiders, ladybirds, etc).

Step 2: Create a safe and attractive habitat for your army of predators. Try attracting birds by planting good habitat trees and providing a nectar feeding station. Create a frog pond close to your garden to tackle unwanted snails and slugs. Encourage wasps and ladybirds with attracting plants like parsley, carrot, coriander, dill, fennel flower, and nectar producing native flowers near by. Try using a butterfly and bee mix of seeds on some parts of your garden and allowing the wildflowers to flourish. 

Step 3: Strive for a healthy soil life balance between beneficial organisms and pathogens. Remember beneficial organisms are earthworms, insects, nematodes, fungi and bacteria. Beneficial pathogens are nematodes, fungi and bacteria. A thick cover of rotted down compost will aid in helping plants to become less water stressed, whilst providing the additional nutrients to feed both healthy roots and the soil's beneficial organisms. A healthy soil grows healthy plants that are better able to resist pests and diseases. Check out our soil fertility advice from Episode 2. 
 
Step 4: Don't strive to eliminate all the pests. By leaving it up to the predators to eat their way through the multitude of pests, allows them to do so at a natural rate. Similarly, using chemical products and treatments to remove all pests will throw out the garden's balance, through killing the beneficial soil organisms and/or starving the predators of their food supply.
 
Step 5: Mix up your plantings to disguise and confuse the pests. Creating biodiversity will strengthen your soil and plants overall health. There is a huge variety of plants, veg and herbs that grow brilliantly in Ireland. Including edible flowers for beauty, pollination and eating!
 
Step 6: Avoid the use of diseased infested plants, mulches or compost. Only allow the healthiest plants to survive making sure you pull out any that are not doing well. Pests and disease rarely prefer healthy plants to sick ones. Also, where possible space the plantings out further and water in the early morning in order to avoid high humidity environments where fungal infections can thrive.
 
Step 7: Don't use chemical fertilisers or over-use manures. Too much fertiliser and/or manure raises the nitrogen levels in the soil, which in turn creates lush weak growth that is very attractive to pests and diseases.
 
Step 8: Create physical barriers to snails and slugs. Spreading around sawdust, sand, shell grit, or snail pellets that are non- toxic to children or animals restricts the carnage of these pests.
 
Step 9: Put your poultry to work. If you keep chickens and ducks, allow them to have controlled access to parts of your garden, in order to reduce the population of snails and slugs.
 
Step 10: Keep your garden and pet bowls tidied. Confine and turn compost heaps. Don't keep food scraps lying around outside, in order to minimise other garden pests that range from foxes, rats, mice, cats and other feral animals.
 
Step 11: Ensure good garden hygiene. Keep all tools in the garden disinfected (ie. shovels, wheelbarrows, pot plant containers and cutting tools), in order to reduce the incidence and transference of disease. Infected plant material must be removed in sealed in plastic bags or burnt.
 
Step 12: If possible, do nothing at first. Try to give the beneficial organisms and predators in your garden system enough time to find the right balance, and the problem will go away, but also make sure you work to reduce the problem by maintaining the balance.