Enemies in the Garden.
Like all living things, plants have their enemies. The gardener’s job is to prevent and cure problems to ensure a healthy garden, without harming the environment and there are some interesting old techniques to try.
Wash off aphids: If small plants or shrubs are infested with aphids, sprinkle them with wood ash or talc. The next day hose down the plants that have been treated.
Prevent pests from climbing tree trunks: Grease bands placed around trunks at 3Ocm from the ground, prevent climbing pests, such as the wingless females of the winter moth, from reaching the branches. Apply the bands from October to January, when the moths emerge to lay their eggs.
Welcome useful insects: Beneficial insects, such as ladybirds and lacewings, which feed on aphids and other pests, cannot prevent these insects from proliferating but they ease the problem by keeping their numbers at a manageable level. Most helpful insects need flowers to feed on when they reach the adult stage, so offer them the ones they prefer: Compositae (sunflowers, marigolds, asters, cosmos, and oxeye daisies) or Umbelliferae (wild carrots, fennel and angelica).
A bird box for tits is a must: Did you know that just two tits can keep apple maggots in check? Encourage them into your garden by putting up at least one nesting box in a quiet, sheltered spot in the garden. Its main features should be an opening 3cm in diameter and wooden walls 2cm thick.
Aphids on the run: Aphids are discouraged by the extreme bitterness of aloe, a plant from hot desert regions. Dissolve 1 gram of aloe resin (available from a herbalist or hardware shop) in one litre of water and use a large paintbrush to cover the trunk and branches of vulnerable trees with the mixture.
Trap flies: If a swarm of tiny flies billows up as soon as you approach your pelargoniums, gerberas or busy-lizzies (Impatiens) then white flies have probably been up to no good! The young larvae of these tiny insects eventually weaken plants by feeding on their sap. An alternative to using insecticides is to put out sticky yellow cards to trap the flies.
A sex trap for codling moths: The caterpillars of codling moths can decimate your pear, apple and plum trees by burrowing into the mature fruit. You can buy traps baited with capsules that give off pheromones - synthetic sexual substances similar to those given off by the females – capable of attracting male codling moths from a great distance. Use these from April to August to catch the male moths and reduce the mating chances of the females.
Slugs and snails: Hunt for slugs at night with a torch. Pick them off plants, put them in a bag, tie the top and place it in the waste bin. Leave a pile of logs in a quiet corner to encourage hedgehogs, as they will eat slugs and snails.
Rodents: Deter mice from eating fruits by putting mothballs hung in a muslin bag near by. Don't let the mothballs touch the fruit or the flavour may be tainted. To get rid of voles, sprinkle a little garlic around, but don't overdo it or the whole garden will be overwhelmed with the smell of garlic.
Greenfly: Encourage ladybirds into the garden by keeping it well-stocked with flowers and having hiding places, and they will eat hundreds of insect pests.