By GEOFF MIERS
Make pests and diseases face a united front of attacks. It’s more than grab a bottle and spray to our heart’s content: That is isn’t necessary!
If a series of remedial actions are undertaken, previous practices analysed, records are kept and a greater understanding of the workings of the garden is developed, the dependence on chemicals can be reduced.
During the cooler months of the year most pests and diseases are in hibernation or at their least active, lawns and plants aren’t growing vigorously and you the gardener should have more time to sit down and plot out a program.
Like now in the warmer months pests generally become most active and we need to be alert, walking around and looking at what is actually happening in the garden.
For example check your lawn out daily and on noting any patches yellowing off or dying then fair chance you either have a problem with your sprinkler system or you may have lawn grub. Check the sprinkler system first if all okay then assume you have either army worm or you have lawn grub.
Check out your eremophilas for any scale insects. Cushion scale is common at this time of the year. It appears as white dots on the leaves often with a dark marking on its back.
They breed quickly if left unchecked. Squash them with your fingers initially, prune off small out breaks and you should be able to keep them in check without chemicals.
Looking at garden hygiene is a good way to commence, importantly focusing on cleaning up potential pest breeding sites.
Look at removing seriously diseased or pest-ridden plants, undertake pruning programs to remove problems, open up plants to increase air flow and prune to stimulate reinvigorated growth for suffering plants.
Roses for example in a sheltered corner with little air flow may be experiencing a range of fungal problems.
Gold dipped whimsical rose.
By opening up the plant and/or even transplanting the roses to a more open airy location the problem may be solved. Roses are however best moved in winter when they can almost go into total hibernation.
In the vegetable garden introduce crop rotation, companion planting, practice fallowing where plots are allowed to lie empty for a season and make life difficult for pests by using barriers, confusing smells, lures and repellents.
Generally refrain from growing the same crop in the same spot repeatedly, this just gives pests and disease an increased chance of becoming a major problem.
In the vineyard or orchard undertake a pruning program to shape, open up your trees if appropriate and remove weak, pest infested and diseased wood and then undertake a spraying program using an oil, sulphur or a home-made remedy to clean up your problems.
If using sulphur use only at a weak rate, spray at night and wash off in the morning to prevent foliage burn.
While the plants are defoliated it’s much easier to control potential problems thus priority should be given to controlling pests and disease in the orchard or vineyard in the winter months.
If however you are having problem with powdery mildew on grape vines contemplate making a spray using three parts full cream milk and seven parts water with a little squirt of dish washing liquid as this will quickly kill off this fungal problem.
Knowing your pests and diseases, knowing when to spray or dust and introducing diversity into the spraying / dusting program will have many of benefits. Your spraying will be more effective, pests will not build up a resistance to chemicals and costs of management will be reduced.
Look to using the range of environmentally safe alternatives to chemicals that are available today, research home made solutions such as garlic sprays, bug juice and a range of other methods of control.
Inspect the garden regularly looking closely at your plants and react quickly to problems. Pests in small numbers are often best solved by using your hands.
Periodically give your plants a wash down with a hand-held hose. Plants love to be dusted off and freshened during the dry season with a squirt with the hose, and, the act of washing brings you into close proximity with your plants where problems are often quickly identified.
A sharp jet of water can also dislodge and discourage a range of pests from minute aphids through to the leaf chomping giant grasshoppers.
Work towards keeping your plants healthy, they are then better able to withstand disease and pest attack. Repair promptly damaged plants, avoid promoting sappy growth through overuse of nitrogenous fertilisers and when damage is limited show some tolerance.
By keeping a record of the activity within your garden, by knowing when problems are likely to occur and under what conditions, sometimes you can introduce preventive measures.
Of course we shouldn’t forget introducing and encouraging predators into the garden. Many insects, birds and other wildlife can be most beneficial.
These are only a few of the many diverse actions that can be introduced into an integrated management program for the home garden.
PHOTO: Rosa hybrid tea ‘Just Joey Rose’ produces sweetly scented large, pale orange double blooms. It is available as a 2ft standard, 3ft standard, 4ft standard and bush rose. Approximately 2ft in height.