– Garden Pests and Diseases of 2014 –

an introduction from my perspective – by Peter j. May

The small 'cabbage white' getting to grips with an unripe tomato
The small ‘cabbage white’ getting to grips with an unripe tomato in desperation

Garden pests and diseases, to a certain extent, can be an indicator of underlying problems in your garden. There is no doubt that healthy plants are able to resist pests and diseases in a healthy and benign growing environment. Unfortunately many people do not have the benefit of either. I certainly don’t partly because of the geographical situation of the garden.

REASONS FOR PROBLEMS

Aspect

My garden is on a North East facing slope in the South West of England. This is not good, but because we are so high up on the side of the Mendip hillside it does still get some sun all year round and for most of the day.

The fact that we are over 200metres above sea level and exposed to the late winter east winds is another detrimental factor. Add onto incredibly stony soil mixed with clay and you find a garden that is ‘hard to work’. The stone is Mendip limestone; good for concrete and footings for bridges and buildings, but it makes what little soil there is so full of lime the pH registers off the scale. My testing kit indicates a deep Prussian Blue verging on black, where as 9 on the pH scale is meant to be indicated by a deep ‘Carolina Sky Blue’. Good for cabbages and sprouts, you might say, and the local Cabbage White butterfly population would heartily agree.

Over cultivation

Despite the adverse conditions for an ideal garden, people have been scratching a subsistence on this hillside for more than 350 years. Lead miners originally built the houses down our lane, on common land above the village. They undoubtedly supplemented their incomes by trying to grow-their-own. In the garden there are signs of old pig sties, chicken runs and pieces of old clay pipes in the soil. The fact that there have been people struggling to grow stuff for centuries is another detrimental factor. Now all the common pests and diseases are endemic. Pests like carrot fly, leather jackets, maybugs, aphids, slugs and cabbage-white butterflies are just ready to pounce. Fungal problems like onion white rot and leek rust are everywhere that has been cultivated.

Unwanted guests

Beetroot foliage nibbled by deer
Beetroot foliage nibbled by deer

And the problems don’t end there. Being on the outskirts of the village and partly surrounded by woodland, we have problems that many people might see as a bonus of living in the countryside – badgers, foxes, mice, voles, pigeons, pheasants and rats, but worst of all, there are deer –two types; muntjac and roe. Deer can level a mature and productive vegetable garden in one short summer night – don’t you just love ‘em.

Strength in Adversity

Since we moved here at the beginning of 96, year after year it seemed every time I solved a problem or beat back a pest or predator I would be thwarted by yet another of equal virulence. As time went on and I found myself occasionally overcoming the odds, I felt as though I had gained first hand knowledge of how to deal with these problems and this was a major inspiration for starting this vegetable growing website. On top of this, I had grown vegetables for well over 40 years and I thought I should know what I was doing. Also having been a garden writer for over 20years, I should know how to talk about it. And so having all the pests and diseases under the sun, I have at my disposal all the problems that most gardeners are ever likely to come across, offering ‘photo opportunities’ that were too good not to share. A small compensation for not being able to share devastated vegetables.

Garden pests and diseases, to a certain extent, can be an indicator of underlying problems in your garden. There is no doubt that healthy plants are able to resist pests and diseases in a healthy and benign growing environment. Unfortunately most people do not have the benefit of either. I certainly don’t partly because of the geographical situation of the garden.

My garden is on a North East facing slope in the South West of England. This is not good, but because we are so high up on the side of the Mendip hillside it does still get some sun all year round and for most of the day.

The fact that we are over 200metres above sea level and exposed to the late winter east winds is another detrimental factor. Add onto incredibly stony soil mixed with clay and you find a garden that is ‘hard to work’. The stone is Mendip limestone; good for concrete and footings for bridges and buildings, but it makes what little soil there is so full of lime the pH registers off the scale. My testing kit indicates a deep Prussian Blue verging on black, where as 9 on the pH scale is meant to be indicated by a deep ‘Carolina Sky Blue’. Good for cabbages and sprouts, you might say, and the local Cabbage White butterfly population would heartily agree.

Despite the adverse conditions for an ideal garden, people have been scratching a subsistence on this hillside for more than 350 years. Lead miners originally built the houses down our lane, on common land above the village. They undoubtedly supplemented their incomes by trying to grow-their-own. In the garden there are signs of old pig sties, chicken runs and pieces of old clay pipes in the soil. The fact that there have been people struggling to grow stuff for centuries is another detrimental factor. Now all the common pests and diseases are endemic. Pests like carrot fly, leather jackets, maybugs, aphids, slugs and cabbage-white butterflies are just ready to pounce. Fungal problems like onion white rot and leek rust are everywhere in the garden where veg have been grown.

And the problems don’t end there. Being on the outskirts of the village and partly surrounded by woodland, we have problems that many people might see as a bonus of living in the countryside – badgers, foxes, mice, voles, pigeons, pheasants and rats, but worst of all, there are deer –two types; muntjac and roe. Deer can level a mature and productive vegetable garden in one short summer night – don’t you just love ‘em.

Getting it sorted – Sharing the knowledge

Since we moved here at the beginning of 96, year after year it seemed every time I solved a problem or beat back a pest or predator I would be thwarted by yet another of equal virulence. As time went on and I found myself occasionally overcoming the odds, I felt as though I had gained first hand knowledge of how to deal with these problems and this was a major inspiration for starting this vegetable growing website. On top of this, I had grown vegetables for well over 40 years and I thought I should know what I was doing. Also having been a garden writer for over 20years, I should know how to talk about it. And so having all the pests and diseases under the sun, I have at my disposal all the problems that most gardeners are ever likely to come across. It may not be a gardener’s perfect dream- more like a nightmare. But it is too good to miss for a ‘garden writer’ offering ‘photo opportunities’ that were too good

Slugs mating
When slugs mate, being hermaphrodite, they have the best of both worlds.

to share. A small compensation for not being able to share devastated vegetables.

The other reason for starting this website has come about in the research for remedying the problems. There is so much crap out there. There are so many products for sale on the web or in garden centres that either don’t work or, if they do, they are detrimental to the environment or wildlife and even a danger to you. With regards to the smaller pests and diseases, since the 1970s most of the really effective weed killers, pesticides and fungicides, a lot of the really effective cures have been banned. Indeed they have and a good job too. This is a good thing, not only for the environment, but also for you. However, if I were to be wholeheartedly cynical, I would say that it probably was not because of environmental considerations that they were banned, it was more probable because they were increasingly becoming less effective due to immunity and tolerance of the chemicals by the diseases and fungi they were trying to prevent or the pests they were trying to annihilate. The problem was that when farmers got hold of them, they used them willy-nilly on a ‘just-in-case’ basis to the extent that it is amazing that any of us have managed to survive into the 21st century. Some are doing the same today with neonicotinoids and glysophate – look at the problems with bees and the levels of Roundup in the breast milk of American mothers. No blame to farmers. They see themselves as just trying to scratch a living in a harsh, ‘competitive environment’. But this is a theoretical construct in their minds that has come from the vapourous of an ‘economic climate’. It has nothing to do with the real environment and the climate of the world we live in. It  only seems to work against them in the long term for the short-term gain!

So whilst I clamber down from this ‘soapbox’, I’ll introduce you to some of the visitors, plagues and disasters that have been our lot this growing season and over the next few weeks I show some of the methods by which I dealt with them.

First a ‘rogues gallery’ of this year’s trouble makers or their effects in my garden 2014 – then the methods of dealing with them :

Slug devouring a Gardeners' Delight
Slug devouring a Gardeners’ Delight tomato
small 'cabbage white butterfly caterpillar i
small ‘cabbage white butterfly caterpillar in its ‘brown phase’.
Squash Bug- Coreus marginatus
Squash Bug- Coreus marginatus is a type of ‘Shield bug’ feeding off our raspberries, but would normally feed on squash

 

Advanced white rot fungus in onions
Advanced white rot fungus in onions
South East wind blew down my greenhouse
South East wind blew down my greenhouse
Cockchafer grub
Cockchafer grub. Its just fat and swelled up to get ready to turn into the huge Maybug in spring.
Pear slug worm
Pear slug worm. Does it turn into a species of sawfly?
Cabbages look like doilys
Cabbages look like doilys thank to the small cabbage white caterpillar

 

 

 

cranefly
Cranefly or Daddy Longlegs responsible for the root eating leather jacket grubs

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