It’s impossible to eliminate all plant pests and diseases from your garden, but here are a few things you can do to prevent them becoming a serious problem.
1. Feed the Soil
Creating a rich healthy soil is probably one of the most important ways of combating pests and diseases. Healthy soil leads to strong healthy plants. The best way adding nutrients and improving soil structure is to add plenty of organic matter, such as manure and home-grown compost, either as a mulch or at the end of the season. Try and avoid using inorganic chemical fertilizers as they are short-term, do not improve the structure of the soil, and often cause soft green growth which pests love.
2. Crop Rotation
Growing the same type of crops on the same ground each year can cause a build up of pests and diseases affecting that type of crop. Crops can be grouped as follows: roots, brassicas, legumes (peas, beans) and everything else (potatoes, onions, tomatoes). Move your crops around each year so that the same group of crops isn’t in the same area for more than one season.
3. Optimal Growing Conditions
All plants want to grow and providing the right conditions will enable them to flourish. Plants vary in what’s best for them and it’s worth following the general guidance on sun requirements, soil pH, soil type, watering and nutrient levels. Providing the right conditions will lead to strong healthy plants, and healthy plants are much better at withstanding pests and diseases than unhealthy ones.
4. Attract Beneficial Wildlife
By growing certain plants and providing the right kinds of habitats in your garden, you can attract plenty of helpful insects and animals to your garden who will help in the yearly Battle Against Pests. Ladybirds, lacewings, frogs, toads, hedgehogs and birds are all your allies, and are to be encouraged into your garden as much as possible. Hens are also very good at controlling pests as they eat just about anything, but unfortunately this also includes your veg.
5. Tidy and Weed Free
Slugs and snails love anywhere dark and damp to hide, so it’s a good idea to remove anything they might find attractive, such as planks of wood, large stones and old paving slabs. Weeds and old spent plants are a great place for pests and disease to linger,so it’s well worth clearing them away. Removing weeds will give pests less food to feed on.
6. Don’t Use Weak Plants
We often grow far more plants than we need, and find it incredibly hard not to plant every
last one. But we’re not doing ourselves any favours by planting weak plants as they are susceptible to attack and will simply encourage pests and disease. Only grow the strongest and healthiest plants and put the rest on the compost heap.
7. Correct Plant Spacing
Plant spacings in books and on seed packets often look on the generous side and it is very tempting to ignore these and squeeze in as many plants as you can. But healthy plants need breathing room so that fresh air can circulate around them. If they are too close, then any dew, rain or garden watering isn’t able to evaporate easily and the leaves will stay damp for longer, encouraging fungal and mould growth.
8. Disease Resistant Cultivars
If you are finding the same disease or pest is attacking a particular crop year after year, then look for a disease resistant variety. In some areas, carrot fly can be a particular problem and there are now several varieties which show good resistance.
9. Crop Intermingling
It’s very easy to get carried away with creating a very organised and regimented garden, with neat rows and blocks, but having all of one crop in the same place can make it very easy for pests and disease to spread. If these plants are spread out amongst your other crops then some natural barriers are created. Small groups and rows of crops spread out here and there can also make for a more interesting and varied vegetable patch.
10. Avoiding Seasonal Pests
Certain pests are a problem for a short period of time and by planting early or late you can often avoid them. Early broad beans suffer less with aphids, and careful planting of your peas means you can arrange it so that they will not be flowering when the pea moth is looking for somewhere to lay her eggs. If tomato blight is a problem in your area, then plant your tomatoes as early as you can, so that they have a long growing and ripening season before blight hits.