Veg Garden Pests – A Birds-eye View
Well, April has come and gone in a stream of ‘sunshiney days’ as we call them in our household, with many an hour spent outside digging up weeds, preparing the veg beds and sowing a host of different seeds.
As I sat on the patio surrounded by my latest purchase of seed packets, organising them into piles – indoor sowing, outdoor sowing, seeds for sowing now, seeds for sowing later - my partner looked at me quite genuinely and said, “Honey, I think you have a problem!”
It’s safe to say, I am addicted to growing vegetables – even though I may not always be successful! Notably this month, a very large pigeon has taken to patrolling the fence, tormenting the dogs. I went outside one morning to find that someone had been rooting around in my recently sown patio containers. Now I didn’t see whodunnit, but I quickly set about recovering what I could, and covering the pots with bird netting.
But as I looked around the garden, I knew the yearly battle against pests had begun – and all the bird netting in the world would not protect the literal fruits of my labour.
This year sees my first attempt at growing rainbow carrots – something I am really excited about! I decided to plant them in my new raised bed, with a cloche on top to protect the seedlings from birds.
But the pest that presents the greater challenge is the carrot root fly, a small black insect whose larvae feed on the roots and cause the carrots to rot. There is no remedy for this pest problem, so prevention is critical – avoiding crushing the foliage when thinning out seedlings, protective barriers and growing alongside alliums like garlic and spring onions will help.
My cloche provides the ideal framework for attaching a fine mesh or polythene barrier to prevent female carrot root flies from laying their eggs. For plants sown direct into the ground, horticultural fleece is a good option and will also help to suppress weeds.
Also sure to make an appearance are aphids (commonly known as greenfly and blackfly), a group of insects with a very broad appetite. Luckily, aphids are prey to other insects such as ladybirds, but for plants that are susceptible to aphid-borne viruses such as tomatoes and strawberries, insect mesh and sticky traps will be my go-to.
Alas, the most notorious scourge upon the vegetable patch has got to be the slug. There was a news report a few years back that stated a population density of 200 slugs per square metre of garden was moderate. That’s a pretty daunting task when I think about how many square metres of vegetable seeds I’ve sown!
One of the most recommended methods of control are ‘torchlight searches’ – yes, going out in the middle of the night with a torch and physically hunting down and removing slugs from the garden (just pop them over the neighbour’s fence?) That’s enough to test anyone’s devotion to their lettuce, and I can safely say I will not be relying on my 2am motivation to protect my precious greens! Luckily there are other, less laborious methods for keeping the slugs away – physical barriers such as slug gel and copper tape I find the most effective, and are my personal preference over chemical control.
One enemy of the veg garden I recently learned about is the mouse! Apparently, mice have a fondness for peas and beans, and will more than happily wander into the veg patch and treat themselves to a nice green salad. Perhaps a handsome owl decoy on my fence will keep both the mice and Mr. Pigeon at bay!
But if there is one thing I know for sure, the biggest pests I will face in my vegetable garden this year go by the names of Gatsby and Murphy - a border collie that likes to pee on EVERYTHING and a King Charles Cavalier that likes snuffling around in the earth like a pig rooting for truffles.
All the seeds in my garden have been strategically placed with these guys in mind – but my vegetable sowings are still far from dog-proof. Again, physical barriers are a must, and in the absence of any other reliable methods, verbal (censored) admonitions are certain to be part of the pest management plan.
Alex, Product Development