December 2016 – Pests and disease control – Geoff Hodge

Geoff Hodges’s good advice was to avoid pests and diseases in the first place! Always walk around the garden, especially at dusk, try to find those bugs, look underneath the leaves …… Never buy a plant in a garden centre without inspecting it. Pick up the plant by the stem (careful!) and see if there are grubs on the roots and if the compost falls off – if so, leave it alone, you don’t want to buy a plant with an inferior root system. Garden Centre managers will not be happy but maybe they will learn. Only Geoff could advise this as he was such a manager!

We have to take responsibility for our own actions. Buy the right plant for the right place! Look at the conditions which the plant will like – full sun, light shade and so on. Then, look at your soil – add organic matter before planting new plants then feed them as they grow. Water the soil not the plant, remembering that roots will grow up to the water if you just water the surface instead of growing down into the soil. Follow the instructions on the labels of plant food and try to remember the attributes of the products e.g. Tomorite will encourage flowers. Apply granules to moist soil otherwise the roots will burn. Remember that slow release fertiliser works as the temperature rises – best apply in March onwards. Did you know that aphids do not like the colour blue? I just throw that in for effect… use that gem as you wish.

Horticultural fleece is invaluable for keeping pests off plants in the vegetable plot. For more useful tips purchase a copy of the RHS Allotment handbook which Geoff wrote!

Geoff favoured biological control of controlling pests and plant diseases and gave as an example: nematodes which can be introduced to the soil where they naturally live,. For instance they enter the slug, infect it with bacteria, the slug stops eating the plants within days and dies within a week. The nematodes feed off the decomposing slug and reproduce, creating a new generation to move on and infect more slugs. A more attractive solution is to use self adhesive copper tape around containers for plants beloved by slugs – as the wee one crosses the barrier a chemical re-action with its slime produces a small electric shock, enough to persuade it to seek less well defended dinner! This and many more tips are found on the website – an amusing, informative website.

Similarly Whitefly can be controlled by using a tiny parasitic wasp (encarsia formosa) which is supplied (conveniently on line) as pupae on cards which are hung in a shady position throughout the crop (or in a green/alpine house) and have been used to control whitefly since 1926.

Finally, occasionally chemicals available to gardeners are withdrawn from sale or use. it is good practice to check in your shed on a regular basis to ensure such products are disposed of safely. They should not be placed in household waste or down the drain.

An excellent speaker and generous to a fault – Geoff provided very expensive items for our Perennial raffle.

Mary Duff December 2016

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