How to Deal with Pests, Disease and Weeds in Your Garden
However careful you are, at some time your plants will suffer at the hands (or roots) of pests, diseases or weeds. Pests are animals or insects that harm plants by eating them or living on them. Diseases are caused by fungus, viruses or bacteria. Weeds are plants growing where they are not wanted, usually at the expense of more choice specimens.
Any plant’s resistance to pests and diseases may be reduced by disorders that are caused by poor growing conditions. Always ensure that your plants are in the right situation, growing in suitable soil and have the correct amount of water. If you do this they will be in good condition and ready to fight off most problems.
From the outset, it is worth facing up to the fact that your garden will never be perfect. Most plant problems in the garden result in disfigurement rather than permanent damage, and if you try and eliminate all pests and diseases you will turn your garden into a war zone and never be able to relax in it. You need to adopt a slightly firmer approach regarding fruit and vegetables as you do not want to lose your entire crop, but even here it is better if you are prepared to compromise a little.
You should avoid using chemical products because they will upset the natural balance of your garden. Any change may not be immediately apparent and may not even do any great harm but the more we discover about the use of chemicals the more we realize how damaging their effect is on the environment. Many chemicals that were thought to be safe 30 years ago have now been withdrawn, and although this means that chemicals in use now tend to be less harmful you can never be sure of their impact.
Derris, which had been manufactured from plants for almost 100 years and had organic approval, has now been banned, showing how uncertain this whole area is. Also some pests have to be lived with rather than eradicated. If your garden has slugs it will continue to have slugs to some extent regardless of how many slug pellets you put down. You may also destroy useful predators at the same time as trying to wipe out the slugs (some pellets can be harmful to hedgehogs and birds who eat slugs). The best solution is to protect vulnerable plants and not worry too much otherwise.
As with so much in gardening, prevention rather than cure is the ideal to aim for. If you buy healthy plants, choosing resistant strains where possible, and provide suitable conditions for them, they should be able to withstand the onslaught of any pests and diseases. It also helps if you keep your garden reasonably clean and tidy. You do not want it to be so clinical that you drive all the wildlife away, but it is worth clearing away heaps of weeds and leaves rather than letting them rot near other plants where they may cause disease.
It also helps if you deal with any problems as soon as they appear. Keeping on top of pests and diseases may sound like an endless vigil, but don’t worry too much – deal with any serious problems if and when they arise and let everything else take care of itself; it can.