Tag Archive: pest control

Picture by Barry Simmons

Picture by Barry Simmons

horticultural_fleeceHorticultural fleece laid over plants can bring earlier crops and other benefits.

Fleece is a finely woven material that protects crops from wind and cold, and raises soil and air temperatures slightly, all helping plants to advance faster than unprotected crops. If it is anchored in the soil properly it also protects against flying pests, such as carrot root fly.

Because fleece allows water and air to penetrate, it reduces watering requirements and increases airflow around the plants. This encourages hardier growth and discourages disease build – up. If used carefully, fleece can last for many seasons.

Being porous, fleece does not warm the soil as well as plastic cloches or black plastic sheeting. It can also lay flat in wet conditions, making germination difficult, and it can easily tear on windy sites.

Fleece comes in all shapes and sizes, like this zip up jacket protector for tender shrubs by Harrod Horticultural

Fleece comes in all shapes and sizes, like this zip up jacket protector for tender shrubs by Harrod Horticultural

Other uses of fleece:

  • to extend the growing season, making maximum use of the garden

to improve the performance of half hardy crops, such as peppers

to produce softer, more palatable growth in vegetables that become tough with winter exposure, such as spinach and chicory.

In recent years another material called ‘Enviromesh’ has come on to the market. This fine-weaved plastic netting is strong and lasts for ages. It is fine enough to keep off small insects such as butterflies, carrot fly, flea beetles and leaf miners, and yet durable enough to keep pigeons off. It is also good frost and wind protection. I use it here in Old School Garden, both early in the season to protect young crops and also later as a useful cover for raspberries and other bush fruit which is otherwise unprotected against birds. The downside is that it is more expensive than fleece, so shop around!

Enviromesh tunnel using pegs to hold it down- picture Enviromesh Ltd.

Enviromesh tunnel using pegs to hold it down- picture Enviromesh Ltd.

Alternatives which can do pretty much the same job are old net curtains (you can get off white ones relatively cheaply from charity shops) or builder’s netting used around scaffolding or to protect against falling debris.

Sources and further information:

Gardeners’ Advice- RHS Wisley Experts, Dorling Kindersley 2004

Alys Fowler- Netting

Old School Gardener

ornamental bug hotels

I love these ornamental bug hotels!

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mole hills‘The worst ENEMYES to gardens are Moles, Catts, Earewiggs, Snailes and Mice, and they must be carefully destroyed, or all your labor all the year long is lost.’

The garden book of Sir Thomas Hanmer 1653

To what extent can we ‘control’ these pests in ecologically sound ways, or is destroying them the only effective method? Old School Garden is suffering from major mole damage at present and I’m stopping short of acting other than to clear up the (increasingly annoying) mole hills in the grass and putting down some powder that’s supposed to encourage them to move elsewhere (the neighbour’s garden?!). I have been tempted to get the garden fork and plunge this along the runs, but I’ve resisted the temptation- so far. What methods of ‘pest control’ do you use?

Old School Gardener

Hotels for the Discerning #5

5 star comfort

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Multi Storey hotel

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Hotels for the Discerning #3

Bug Havens a plenty

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Hotels for the Discerning #2

Royal Horticultural Society – School Gardening Bug Hotel

Old School Gardener

SONY DSCNettles are one of the most widespread and well-known plants in Britain. You might think of them as weeds or nasty things to avoid with bare legs, but they do have some uses in the garden (as well as for making paper, dyeing cloth and eating)!

The two types – the perennial or stinging nettle and the smaller annual nettle- grow everywhere and their main benefits in the garden are:

  • For attracting beneficial insects the perennial nettle supports some 107 different species, including hoverflies, lacewings, parasitic wasps and ladybirds- all great for natural pest control.

  • In the compost heap freshly cut nettles, especially young, soft growth, make an excellent compost activator, as they provide a good source of nitrogen for the bacteria that start the decomposition process.

  • Liquid plant food research in Sweden has shown that liquid made from nettles gathered in the spring has high mineral content and so if you have access to plenty of nettles at that time of year, you can harvest them and dry for use later in the season to make nettle plant feed. To do this soak 1 kilo of nettles in 10 litres of water for about 2 weeks stirring occasionally. It won’t smell too good, but it’s worth the pong! You then strain the liquid off and use it diluted 1 part nettle juice to 10 parts water. The Nettle remains can be added to the compost heap but won’t act as an activator.

Making Nettle Plant Food- image from Tracey the transitoner

Making Nettle Plant Food- image from Tracey the transitioner

The roots of the perennial nettle form a dense mat from which they regrow each year- I have lots on the edges of the wood next to Old School Garden and they are constantly trying to invade! If you want to use the foliage and still keep them growing, cut them back only twice a year- if you want to be rid of them cut them back 3 or 4 times a year, even so it will probably take a couple of years to clear them entirely!

Source: Garden Organic Master Composter Factsheet 6

Further information:

Nettles- Royal Horticultural Society

Perennial Nettle- Garden Organic

Annual Nettle Garden Organic

Top ten uses for Nettles- Daily Telegraph

Heal the burn

Old School Gardener

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Phacelia tanacetifolia, a  'green manure' that's good to look at and attractive to beneficial insects.

Phacelia tanacetifolia, a ‘green manure’ that’s good to look at and attractive to beneficial insects.

I’ve just been reading about green manures, from a small prize I won at my induction training as a ‘Master Composter’. The prize is a slim booklet produced by Garden Organic and it focuses on the use of green or ‘living’ manure in the garden. So, what is a green manure?

‘a plant which is grown to benefit the soil, not, as some might suppose, under-ripe animal dung!’

I’ve had a couple of tries with green manure (mainly because I like the flowers of Phacelia), but have not been totally convinced of its value – it’s hard to check what benefits it brings unless you conduct some sort of rigourous trial, of course. Anyway, this booklet is giving me the confidence to do more and so I thought I’d share its contents with you in a short series of ‘bite sized’ articles over the next few weeks.

Apparently green manures have been used by farmers for centuries to improve their land and gardeners have begun to realise their value too. Seed companies have begun to stock green manure seeds in packets sized for the average garden. They are most often used in the vegetable plot, but can also be used in other areas. In later articles I’ll cover where and when to use them; some of the plants and their benefits; how to choose and grow the right plants and what to do when you’re ready to use them. Today I’m focusing on seven reasons why to use green manure.

1.To feed the soil – green manure crops ‘mop up’ and hold onto soil nutrients and some deep-rooted types can actually gather nutrients from depths that other plants cannot access. By absorbing nutrients the roots prevent it being washed down into sub soil. Once green manures are turned into the soil the nutrients are ready to be taken up by the next crop.

2. To protect and improve soil structure – green manures help to protect the soil surface from the effects of heavy rain (mainly soil compaction and surface ‘panning’). This is a benefit for both clay and sand – dominated soils where organic matter reduces compaction in the former and helps water and nutrient retention in the latter.

3. To stimulate soil micro organisms – when dug in green manures feed and stimulate microscopic creatures that in the process of decomposing this organic matter boost soil health, which in turn helps to develop strong plants.

4. To prevent weed invasion – nature abhors a vacuum/ bare soil – as soon as plants are removed new ones will try to move in and these can often be weeds. Green manures tend to germinate quickly so can be a quick way of covering bare soil and smothering young weed seedlings, also eliminating the need for constant hoeing to remove the weeds.

5. To control pests – some beneficial crittters (like frogs and beetles) love the shady, damp ground under a green manure. Some green manures can be planted to distract flying insects away from crops you want to protect; e.g. underplanting Brassicas with Trefoil disguises the outline of the crop and seems to deter cabbage root fly. Likewise a small patch of Phacelia tanacetifolia or Clover, if allowed to flower, will attract insects that prey on many garden pests.

6. To improve the look of the garden – a green manure or ‘cover crop’ will not ony help to prevent weeds but can look attractive of itself. Some also help to fix nitrogen in the soil which will help plant growth.

7. To ‘rest’ your soil – after a period of intensive cultivation, soil can benefit from lying fallow for a season. Most usual in the vegetable garden, it’s a technique that can be useful in the ornamental garden especially where a new border is to be planted up.

Crimson Clover - another green manure that looks good and helps to 'fix' ntrogen in the soil

Crimson Clover – another green manure that looks good and helps to ‘fix’ ntrogen in the soil

So, on paper the case for using green manures is a strong one. My kitchen garden is currently straining under the weight of the many different crops I have growing in every available patch of soil (and some containers too). But in a month or two, once some crops have been harvested, and where I haven’t planned for any new crops, I’m going to put in a green manure. In next week’s article I’ll cover just where and when to use these valuable plants.

Source: ‘Green Manures’- Garden Organic Guide. September 2010

Old School Gardener

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