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Wildlife of the Month - November

Gardening without Pesticides

More and more people are looking for alternatives to pesticides in our gardens. In order to assist home gardeners in moving away from the use of potentially harmful pesticides, PAN UK and Garden Organic have compiled a gardening guide to dealing with some of the most commonly found garden pests. They work on the principle of prevention, rather than cure.

· Always maintain a healthy, active soil with plenty of nutrients, using compost and manures.

· Crop rotation helps to prevent diseases from building up in the soil so vary where you plant your vegetables year after year.

· Growing flowers with vegetables attracts beneficial wildlife, such as caterpillar-eating birds and aphid-eating insects, such as lacewings.

· Using toxic chemicals kills not only the pest, but creates health hazards for the beneficial wildlife that play a part in controlling the pests in your garden.

· Choose plants and varieties that are suited to the site and soil as they will have a better chance of being strong enough to fight off pests and diseases.

· Finally, be vigilant, keep out pests, such as slugs, caterpillars and pigeons, by constantly checking your barriers, traps and covers. Especially after rain or in damp conditions.

Here’s just some of their ideas. For the full guide go to

o Ways to reduce an aphid attack o Avoid synthetic fertilisers. These supply too much nitrogen to the plant, allowing lush soft growth which is more susceptible to attack. o Encourage insects (like the ladybird larva in the photo), birds and bats which eat aphids (check out August Article: Making a Lacewing Hotel) o Cover plants with horticultural fleece to keep aphids off. o Remove aphids mechanically using a strong stream of water. o Spray a dilute solution of fatty acids or soft soap on affected leaves and rub the aphids off with your fingers. This will probably have to be repeated once or twice a week but as the plants age their tissue becomes tougher and less vulnerable to attack. o Smear bands of grease around trees or plants to prevent ants from moving aphids around (fruit tree grease can be purchased online). o Plant species naturally resistant to the viral diseases transmitted by aphids. o Prune affected parts of plants. o Plant a trap crop such as nasturtiums. Blackfly love nasturtiums which can be pulled out when they are infested. o Use an oil-based spray on trees in the winter to smother overwintering eggs.

To prevent attack by cabbage root flies

Place squares of cardboard, roofing felt, or carpet around the stems of newly transplanted brassica seedlings. Make a cut from the edge of the square (10cm diameter) into the centre. Then place the square around the transplant so that the soil around the young brassica plant is covered. Flies lay eggs on the squares instead of the soil. Exposed eggs dry up and die.

Completely cover beds with horticultural fleece to prevent the flies laying eggs near plants.

Encourage populations of predatory beetles as these eat cabbage root fly larvae. (check out May Article: How to make a beetle bump)

The larvae of the cabbage root fly attack cauliflowers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, spring and autumn cabbage, savoy cabbage and kale. They may also burrow into radish, swede and turnip.

Leatherjackets are a common pest that affects lawns; there are over 300 species of leather jacket in the UK. They are the larval stage of the cranefly (‘daddy long legs’). They attack grass roots, causing yellowing and eventual die off. There are a number of techniques that can be adopted for both prevention and cure of infestations:

· Many bird species feed on leatherjackets. Encouraging starlings, thrushes and blackbirds into your garden will help to control infestations.

· Leatherjackets can be coaxed to the surface following overnight rain by covering areas with black plastic. They will move to the surface and can then be removed by hand.

· Nematodes such as Steinernema feltiae can be used as a control.

Garden pesticides are classed as hazardous waste. To dispose of your unwanted pesticide products and slug pellets go to

Compiled by Jackie Orbell Member of Risby Wildlife Friendly Village group

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