Garden pests are waiting to strike

Netting to keep cabbage whites away. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Netting to keep cabbage whites away. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Planting cabbage, sprouts, broccoli, et al and failing to guard against pest problems will lead to disappointment.

Slugs and snails always attack by land, followed by airborne assault from cabbage white butterflies.

Organising mechanical defence at ground level and putting suitable netting in place goes a long way to encouraging healthy brassicas.

Similarly, when sowing carrots remember to distribute seed sparingly along a drill to avoid thinning-out overcrowded young plants. This is because the odour of disturbed foliage attracts carrot fly.

You cannot rely on surrounding the crop with a low barrier of fine mesh, which folklore suggests will stop the pest. Larvae-damaged carrots have been found in crops grown in tall drums.

Best approach is to sow carrot seed thinly and completely cover the drills with enough protective fleece to encourage normal growth. This allows light and moisture access, and when fixed firmly in place, can be left until harvesting time.

It’s surprising how the simple act of keeping weeds under control contributes to better crop performance.

Unwelcome annuals such as chickweed will quickly smother bedding displays and rows of vegetables if left unchecked. Apart from competing for food and moisture, they also provide shelter for plant pests.

Getting down to ground level and hand-weeding, knee-pads optional, is rewarding. You can see at a glance that the activity has made a difference.

All fruit-bearers and freshly-planted vegetables are viewed through rose-tinted spectacles at the beginning of the growing season because they represent such promise. But successful harvesting is dependent on the level of our input.