Garden Bad Guys - the harmful creatures
For harmony to be achieved there needs to be balance to realise a greater whole. In the garden, this is important from an aesthetic perspective, using planting to create a combination of size, shape and colour that together creates an order and promotes serenity. But it is equally important from a biological perspective to have parity between dualities; good and bad, yin and yang. Take mini-beasts and insects for example, we know and love the good guys, such as the ladybird and earthworm, but there are some really nasty little baddies lurking in the undergrowth and circling your garden ready to wreak doom and destruction. So who are these miniature harbingers of doom? Read on to find out about some of the common garden enemies.
These night feeding, greedy little horrors will dine on a wide selection of plants. Finding huge holes all over your now skeletal foliage, or discovering that your potatoes, carrots or strawberries are riddled with holes as the result of our slimy ‘friends’ having a midnight feast is soul destroying.
But there are ways to deal with them. If you garden organically, then use beer traps or go out at night armed with a torch and bucket of salt water; pick the slugs and snail off one by one and drop them into the bucket to meet a saline demise. Otherwise, chemical products such as slug pellets can be used.
Guaranteed to send a shiver through the heart of even the most experienced gardener, both the adult and juvenile vine weevil are serious garden pests, especially when growing plants in containers. The adult vine weevil is responsible for irregularly shaped chomp marks at the leaf edge, which, while unattractive, do not affect the plant unduly.
The Vine Weevil offspring however, are a very different matter. These brown-headed, fat, white little grubs are voracious eaters, feeding greedily on roots, tubers and stem bases; unnoticed until the plant collapses and dies.
For adult weevils, picking them off plants at night is what's required, while the young grubs can be controlled using nematodes, tiny parasitic worms, although this is a poor option in dry conditions. There are also chemical insecticides specially formulated to kill vine weevils.
When your dahlias are covered in a seething black mass, then you know you have an aphid infestation. Both blackfly and, their equally unwelcome cousins, greenfly are sap suckers, feasting en mass, and secreting a sticky substance called honeydew, which encourages sooty moulds that inhibits the ability of the plant to photosynthesize.
Thankfully, aphids have a host of natural predators, birds, ladybirds, lacewings and others who will welcome an al fresco aphid meal. Also effective, and somewhat therapeutic, is squashing them, as is an aphid specific or broad spectrum insecticide.
If you've spent many hours over many years tending your lawn until it's a deep green expanse of lush perfection, and then one day, all of a sudden, there's a yellowy brown patch, where, unfortunately, a chunk of your gorgeous lawn has expired, the culprit is likely to be the offspring of that feeble flying wimp of a creature, the crane fly. These offspring are Leatherjackets - a repulsive grub, brownish grey in colour, tubular, and actually, a small miracle of design, a highly engineered and efficient feeding machine that gorges on grass roots, so killing the plants.
Starlings are your friends here, and they will dig in your lawn for the large leatherjackets. You can also apply a garden pest repeller like a lawn grub killer, in the autumn, to eradicate colonies of newly hatched grubs.