Notes by Phil Dudman
The arrival of a pest or disease in your patch can cause a lot of grief, especially when you don’t know how to deal with it. Every gardener goes through this when they are starting out, but we all get better at managing problems as we gain experience. To save you some heartache along the way, we have put together some guidelines to help you avoid and deal with pest and disease attack.
When it comes to our own health, it’s always when we are run down that we are most susceptible to illness and infection. Plants are the same. If they are not getting enough of what they need, they will lack strength and vigour and are more likely to experience problems due to pest and disease attack. Create good growing conditions for your plants – healthy soil, plenty of sunshine, regular soil moisture, a balanced diet of the nutrients that need – and they will be stronger, more robust and less attractive to invading pests and disease organisms.
Avoid a monoculture in your garden i.e. large areas of a single plant species. Monocultures are very attractive to plant pests and once they arrive, they quickly multiply and spread though the whole crop. Mix up your plantings to include a variety of different plant types. This reduces the possible event of a complete crop loss and will often help to attract other insects that feed on pests and keep numbers manageable.
Ideally, specific vegetable crops (and their relatives) should not be grown in the same soil more than once every 3-4 years. When you do, you allow pest and disease populations to build up in that area over time making it increasingly difficult to control them. Once you harvest a crop, sow something in that area that is of a different plant group. This is commonly referred to as ‘crop rotation’. For more information, see week 3 to download our fact sheet on vegetables families.
Get to know your friends and foe
Learn to identify the different pests and diseases that affect your crops. Armed with this knowledge, you will be in a much better position to respond to early invasion and in some cases, do nothing at all. Some insects are good guys that feed on pests. Similarly, some blemishes found on leaves or fruit may be completely harmless.
Common Pests & Diseases
See the fact sheet below to view a table of common pests and diseases. This table is a good starter guide for getting to know some of the typical pest and diseases that may affect your vegetable crops, the damage they cause and how to control them organically. See my homemade remedies for pest and disease controls.
Phil’s Top Tips
1. Keep plants healthy – healthy soil, lots of sunshine, regular soil moisture and frequent feeding produces healthy plants that are more resistant to pest and disease
2. Rotate your crops – whenever you harvest, replace the crop with a plant from a different family. This avoids build up of troublesome pest and diseases.
3. Get to know your friends and foes – some insects are beneficial in the garden. Others require rapid response to avoid a pest or disease explosion.
Table of common Pests and Disease (pdf 45k)
Dealing with Pest and Diseases organically – by Dianne Hart (pdf 470k)