Protecting your plants
April is the ideal time of year to start keeping an eye out for pests and diseases. They can absolutely decimate your garden if you’re not careful, so it’s important to get on top of it now. Doing these jobs early will save you a headache further down the line and stop pesky pests from getting the upper hand. There are plenty of solutions to try, and you don’t need to resort to chemical warfare either. You can keep your garden clean with organic strategies that help to prevent your plants from being attacked in the first place, so you don’t need to worry about seeking a cure.
It might sound like a simple step, and something you should be doing anyway, but regular watering when it's dry and maintaining the nutrient level in the soil goes a long way. It helps plants resist disease during the summer months. Because they’re usually in full growth, the leaves and stems can even prevent any rainfall from reaching the roots. If they’re dry at the roots, they’re susceptible to mildew. Liquid fertilisers and plant food are particularly effective because the nutrients are quickly absorbed by the roots. If you’re using powdered or granular fertilisers, make sure that it’s worked into the soil and watered in thoroughly.
A physical barrier can do a great job at preventing pests and diseases. Using a plant protector net, fine mesh or garden fleece can stop insects from feeding and laying eggs on your plants. Either allow the covers to rest on the plants or support them on hoops, and make sure they’re secure around the edges so insects can’t just walk in at ground level. It’s common for carrots, in order to prevent carrot fly, as well as brassicas to stop the cabbage white butterflies from getting to them. But barriers are also good for stopping fungal spores. Especially for things like tomatoes - growing them under glass or polythene usually helps them avoid tomato blight.
How do you keep bugs at bay? By attracting more bugs, but the right kind. There are plenty of beneficial insects that aren’t bothered about your plants, but will happily get rid of any pests that are on them. You just need to get them to your garden. Insects like hoverflies, ladybirds and lacewings either predate on pests or hatch their young inside them, so grow flowers and plants that they love to attract them. Putting these plants in and among, or right next to, your vegetables will help them have the maximum impact.
You can naturally prevent disease by adding organic matter. Try using mulch as a barrier that stops disease spores splashing back onto plants. Putting it down in winter will bury rose black spot spores and make sure that they don’t come back to re-infect your spring growth. Working manure into the soil helps to fight against fungal pathogens. As it breaks down, it creates competitive micro-organisms. Just cultivating the soil will break up any small roots and expose the pathogens. Just feeding the soil with plenty of well-rotted organic matter helps to promote a thriving root system, which keeps plants nice and healthy above ground.