Thilaka Baskaran tells us how to get the better of pests in the garden
Pests are a part of any garden and are seasonal. In a healthy garden, they are kept in check by birds, frogs, lizards and predatory insects. A bug becomes a pest only when the number increases to a point where serious damage is inflicted on plants.
In pest control, keeping the soil and plants healthy is crucial because weak plants are more prone to pest attacks.
The earlier you handle the problem, the better. So a watchful eye can avoid a disastrous situation. While there are hundreds of pests and diseases, it is the common pests that a gardener has to identify and eradicate.
Examine your plants for damage like holes, deformed leaves and insect droppings. Look under the leaves. Whatever the problem, decide to use only an eco-friendly solution.
Pest damage is of two kinds, chewing and piercing. Chewing damage is caused by insects with cutting mouth parts, like beetles, caterpillars and grasshoppers. The easiest way to get rid of them is to pick them if they are just a few. If the infestation is high, a spray made of a teaspoon of liquid soap in half litre water can be used.
Piercing damage is inflicted by insects and mites with sharp mouth parts that go through the tender portions of the plant and suck the juices. In the bargain, they inject toxins and damage the tissues. This group includes aphids: tiny oval-shaped green, pink or black insects found in large numbers that destroy your roses; mealy bugs: the insects found in clusters under the leaves and make them turn yellow; thrips: little pests that make the tender leaves and flowers curl up and leave a lot of small, black fecal pellets; white flies: the insects that can be seen flying off like a cloud when disturbed.
Most of these pests can be effectively checked by home-made sprays that are excellent alternatives to chemical sprays and can be used regularly for prevention. You can make them easily by following this formula: 30 ml neem oil, one teaspoon detergent soap powder and a litre of water. Mix well and spray twice a month. The second one is garlic spray: one large garlic crushed, one tablespoon cooking oil, one teaspoon liquid soap and one litre water. Combine garlic and oil and leave to soak for 24 hours. Mix all the other ingredients, shake well, strain and spray.
Pest control can be done through companion and rotation planting also. We will dwell on that in the next column.