Pests and other problems and how to deal with them
This page is not intended to be a definitive guide to this topic but suggests how you might tackle a few problems likely to be found on Addison Gardens Allotments.
Although we have no specific rules about the use of pesticides, we do have an overall objective to promote flora and fauna on site so plotholders are urged to use pesticides sparingly and preferably, not at all. One of the benefits of having an allotment is to enjoy food which is as fresh as it possibly could be and which has not be continually covered with pesticides while it has been growing.
On heavy clay soil which is often wet, slugs are probably the number one problem you will encounter. However, it is quite possible to win the battle against them by:
- Keeping your plot reasonably weed free with a minimum of cover for them. A raised bed system with wood chip paths is a good deterrent
- Have a few places where there are stones/pieces of wood and turn them over from time to time. The little blighters will be underneath and dispatch mercilessly
- There are a whole range of slug barriers available in the shops of varying degrees of effectiveness. You could also try slug traps filled with milk or beer (but the latter seems such waste!)
- Slug Pellets: there is now available an excellent form of slug pellet called 'Advanced Slug Killer from Growing Success. This is described in the Organic Gardening Catalogue as: "The slug pellets we've all been waiting for. Safe for children and pets, birds, hedgehogs and other wildlife - killing only slugs and snails. After remaining effective for several weeks in both wet and dry conditions, the pellets based on ferric phosphate will break down to iron and phosphate nutrients as part of garden soil. Please do not use Slug Pellets containing Metaldehyde as this is a poison deadly to wildlife which should have been banned long ago.
- Nematodes are the latest and it seems the most effective way of controlling slugs, this beats the chemical alternatives easily. Nematodes are tiny organisms, so small they are invisible to the eye. They are naturally occurring organisms which are harmless to you, your little ones, wildlife and your plants. The idea is to buy them in plastic packages, put them into a watering can, add water and then water the areas affected by slugs. The little nematodes then enter the slugs and release bacteria which slowly kills the slug. Even better news is that the nematodes then multiply and go in search of more slugs!
- If you are growing from seed it is often better to start off at home/greenhouse in pots and seed trays and transplant the young plants on site later.
- Choose slug resistant varieties of potatoes: Thompson and Morgan offer a slug resistant package of potatoes. These include Foremost and Ulster Chieftain as First Earlies, Kestrel, Pink Fir Apple and the Sarpo group as second earlies/main crop
Birds are not generally a pest but they will eat soft fruit and so these need to be protected through netting/fruit cages etc. Wood Pigeons are a real problem and are best seen on the dinner table roasted and covered in a thick red wine sauce! They will eat any brassica you present them with so all brassicas need to be netted from the word go.
We have a constant problem with tomato blight and to a lesser extent potato blight. There is not an easy solution to either other than to choose blight resistant varieties. Tomato blight usually comes late in the season so getting an early start with tomato plants is a good idea. Greenhouse grown tomatoes usually offer less of a problem.
This can be a problem with brassicas. The solution is to plan a three/four year rotation system for beds so that the same crop group is never grown in the same bed in successive years. This is an essential element of all healthy allotment gardening systems
Nematodes are the latest and it seems the most effective way of controlling slugs, this beats the chemical alternatives easily. Nematodes are tiny organisms, so small they are invisible to the eye. They are naturally occurring organisms which are harmless to you,, wildlife and your plants.