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Gardening: Three fundamental ways to prevent pests in your garden

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I believe gardens are a lifelong experiment merging nature, composition, functionality and joy.

I love my garden and I host an eclectic plant community that reflects my ideas about how a space should look, feel and evolve over time.

The one and only David Attenborough might agree that biodiversity in any ecosystem is a good thing, even if it’s as micro as an urban backyard.

Garden pests and diseases are not what I like to think about too often.

When I am dealing with them, it’s a sign that something bigger in the garden is out of balance – the pests are just benefiting from my lack of planning, productivity and preparation.

But pests are a part of gardening, regardless, so here are the three fundamental things I recommend you focus on first, before spending too much money and time defending against them.

In a similar way to how we humans get run down or sick, these three tips are about creating a suitable environment that promotes prevention rather than a cure.

Are you giving your plant friends the future they deserve? Do they get enough sun or shade? Are they competing with other plants (big trees) or environmental factors (wind or salt)? Are they pruned, fed and watered properly?

Like the most notorious villains, pests and diseases strike the vulnerable. If a sun-loving plant is in cheap potting mix stuck under an eave in the shade without rainfall or food, it is bound to fall prey to pests and disease in no time.

Diversity of plants

Spoiler alert: A stretch of lawn coupled with a lilly pilly hedge isn’t the most robust plant community. It lacks the foundation of a solid, natural habitat required by invertebrates, lizards and small birds that are your first line of defence against pests in the garden.

For instance, flowering plants provide a food source for beneficial insects that prey on pests, their eggs and larvae.

The good news is you can now even buy “good bugs” to release into your garden.

Unfortunately though, sometimes pests just arrive unannounced at the best of times, green thumb or not, (like the caterpillars that are currently demolishing my kale!).

The most important thing to remember is not to use harsh pesticides or herbicides as you’ll wipe out the balance completely and the bad bugs will return.

A study by Sydney University recently published in the journal Biological Conservation suggested that 40 per cent of all insect species are in decline and could die out in the coming decades, which would be a tragedy for our entire food system.

So, if you spot something “pesty looking” in the garden, take a moment to consider these points first and then take the organic approach.

Soil health 

  • Your soil type should suit the kind of plants you are growing. Bagged soil, potting mix and compost products will usually specify a general plant group that it is best paired with.
  • The pH level, fertilisers and organic additives (as well as drainage capacity) will then further provide foundations for a happy and healthy plant.
  • Add your own compost, seaweed extract and worm castings to any mix to improve soil biology, plant vigour and your plant’s immunity against pests and disease.
  • To avoid hearing the four most disliked words “I told you so”, always buy premium quality soil as it far outweighs the costs and time to amend it.
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