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 Managing Pests and Diseases in the Garden

You don't have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency - Bill Mollison


To enjoy our organic veggies and fruit as much as possible, and avoid being caught in the cycle of spraying nasties, we use a range of strategies to manage pests and diseases in our garden.

The two most important strategies we focus on are:

  1.  Creating healthy soil. We’re continuously feeding and improving our soils by growing green manures, adding worm castings and spraying ‘compost teas’ and biodynamic preparations. The health and vitality of a plant is just like a human ... if you eat healthy food you are less likely to get sick!
  2.  Maximising biodiversity. We aim to create a garden with a large diversity of plants and animals. By planting a huge diversity of food plants, if one or two are affected by something we have others to rely on.

There’s also a range of ways we try to avoid and minimise problems:

  • Refraining from any destructive sprays. Even organic sprays like garlic or chilli sprays still harm beneficial insects like bees and ladybeetles as much as they harm the ones eating the crop.
  • Creating habitat and supporting biodiversity by having layers of trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers. We also create habitat and food for predatory insects and birds by letting plants go to flower and seed, providing bird baths and posts for predatory birds such as kookaburras and pipes for blue tongue lizards.
  • Designing chickens and ducks into the system, so they can help us control pests in the garden
  • Planting fruit trees suited to our climate. Trees like peaches, nectarines and apples are very high maintenance fruit trees in our fruit-fly prone climate.
  • Planting veggies at the right time e.g. plant broccoli and cauliflower in early spring or autumn so they are not young when white cabbage butterflies are at their peak in summer
  • Choosing open pollinated heritage vegetables over hybrids
  • Removing plants which are really struggling and aren’t suited to our garden
  • Letting nature take its course where we can and provide food for our predatory animals.   When the leaves on our zucchini plant get powdery mildew, we tend to leave the affected leaves, because within weeks we know the yellow ladybeetles will flock in and feast on the mildew. And the production of zucchinis doesn’t seem to be affected at all.
  • Thinking through the garden design. By situating the veggie beds right at the back door, we can inspect them regularly for pests.
  • Rotating where we plant types of crops in the garden
  • Manually removing larger pests. We remove snails by hand, put them in a zip lock plastic bag and pop them in the freezer – a humane way to bring about their end.
  • Bagging fruit susceptible to fruit fly like large tomatoes or pepino.

Good resources for more info on managing pests in an organic backyard situation include: