A great deal of any gardener’s time is spent dealing with destructive garden pests. Chemical pesticides can be fast and effective, but they bring with them a whole host of nasty side effects.
They have a big impact on the environment as a whole, as well as upsetting the delicate balance of smaller, localised ecosystems. They may well kill off their intended targets but they can also be damaging to many other species and even your own pets, not to mention the range of health problems they can cause or contribute to in humans.
And, just like antibiotics, the over-use of chemical pesticides could actually develop the same sort of resistance in the insects you are trying to remove.
So, what natural options are there to rid your garden of unwanted visitors?
Do it biologically
Using biological pest control means utilising the natural enemies of your garden invaders. This eliminates the worry of damaging other plants or animals while they’re working and there’s no danger of the creature becoming immune to the treatment.
There is a variety of biological treatments you can use, including pea moth traps, ladybirds to control mealy bugs plus midges and wasps that can put paid to aphids, but here we are going to talk nematodes!
The microscopic gardener’s friend
You might be familiar with nematodes under their more commonly used name: roundworms.
In excess of 20,000 different species of nematode have been classified (there are thought to be up to a million others as yet unidentified) and they can be found in pretty much every habitat on Earth. If you pick up a handful of soil it is likely to contain several thousand nematodes, although you won’t be able to see the majority of them clearly without the use of a microscope as most of these are no more than 1 or 2mm in length. (Some species, however, grow much larger – have a look at the ones that live inside sperm whales!)
Although many nematodes live in harmony with their surroundings, others are parasites and it is these which can be a real help in keeping order in your garden.
Slug it out
The Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita nematode, for example, will infest the body of a garden slug, infect it with bacteria from the soil and then, once the slug is dead, consume its flesh before beginning the whole process over again. Vast numbers of nematodes are needed to control an average garden’s slug population, however, so you will need to order them in from a specialist supplier.
You can also bring in nematodes to deal with other widespread irritants, such as caterpillars, ants, vine weevils, chafer grubs, carrot and cabbage root flies and thrips.
Utilising nematodes means you can be sure you’re not introducing anything toxic into the environment: no animals or humans will suffer any ill-effects and fruit or vegetables you are growing will remain perfectly safe to eat.