The month of June, with it’s unpredictable weather high and lows, can create great challenges in the form of pests and diseases to new gardeners and to seasoned experts alike. It is worth keeping a watchful eye out at different times of day or night to see what you find in amongst your planters, trees or borders. Often, if you catch any pesky blighters early enough, you can avoid the use of chemicals which have a cost both environmentally and to the ever stretched purse.
Many bugs are active throughout the night. Their diligent feeding on your most precious and nurtured flowers is evident when a new day breaks and you discover all but the chewed stalks have been devoured. Earwigs favour the flowers of bedding plants such as petunias. However if you create a safe place for them to shelter such as upturned flowerpots filled with newspaper or straw balanced on knee high garden canes, the earwigs can be harvested from these pots during the day and removed from the vicinity of the plants you don’t want them to eat.
Yellow sticky traps in greenhouses can both help monitor and control pests.
Although we encourage planting a pot for beneficial pollinators, butterfly and moth caterpillars can often be picked off plants in the veg plot and rehomed in a wildflower pot or border you don’t mind giving up if discovered before populations become excessive. If this seems too labour intensive, cover your sacred plants with an insect mesh when you know adult moths and butterflies will be most actively laying but don’t forget to leave a wildflower area as an alternative nursery ground.
Black flies and aphids are particularly active on soft fruit trees and roses during warm spells when populations seem to grow within the blink of an eye. These insects favour fresh young shoots so if you spot a cluster of fresh flies, just nip the young tips out with them on. This will not harm a plant when it is actively growing and if anything the procedure encourages more fresh growth from buds initiated further down the stem.
Fungal diseases like powdery mildew are particularly prevalent on fast growing soft fruit such gooseberries and strawberries, as well as on ornamentals like the rapidly growing honeysuckle, at this time of year. Keeping watering consistent helps to alleviate the problem somewhat or pick off and destroy the few leaves affected in mild cases. If more severe, there are chemicals available to control the mildew. When using such fungicides, always read the instructions and use as directed, being particularly mindful to recommended harvest intervals and latest times to apply.
But if you do have to spray as a last resort, avoid application of chemicals during warm sunny parts of the day as this is the time our beneficial insects will be most active plus the heat/chemical combination can cause leaves to scorch.