Slug Arion ater group Picture RHSAndrew Halstead web



Grazers adEven the most experienced gardener will have problems with pests and diseases, not only on themselves but also on their plants.

If anyone says their garden doesn’t have problems, quite frankly, they’re lying and need to confess all.

There are things you can do to make pest or disease attack less likely but ultimately, we’re all in the hands of the climate/weather/soil type.

Mild winters don’t kill off aphids; slugs stay active and continue to breed, increasing their numbers vastly.

Damp weather also favours gastropods and downy mildew but when it’s too dry, powdery mildew will set in on vulnerable plants. You can’t win.

The best you can do is know your average weather conditions and watch the weather forecast to see for abrupt changes.

George eating ribbon grass as fast as it grows in the pond

If you’re hardening off plants and there’s a sudden dip in temperature (always happens here in May), plants will be set back or even die.

Of course, there are not just wild pests and weather-related problems to contend with – our pets and the birds we encourage can be a complete pain in the ass at times.

I love my cat George dearly, but I’ve lost so many plants because he thinks any newly-cultivated area of soil is a litter tray for him. I swear that cat can defecate on one leg, avoiding numerous spiny branches I try to protect things with.

Powdery mildew playing havoc with Calendula
Powdery mildew playing havoc with Calendula

Birds in the garden I like, but the masses of hedge sparrows/house sparrows and dunnocks around nick every bit of string they can around nest building time, much to my annoyance.

There’s also wood pigeons, probably the world’s most stupid creatures.

Vine weevils
Heuchera completely severed at the roots by vine weevil grubs

They make a beeline for broad bean/runner bean shoots especially, so I use a giant inflatable eyeball and a model bird of prey to keep them on their claws.

There’s also the question of organic v chemical treatments – I think the vast majority of us want to be organic, but sheer desperation can drive us back into the arms of chemicals. I will regard it as a personal triumph if I don’t succumb to slug and snail pellets if 2016’s as bad as it’s supposed to be for the garden wreckers.

I also suspect many so-called ‘organic’ gardeners out there are secretly using Napalm (or its equivalent) for their perfect plots, probably the very folk who say their gardens don’t have problems.

Accept things are going to go wrong. My biggest pest battles are with snails, red lily beetle, vine weevils and powdery mildew on susceptible plants.

Grow a few extra of some things to fill gaps, or use plants in pots to fill holes. No-one will notice.