Autumn pest control – is it worth the hassle?

Autumn is drawing her cloak around us as winter approaches and for some, problems exist in the garden. The excellent summer we have had, has given us great gardens, being one of the best years for tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums, flowers, the list goes on. Good growing times also means an abundance of insect pests such as whitefly, leaf hoppers, caterpillars, the list goes on.

Now that we have reached a seasonal change not only can we enjoy a bountiful harvest but we may have a big insect pest problem to boot.
Pest insects breed very quickly with females laying a few to several hundred eggs during their short lives. When one starts off in spring and the insect populations are beginning for the new season, then it is a relatively simple matter to use natural controls to keep the populations low.
When you see a whitefly in the spring flitting around your newly planted tomatoes, you can bet your bottom dollar that there is a number you don’t see. You ignore the sighting and a week or two later you notice a few more. If you ignore the potential problem within another few weeks you have a big problem that is much more difficult to control.

On the other hand some gardeners take the first sighting as a warning and act on it.
But even these gardeners can come foul of a major problem looming, invasions of insect pests from other non-treated areas of the garden or in many cases from the gardens next door.
No matter whether its whitefly or any other insect pest, a good summer will allow massive insect populations to build and then invade your preferred plants as their previous host plants become over populated or destroyed.

So what do you do? Do you hope for an early winter so Nature can do what your frequent sprayings cant? I don’t think we are going to have an early winter this year so all you can do is keep knocking down as many of the pests as possible. This makes sense as the less pests to winter over, the less problems in the beginning of next season. Two natural products combined and sprayed just on dusk will help reduce the problems, now and in the future. The products are Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum added. (You can include Raingard with them for a longer control residual)

Another excellent method of upsetting insect pests is your hose if you water by hand.
I remember as a child watching old gardeners watering their gardens late in the day, not only would they moisten the soil but often would turn the nozzle of their hose to a jet and blast the foliage of their plants. This simple method would wash many insect pests off the plants onto the ground where they would either drown or be unable to get back up onto their host plants. Watering each evening by hand is a great time to check your plants for possible problems, which you would not be so quick to notice otherwise. You may like to try a combination of spraying and water jetting to keep insect populations down. Firstly use the spray products mentioned above, late in the day after you have watered only the soil of your gardens with a hand held wand. You should see, during watering, where possible problem areas are. Only water the soil for the next couple of days and then on the third day blast the foliage of the plants with a jet strong enough to wash off many insect pests but not strong enough to damage the plants.

Repeat this for the following 3 days then do another spray of the products on the seventh evening.
Outside of fresh invasions from next door you should get on top of the pest insect problem.
Susan, a keen natural gardener from Christchurch told me how she controls whitefly in her glasshouse by using an overhead sprinkler system every few days or once a week, as the need for moisture is required. The system is run for a good period of time to wash the adult whitefly off the tomatoes and onto the wet soil which becomes flooded and they drown. Add to this some Neem Tree Granules around the root zone of the plants and you have an excellent natural control.

Autumn is also the time when plant diseases become really to the fore. Black spot, rust and mildews abound on plants such as our roses and this is part of Nature and the natural cycle for older annuals and deciduous plants. They are finishing for the year and the foliage has to be broken down, to be recycled into the soil. It is really a losing battle to try and keep the foliage clean and you will not win.

Save yourself time and money and let Nature take its course. Young freshly planted plants can be protected against mildews using a heaped tablespoon of baking soda to one litre of warm water with one mil of Raingard added. Don’t worry about picking up dying leaves off the ground to assist in preventing disease re-occurrence next spring. Instead spray the dying leaves and soil with Mycorrcin to aid the breakdown of the organic matter and increase the beneficial soil life, which will do the job far more efficiently than you could ever hope to.
Autumn is also the time to harvest seeds from your annuals and other plants for planting next spring.

There is big savings in collecting your own seeds and it is easy to do.
Seeds from seeding vegetables such as tomatoes, pumpkin, beans, cucumber etc are easy to collect and dry on a south facing window sill.

For silverbeet, cabbage, lettuce, carrots etc you need to let one of the best looking plants go to seed. This takes sometime but the end result is more seeds than you can ever hope to sow.
With flowers you may have to study the flowers and work out the seed pod bit to collect the seeds.
If you are not sure you can place a small plastic bag over a flower or two as it is finishing flowering.
You tie the bag onto the stem so that the seeds will fall into the bag when mature. If the bag starts to fill with condensation make a couple of small holes in the top of the bag.

Once your seeds have been collected and dried you place them in a lock type small plastic bag with the name of seed/plant and then place all your plastic bags into a sealed glass jar and store in the fridge.
The seeds can keep well for several years in this way and as they are chilled, they germinate readily when sown.

With the likelihood of a mild winter it is not too late to plant out seedlings of green vegetables for winter harvesting. Silverbeet, winter type lettuce, cabbages and other brassicas can be planted out now. (Not so for areas prone to early frosts)

The story is to speed up their growth while the day light hours are still reasonable as the growth is dependant of the number of hours of sunlight.

Ideally spray the seedlings with Vaporgard a day before you transplant them into the garden or containers. (This reduces the transplant shock so they get a better quicker start.)
Wet the punnet by plunging into a bucket of water before removing the seedlings. This reduces root damage. Plant them out into moist soil and water in. Once the seedlings establish and show signs of new growth then mix up some nitrogen such as sulphate of ammonia at the rate of a tablespoon dissolved in 10 litres of water, then water some of this into the root zone once a week for about a month.
Then apply potash to the root zone (about a level teaspoon) once a month to firm up growth.
A two weekly spray with Magic Botanic Liquid onto the foliage and soil will also assist in good growth.
With the cost of things going up it pays to have a good garden of vegetables to pick.

One comment on “Autumn pest control – is it worth the hassle?

  1. tania on said:

    Thanks working on a vege plot after years of shifting too soon to bother apart from the odd container. Was especially looking for what to use to control mildew which I think is why my apple cucumbers leaves are looking a bit brown so some tips on methods which are included in your article look promising had a good crop already so plant may have ran out of kick.

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