Pest and disease control
- If you spot a pest or disease problem, identify it quickly and research a cure. If no suitable cure is available and the problem is a serious one, uproot affected plants before it spreads to the rest.
- Make notes in your crop diary when pests and diseases are first spotted on your crops so you can anticipate problems next year.
- Always keep any pesticides, even organic ones, well away from children and pets. Although not officially required with many home pesticides it is sensible to wear disposable gloves and goggles when spraying. Cover exposed skin such as your arms.
- Never spray pesticides or foliar feeds in hot, sunny weather or when plants are dry.
- Use pesticides as a last resort. Often a few diseased leaves can be picked off or posts squashed without the need for other treatments.
- Don’t worry unduly about rust disease on onions and leeks. The plants usually grow on and crop well despite the attack.
- Invest in a head torch for those late night slug and caterpillar forays – often the best way to control these nocturnal pests.
- Plant nasturtiums next to brassicas – these will attract cabbage white butterflies away from your cabbages!
- Crops in pots that are prone to slug damage should be raised up a little on bricks that are sat in shallow tray of water. Make sure the leaves don’t touch nearby walls, fences or other plants.
- Maintain a sharp edge on hoes with an angle grinder to make the fob of hoeing easier and more effective.
- Lightly oil the handles of hand tools, occasionally using teak oil or similar to keep them in good condition.
- Keep gardening knives sharp. You are much more likely to cut yourself while struggling with a dull blade when pruning etc.
- Human urine is a great compost activator, rich in nitrogen. You can also use it around your plants but in this case, dilute it first, one part urine to 15 parts water. How you do this, we’ll leave up to you but we suggest you avoid public displays! (Also, avoid doing this altogether if you are on medication.)
Keep a bucket of gritty sand in the shed and tip any unwanted oil from mowers and other machinery into it. When you have finished with hand tools such as spades, forks and trowels, clean off loose soil before dipping the blades into the oily sand a few times prior to putting away.
- When watering blueberries as rainwater is less alkaline use rainwater instead of tap water.
- Grow strawberries in layers if pushed for space – bug pot first, then mid-sized pot on top, and finally small pot together with that.
- If you only have a small garden – or even simply a balcony – and want to grow fruit, choose blueberries. Don’t like blueberries? Afterward grow strawberries instead.
- Thin tree fruit in July if your tree has set a heavy crop and does not seem to be losing any naturally. The remaining fruit will be larger and the tree is more likely to fruit well every year.
- Leave a few autumn raspberries in pruned in late winter/early spring. They should go on to produce a small crop of fruit in early summer.
If buying blueberry bushes, buy two or more varieties rather than just one. The cross-pollination will lead to the production of more berries.