Things occasionally go wrong in even the best cared-for gardens – it is utter nonsense to believe that pests and diseases will only attack sickly plants. However good the beds and borders may appear, you must be on your guard against outside invaders – the insects and fungal diseases which can attack your plants and spoil all your efforts. It is much more likely that your plants will be harmed by an enemy from within rather than by an outside marauder – these inside causes may be the poor nature of your soil, lack of water, starvation, shade, frost, or you for choosing the wrong plants or doing the wrong things. The golden rule for having healthy flowers is to prevent trouble before it starts and to deal with it quickly once it is seen.

Prevent trouble before it starts

Choose wisely. Even if you buy good stock it will not succeed in the wrong location. Avoid types which are too tender for your garden. Don’t plant sun-loving annuals under trees – the display is bound to disappoint.

Prepare the ground thoroughly. A strong-growing plant is more likely to recover from a pest or disease attack than a weak specimen. Waterlogging due to insufficient soil preparation is one of the worst problems in clayey soils. Get rid of all weed roots if you propose to plant perennials and add Bromophos to the soil if pests have gnawed roots elsewhere in the garden.

Plant or sow properly. Seed sowing calls for doing the right thing at the right time – sow too early outdoors and the seeds may rot, sow too late and the display may be short-lived. When sowing seed indoors, remember that hardening off will be essential before moving the seedlings outdoors.

Never leave rubbish lying about. Boxes,old flower pots etc are a breeding ground for slugs and woodlice. Rotting plants can be a source of infection and may actually attract pests to the garden.

Feed the plants properly. Shortage of nutrients can lead to many problems – poor growth, undersized blooms, lowered disease resistance and discoloured leaves.

Inspect plants regularly. Once you have put a name to the problem, act quickly-most pests and diseases can bechecked quite easily if treated promptly, but may be difficult or impossible to control if left to get out of hand due to ignorance or neglect.

Deal with trouble as soon as you can

Remove occasional problems by hand. Minor attacks by caterpillar or leaf miner can often be controlled by hand picking. If a plant suddenly dies, dig it up and examine it closely to find the cause. Examine the roots and the earth for soil pests -take remedial action if they are found.

Keep a small plant-aid kit. It may be several days before you are able to go to the shops, but a sudden attack by greenfly, caterpillars or slugs calls for immediate action. It is therefore a good idea to keep a small selection of pesticides in the garden shed for emergency use. You will need a bottle of Long-last for all leaf pests, a box of Mini Slug Pelletsandacarton of General Purpose Fungicide. Don’t buy more than you will need – it is better to buy a new small container each year rather than keep packs from one season to another.

Spray properly. Once pests or diseases have started to take hold it will be necessary to act promptly. Read the label carefully and make sure that the product is recommended for the plant you wish to spray.

Pick a time when the weather is neither sunny nor windy and in the flowering season apply the spray in the evening when the bees have stopped working. Use a fine forceful spray and continue until the leaves are covered and the liquid has just started to run off. Do not direct the spray on to delicate open blooms. After spraying, wash out equipment and wash hands and face. Store packs in a safe place and do not keep unlabelled or illegible packs. Never store pesticides or weedkillers in a beer bottle or similar container. • Speed recovery with afoliarfeed. Plants, like humans, can be invalids. The cause may have been a pest or disease attack, and the best way to get things moving again is to use a fertilizer which is recommended for spraying on the leaves – Instant Bio and Fillip are examples.

The major problem with soil pests is that they work unseen. Rake Bromophos into the soil before planting and sprinkle Slug Gard around the stems after planting if you know you have a soil pest problem or if the site was recently lawn or rough grassland.

Root Troubles


Grey or greyish-brown grubs which can be a serious nuisance in herb-aceous borders on poorly-drained soil. Leatherjacket attacks are always worst after a wet winter; they are rarely a nuisance in sandy areas. If found at the roots of plants which have failed, sprinkle Slug Gard over the ground and lightly rake in.


Various types, both black and spotted, occur in the soil. They tend to curl up when disturbed, and should always be destroyed when found as they damage the underground parts of many plants. Damaged or diseased areas are prime targets. Slug Gard can be used to keep this pest under control.


These hard, shiny insects are a problem in new gardens and in plots adjoining grassland. They are slow-moving – not active like the friendly centipede. They eat the roots of most flowering plants and may burrow up the stems of Chrysanthemums. Sprinkle Bro-mophos over the soil surface where they area problem.


These green, grey or brown soil-living caterpillars may be 2 in. long. They gnaw both roots and stems, but their tell-tale effect is to sever seedlings and young bedding plants at ground level. When this happens look for and destroy the cutworms near the attacked plants. Rake in Bromophos as a preventative.


These wrinkled white grubs attack the roots of many plants, the worst affected being ferns, pot plants and alpines. If a rock plant suddenly dies, search in the soil for the rolled-up grub of the vine weevil. If present, pick out and destroy. Water the soil with spray-strength Hexyl.

Fat curved grubs feed throughout the year on the roots of herbaceous border plants. Both Chrysanthe-mums and Dahlias are sometimes killed. If these grubs are found in the soil, or if you intend to plant into newly broken-up grassland, sprinkle Bromophos on to the soil and lightly rake in.


This serious disease of the vegetable garden can affect Wallflowers and Stocks. Below ground roots are swollen and distorted, above ground plants are small and die off earlier than normal. The best precaution is to lime the soil before planting and avoid growing Wallflowers on the same site year after year.

Cats are a pest of annual flowers. Seed beds and newly set out bedding plants are disturbed by their scratching. The resulting root damage can lead to the death of the seedlings. Protection is not easy if cats have chosen your flower bed for their toilet; sprinkle Pepper Dust liberally around the disturbed ground.


A common disease, affecting Antir-rhinum, Begonia, Sweet Pea, Geranium etc. Above ground the leaves turn yellow and wilt. Below ground the roots are blackened. There is no cure, so avoid the causes – unsterilized compost indoors, uncomposted leaf mould outdoors and replanting the same type of plant in infected soil.

An invasion by moles can cause havoc. The hills thrown up by their tunnelling are unsightly and cause severe root damage. Small plants may be uprooted. Eradication is not easy – Mole Smokes should be tried first. It may be necessary to set traps or to gas them; this work is best done by a professional ex-terminator.

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