Weed and pest control of garden plants

In a newly established garden, weeds are the main problem; but at a later stage the accent lies rather on disease – that is to say, fungus and pest infections etc. The tips below will help you to prevent a great deal of trouble.

Weeds

Ground which has been lying fallow for a long time, or which has been used as meadowland, is always full of weed seeds. If these reach the upper 5 cm layer of soil they can germinate. If the weeds are regularly removed the seed will be exhausted in the course of time; but when the soil is dug deeply, new seed will come to the surface and the process starts all over agains, so dig as little as possible. Initially it is advisable to cover the soil between the young plants. Use a thick layer of grass cuttings, half-rotted leaves, tree bark or sawdust. Weeds cannot penetrate this layer and will thus be choked.

In more open sections of the garden regular hoeing is the best system. Do not wait until the weeds have grown big, but hoe every week from mid-spring onwards, even in rainy weather; there will then be little left to do in the second year. Remember that compost collected from the garden usually contains a lot of weed seeds, so that if such compost is used in the upper layer of the soil your garden will soon be green with weeds. The compost should therefore only be used in the subsoil, in planting holes etc. Weeds growing near plants must be carefully removed by hand. If necessary dig up the entire plant and clean it. Never allow weeds to develop seeds.

Diseases

Only plants cultivated incorrectly are attacked by disease. As a rule the plant has the wrong or too little light, too damp or too dry, wrong type of soil); but it is also possible that the plant in question is simply not suitable for our climate or has been weakened by incorrect interbreeding, as often happens in the case of roses.

Disease control is thus simply a matter of prevention: choose reasonably strong species and make sure they are given the correct position; they will then not be subject to disease. In the most beautiful gardens spraying is rarely necessary, which proves my argument.

When garden plants are kept in the same place for a time, the soil will become exhausted and certain nutrients will no longer be available; they must therefore be replaced through some form of fertilising. Organic fertilisers, such as compost, processed slaughterhouse garbage or rotted stable manure are often preferred. Regular feeding will prevent disease. Climatic conditions occasionally lead to plagues of lice, caterpillars etc. In extreme cases it will be necessary to spray. Preferably use natural remedies such as a derris- or pyrethrum-based liquid spray. A sulphur compound is useful to combat fugal disease. In many cases ordinary domestic remedies produce surprising results. For example:

A mixture of soap and methylated spirits 20 g soft soap and 10 g of meths are dissolved in a litre of water. Used as a spray it is a good remedy against aphids. An infusion of pipe tobacco or shag in water Strain the liquid through a coffee filter before spraying. Do not make the concentration too strong and avoid using it in full sun.

An infusion of stinging nettles Stinging nettles are left in water for a few days; 1 per cent of soft soap is added as a spreader, the liquid is strained and used as a spray. In the case of a severe pest attack, spray twice a week. This remedy also acts as a fertiliser.

Equisetum (horsetail) tea Boil 300 g of the dried herb (available from herbalists) in a litre water for 30 minutes. Cool and strain; dilute 5 cc of the liquid with 1 litre water and use as a spray. Effective against fungal diseases such as mildew.

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