Of Root-nibblers, Leaf-eaters and sap- suckers.
Plants have many many enemies. They come in all conceivable shapes and sizes. Thrips, Grasshoppers, termites, chewing and sucking lice, Slugs and snails, Wireworms, caterpillars, crane flies. Eelworms and the list goes on.
In fact 75 percent of gardening is keeping those plant enemies or pests at bay or annihilating them in root and branch. Majority of plants fall prey to these marauders . Only a few plants like sundew can munch and devour pests.
Caterpillars destroy the leaves. A caterpillar’s hunger for leaves is well known. Aphids suck the sap. The staple food for eelworms is root.. And Fungi? You know well the extent of damage done by fungi. It simply makes the plants terminally ill.
In addition to the above said insects, there are other enemies too for the poor plants. They are crows, birds, dogs and cats to name a few. But the real dangerous enemies of the plants are insects. But there are exceptions. Except bees, butterflies and ladybirds, the remaining are in the most “ Unwanted “ list as far as gardens are concerned.
In fact, pests in a small garden only can be controlled . But it is a brief success. It may be that there will be a lull for a brief period. But then the war with the pests will start again. Just it is a question of time. If your garden is big, pests cannot be completely eradicated. The creeping and crawling pests can be destroyed. To some extent you can take care of those pests which fly. But what about that flow of air or breeze that spreads all kinds of pores spread around?
So, the only Mantra to deal with the garden pests is to keep the garden healthy. Preventive measures proved to be more effective than those sprays and repellants. If you give top preference to keep the garden in a healthy condition, you won the battle more than half. Because a healthy plant is least affected by fungal attack.
Turn over the soil, sun it and remove all the crawlies. When there is a massive invasion, think of using chemical pesticides.In many cases of soil pests, a mild solution of phenyl should take care of the situation. If the insect attack is on a potted plant, repot with new soil.
From the above, one can understand one most important factor that influences and dictates the health of a garden is, “Soil Condition.”
How an ideal soil should be?
An ideal soil is that which is open, easily crumbled or broken in to fragments and well drained. A well drained soil is that which allows water to percolate through it (Reasonably quickly) without pooling. If the water stagnates, the roots of the plant will starve for oxygen, ultimately leading to the extinction of the plant.
If the soil is dug deeply, innumerable number of insects that live in the earth will be destroyed. But don’t underestimate the smartness of these insects. Most of these insects lay their eggs when the plants are in the stage of flowering or when the plants begin to fruit. Poor gardener doesn’t have any choice but to fight with them as and when they emerge out.
Get rid of the weeds around the plants. A clean soil is not exactly an ideal place for living of the pests. But you should remember that all weeds are not bad. There are some weeds, which increase nitrogen in the soil. The soil thus enriched by nitrogen will act an excellent ground cover.
In the case of animal pets other than pet dogs, cats, sparrows, and pigeons. There are ways which can almost control them. Rats are not easy to control if they have seen some kind of food. But even for the rats, there are rat traps which help in controlling them.
There are certain pests, which can be controlled reasonably by picking them by hand and destroyed. There is no use of being excessively fastidious and easily disgusted by the annihilation processes of the pests. Sure, you don’t want to get your garden ruined by the pests.
All insects go through three stages of existence. They are egg stage, larval, pupa and adult stages. It’s in the larva stage; an insect displays a monstrous destructive nature. Their feeding spree goes on without an end. They eat away all the tender leaves and shoots of the plant . The next stage of an insect is a sleeping stage. And then comes the last and again a monstrous adult stage comes. Again the war between the mortals and insects starts.
Among such dreadful insects, snails, beetles , butterflies, nematodes and aphids in their larva stage wreak havoc. The only solution to deal with the enemy is to turn the soil. By turning over the soil, the eggs laid out by these insects can be destroyed.
Look for these signs and chart a course of action.
When you see wilting shoots and leaves, chewed leaves, think that your plant is under attack by a pest. Now you have to identify your enemy and chalk out an appropriate method of attack. For example you marked that there are several leaves with the marks of insect biting, consider spraying the leaves with an insecticide.
If you see the marks of root nibbling, consider treating the soil.
The leaf eaters are beetles, caterpillars, snails or grass hoppers or multitude of any such insects. Then, if you see the sap being sucked, it is certainly the job of aphids or thrips or bugs. It is altogether different proposition with crickets. They relish a lot the tender shoots of seedlings. Nematodes and eelworms invade the roots. To counter this, you have to bore holes in the soil and pour liquid pesticide in to the holes.
Some traditional weapons.
We have here a collection ofa few traditional methods which proved to be quite effective in dealing with the Pests over the years. Many call them as “Old wives’ tales. They are not just cock and bull stories out from a fairy tale book. They are the essence of direct experience of the people. Of course, they might not have a certificate from an international organization that’s conducting a massive study on the impact of the insects on the plants. They might not have got the quintessence from a recognized lab. But they are armed with long years of observation.
For example, We often hear old folk say, “ Plant with the waxing moon, not the waning moon.” Didn’t our science guys confirm it that the lunar rhythms affect the earth’s magnetic fields?
In India there was a practice of worshiping the plants with ghee and honey.. Now we are told about that the practice of feeding the plants with ghee and honey is as healthy a practice as it to the humans.
One more practice directly imported from old wives’ tales proved to be one of the best ways to protect the trees from the pest vandalism.
Without any exception , all insects dread turmeric. Plants treated with solution made out of turmeric and soap will make the leaf-biters and sap -suckers run for their lives Add two teaspoons of turmeric powder to about a litre of water and a tea spoon of soap ( No its not detergent powder) and spray over the leaves. If you want to deal with the sap sucking aphids, break a cigarette and add half a cigarette’s tobacco and mix it with the above mentioned solution.
Dust turmeric powder over the leaves of the plant to get rid of the Leaf- biters.. Ants carry the aphids and leave them on the tips of the tender shoots. So, we should see that ants do not carry aphids. For this make a paste out of soap, Tobacco and turmeric and rub the resulting mixture on the base of the trunk. This will stop the ants from approaching the trunk.
- Camphor is a great insect repellant. Make a practice of spraying your plants with camphor solution occasionally.
- Boil Neem leaves in water. Cool and strain it. Spray plants with the solution .
- Neem cakes and many neem products are available in the market. By mixing with the soil, breeding of the pests in the soil can be arrested.
- Another magic of camphor is, hang camphor balls on the curly leaves of the plant to prevent leaf curl.
- Growing garlic around the plants attacked by aphids is the best and effective way of putting an end to the vandalism of aphids.
Visuals : Wiki media.
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