The ongoing battle of crop protection

After the summer vegetables are planted out, its time to shift the focus to the crop protection of already developing fruit on the established trees and bushes.  Everything from berries to cherries needs to be protected from both the big and small predators.  The apples are in the early stages of developing and are about the size of a 20 cent piece.  This is the time when the codling moth lays their eggs on the fruit and if left to themselves, the larva hatches, with the worm burrowing its way into the apple and through to the core.  The fruit will still fully develop, but you will notice a small brown mound on one side of the fruit, and when you bite into the apple it will be rotten from the inside out!  So my first step in crop protection is to spray on a product called Naturalyte, which kills off the small larva before they have a chance to burrow into the apple.  I combine the Naturalyte with an oil base to smother the eggs and make sure they don’t have a chance to hatch.  It is important to do this when the fruit is still very small and to spray before a couple of dry days so the mixture stays on the tree long enough to kill off all the larva and eggs.

After my experiment of leaving all the fruit on the tree, I decided this year to thin out the apple crop to try and get a consistent crop each year, rather than loads of fruit one year, followed by hardly any the next.

Late spring is also the time where all the aphids are most active.  I used to spend a lot of time spraying them, especially on the younger trees, but now that the trees are more established, they don’t seem to harm the new growth enough to impact on the overall tree.  It also gives a chance for the balance in the garden to be restored with ladybugs being one of the best forms of control.  The advantage of the previous spray mix is that I can use the left overs on the cherry and pear trees to help control some of the aphids and also protect the tree from pear and cherry slug.  Once again, one spray with the above mixture and the pear and cherry slug is gone.

Once the little pests are dealt with, its time to turn the attention crop protection from the larger pests.

One continual battle I have this time of year is keeping the young seedlings protected.  The main predator for the seedlings is the hundreds of snails that come out in the dark of night and demolish any new growth they can find.  I’ve tried everything from fine netting to coffee grinds and crushed up eggshells, but somehow the nails still find their way to the fresh new growth.  So far this year I have lost 4 punnets of seedlings from cucumbers through to beans and marigolds.  I am still working on making up some protection out of our old metal storage baskets in the hope that I can get the seedlings to a level where they can fend for themselves.

The other major pest that continually frustrates me is the black bird.  This bird can find the smallest gap in any netting and fest on my ripening cherries, berries and also the apples.  They manage to find their way into the net no problem, but find it hard to make the quick escape which means that I have to open up the net and chase them out, then look for the gap where they found their way in.  There is no real easy solution here except to build a complete frame around all of the trees and berry bushes, which although effective, isn’t the most attractive thing to have in your backyard as a permanent fixture.  So I continue to find ways to close up the gaps and have to keep reminding the kids to put the net back into place after they have taken their fill!

Hopefully the birds, snails and little bugs will leave enough for the rest of the family this year 🙂