Did you know?
Frogs in the garden are fantastic solutions for insect control and are actually a sign that your backyard ecosystem is well balanced. A visit from a few friendly frogs is not only an exciting sight for kids, but they are superb pest controllers and their benefits far outweigh their sliminess.
A frog’s feast in paradise
Froggies love snaking on bugs, beetles, caterpillars, cutworms, grasshoppers, grubs, slugs, and other critters that threaten your precious garden. A single frog can eat over 100 insects in a single night! All the more reason to ditch the chemical pesticides and simply let Mother Nature get to work with a few frog ninjas! A frog paradise is easy: Indigenous plants, a freshwater source, and goggas to eat! A few upside-down pots, slightly lifted at an angle, provides the ideal home for a frog family.
Happy frog, happy garden
Every backyard ecosystem has multiple living species, which all create a unique little food chain, while also supporting the larger circle of life in your area. The food chain is what keeps the balance in nature and what maintains life as we know it. As such, frogs too have their place under the sun and should be protected. They are excellent biological monitors and will quickly show you if something is off balance in the garden.
If they are happily singing and breeding in the area, your ecosystem should be A-okay. If your frog friends suddenly go missing and leave your garden, you will certainly be alerted that something is not right and needs your attention.
So long chemical pest control and hello friendly frog ninjas! Put these guys to work in the backyard and enjoy Mother Nature’s complimentary gogga gobbler.
White Aloe Scale is a pesky and resilient species of armoured scale insect. This means that they produce a hard outer coating covering the body, which protects them from external influences such as diseases and pathogens.
If your Aloes have small grey ridges or bumps forming on the leaves it probably indicates an infestation of scale insects. They seldom kill the plants they infest, but nonetheless, are definitely not a problem that will go away on its own.
They attach to the plant and suck the juice, damaging the vitality of the succulent and causing discolouration and stippling. If left untreated, aloes will begin to lose vigour, ending up covered in what a appears to be a white, fluffy waxy deposit.
Take a picture or sealed sample to your local GCA Garden Centre and allow them to recommend a spray that will not burn the tender, succulent Aloe leaves. For scale insects on other plants, spray with a recommended organic spray dilution.
TIP: Avoid spraying the soft, new leaves of ferns and tree ferns as some sprays can damage them.
This month, we’re all about celebrating spiders! When we think about these little arachnids in our homes, some of us tend to resort to certain squishing tendencies. Spiders in the garden, however, are a different matter and they have an important job to do (besides creeping you out). In the garden, it’s best to allow them to go about their business undisturbed, as their main job is to keep your garden pests in check., Most garden spiders are a means of pest control but there are some which are harmful to plants such as red spider mites. For the most part, these guys are great!
World Pest Day will be held on June 6, to help spread awareness on the importance of eco pest control.
Spiders are arachnids ranging from scorpions, mites, and ticks. Spiders come in all shapes and sizes. Generic spiders have eight small eyes, closely grouped with eight legs. Most spiders that we see during daylight hours are unlikely to cause harm to humans. They prefer gardens and grassy areas, anchoring their webs among twigs and stems.
In the garden, spiders create flat webs between plants, across garden paths, along with windows or even door frames. The size and shape of spider webs vary across species. Some webs are orb-shaped, while others are funnel-shaped.
Overall, garden spiders are very beneficial because they help keep insect populations in check. Spiders in gardens serve a predatory role, eating only insects that eat plants. Therefore, spiders are harmless to your garden and in fact, sustain the health and lifespan of your garden. However, their large orb webs can be troublesome to people near walkways, gates, or windows.
Suggested actions include World Pest Day, Catching Spiders and safely relocate spiders. Carefully consider if it's necessary to kill the spiders in your garden as they aid in eliminating the various harmful insects that reside in your garden. If it's an issue of bites or an uncontrollable fear, you could consistently remove spider webs to encourage the spiders to move on from your garden. Additionally, you could reduce their food supply, forcing them to migrate.
The Cypress Aphid is a sap-sucking insect that infests the stems of some hedging conifers in early summer. Cypress Aphids can reproduce quickly and can cause severe damage and harm to trees, shrubs, and plants. The life cycle of the Cypress Aphid is complex. Cypress Aphids are most active in April to June.
Cypress Aphids are often yellowish-brown to orange-brown, varying from their back to their thorax, they have blackish markings. The entire Cypress Aphid is covered with fine hairs; with a body length of 1.8 mm to 3.9 mm. They often tend to congregate in bunches, making them easy to identify.
During summer, yellowing shoots will appear. Often by late summer, many of these shoots will be brown and dead. The lower parts of the clipped hedges are frequently more severely affected than the top, with the dieback not entirely pronounced. A black powdery layer of sooty mold may grow on the shoots and foliage. Although damaged hedges can recover, it will be a slow process.
Cypress Aphids often attack trees, and hedges that are not cared for or pruned during the growing season. Cypress aphids also produce copious amounts of honeydew, a sweet, sticky material that covers the branches and foliage. This material provides a medium for the growth of sooty mold, a black-colored fungus that covers the foliage, and which can interfere with photosynthesis. Additionally, these Cypress Aphids may carry viruses or bacteria, infecting pants and are considered one of the most destructive pests in any garden.
This month we are celebrating the slimy, yet satisfying, work of the earthworms in our garden! They are phenomenal, little green heroes, who are responsible for healthy soil and happy plants. These guys are so much more than just fish bait and by setting a colony loose in your garden, both the worms and your soil are certain to thank you for it!
Earthworms are also known as “Nature’s ploughs”, and they are essential in adding nutrients into the soil. They digest organic waste matter and magically turn it into compost. Okay, maybe not magically, but definitely very efficiently! Furthermore, earthworms have a unique chemical in their digestive system known as drilodefensins. This enables them to break down even the most poisonous plant leaves. They are a vital part of our ecosystem because they convert large pieces of organic matter into micronutrient-rich humus.
Nature’s plough, the earthworm, breaks down the soil’s structure and promotes higher levels of nitrogen, phosphates and potassium. This is all the good stuff your plants need to be happy and healthy. Earthworms can also digest and process contaminants, such as pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics found in animal manure. Some chemicals can even be decomposed and released as clean nutrients for plant growth. Other harmful chemicals will remain in the worms gut, preventing it from spreading. As you can see, earthworms are champions in cleaning up contaminated soil and turning polluted areas into sustainable habitats.These little burrowers actively influence the composition of the soil. As they move around under our feet, they displace microbes and spread the good bacteria, moving these nutrients from surface level to deeper down into the soil. Their tunnelling also improves the drainage of the soil, which means that water will be absorbed better, thus preventing runoff and erosion. The earthworms underground also improve aeration, making it an ideal habitat for other soil-dwelling organisms too.
Through their continuous dedication in combating infertile soil, earthworms have undoubtedly earned the title as our garden heroes. If you decide to liberate a colony from your local pet or tackle shop, be sure to not leave them on top of the soil where they are exposed to direct sunlight and may be preyed on by birds. Be kind and dig a few trowel-deep holes every square meter or so. Add a little water and natural compost, followed by a few earthworms in each hole, and tucked in with a little dirt. Be sure to regularly supply organic material, such as mulch and grass clippings, for them to work on – they are natural workaholics after all.
Summer is in full swing and the intense heat combined with the under-watering of certain plants, (like roses), are ideal conditions for Red Spider Mites (Tetranychus urticae). Also known as two-spotted spider mites, they are small arachnids related to spiders that cause damage to your plants
To identify them you will need to look out for white/yellowish spots/patches on their upper leaf surface. These spots multiply and the leaf becomes more yellow with the outer edges of the leaf staying greener. This is an indication of the increase in mites sucking on the underside of the leaves. Later leaves may drop off, and in severe cases, tiny web-like strands can be seen on the plant. Turn the leaf over and by using a magnifying glass you will notice a few, (or many), very tiny adult mites moving around. If in doubt, take a few sample leaves into your local GCA Garden Centre to identify the pest. Make sure that the sample is carefully sealed in a zip-lock bag.
What does this mean for me and my plants?
If the mite infestation isn’t too severe, you can keep them at bay by regular deep drenching and watering often. Use a thick mulch of peanut shells, pine needles, bark or crushed apricot pips to retain moisture in the soil for longer and help keep your plants cool in the hot Summer sun.
Spider mite populations can build up tremendous numbers and can decimate your plants in a very short time if the conditions are right and left untreated. Certain recommended oils are best used to spray on the underside of the leaves in order to suffocate the pest and these can be bought at your garden centre. Tip: Do not apply oil sprays in the heat of the day. For more tips and useful advice, visit your nearest GCA Garden Centre.
Leaf Miners are the larval (maggot) stage of an insect family that feeds between the upper and lower surfaces of leaves. Their highly visible tunnels can often reduce your crop value.
Leaf miners tend to be non-descript black flies. The flies do not directly cause damage to the plant; instead, it is the larva of these flies that causes the problems — they createwhite/ yellow squiggly lines in the leaves. This is where the leaf miner larva has bored their way through the leaf. Leaf miner damage can also appear as spots or blotches.
What does this mean for me and my plants?
The larvae burrow into leaves and eat the soft inner tissue, leaving yellow, white or brownish tunnels in the leaf. The tunnelling result can damage and restrict plant growth, reducing flower and fruit production. The larvae of some species chew through stems, seeds or roots. Host plants include apples, beans, cabbage, citrus, coffee, cucumbers, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, tomatoes and other shrubs.
Once signs of leaf miner are evident, treat the plant with a suitable insecticide. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for the best expert advice on the best method of use to get rid of this gogga. Click here for more gardening tips and trends or join the conversation on our Facebook page.
Citrus trees provide a bounty of health benefits as well as beautiful sweet-smelling flowers, that compliment your garden space be it small or big. However, these tree’s may sometimes look unsightly as a result of the psylla pest, whose infestation results in the swelling (forming of bumps) on the upper leaf caused by the presence of the psylla underneath the leaf.
The adult psylla is light yellow and is similar in size to an aphid with transparent wings. Their bodies are pointed with an oval-shaped abdomen. Psylla may be found on the edge of young leaves and shoots where they lay their yellow eggs which cause cavities in the leaf tissue, appearing as bumps on the upper surfaces.
Yellow eggs on the edges of young leaves accompanied by swelling bumps on the upper side of the leaf are a sign of psylla infestation. In the case of severe infestations, young growth can be severely malformed as a result of psylla activity.
What does this mean for me and my plants?
Citrus pyslla cause yellowing of the leaves, as well as malformed fruit. Half the side of the fruit may not develop normally and remain small, resulting to deformed fruit. If the plant is not seriously infected the leaves may turn yellow and the growth maybe stunted. Serious infestation can have dire consequences and may even lead to the tree dying.
The tree should be treated with a registered systemic insecticide. The instructions on the pack must be followed.
Christmas beetles are seasonal and are generally active during the warmer months, especially during the festive season. A sure sign that it is officially summer, is when the Christmas beetle is in sight. This centimetre long, brown, nocturnal insect is harmless to humans. However, they enjoy lacing the leaves of roses, Dahlias and other flowers.
Christmas beetles have a vibrant brown colour with the larvae white and C-shaped, similar to those of flower chafers and stag beetles. The adults emerge close to the Christmas period.
By the time you see the Christmas beetles, they are at the end of their life cycle. They love to feed on rose and tree leaves (especially eucalyptus), leaving a zigzag cut in their midst, shredding them as they go on their feeding frenzy. The adults lay 20 -30 egg during November to January preferably in compost heaps or well-composted beds. The larvae live in the soil for almost a year feeding on decaying organic matter and plant roots.
What does this mean for me/ my plants?
Christmas beetles feed on most plants and are a serious threat to your garden.
An organic pest control method to deter beetles from chewing on your plants place a lamp near your garden bed with a bucket of oily water underneath the lamp. The switched-on lamp will attract the beetles away from the plants, and towards to light, they will then drop into the water below.
Alternatively, place a bug zapper close to the garden bed. You can also treat your compost, soil with a dusting powder which can be watered into the ground.
Whiteflies can be a menace in the garden. These flies are close relatives to aphids, they are both sap-sucking insects. It is essential that you steer clear of them.
These pests are capable of two types of damage to your plants namely; direct and indirect.
1) Direct: Theses pesky pests will suck all the juices and nutrients from your plant. This will lead to the yellowing and premature falling of leaves, severe infestations can be fatal to the plant.
2) Indirect: Adult whiteflies are known for spreading diseases from sick plants to healthy ones. Whiteflies also secrete honeydew like their close relatives' aphids. Honeydew is a sticky substance which eventually becomes dark due to a fungus called sooty mold. The sooty mold will stop light from filtering through to the leaves which will have fatal consequences for your plants.
In the case of direct damage, the plant will be sapped of all its nutrients and eventually die! The sooty mold will spread to the leaves of the plant. This makes it hard for the leaves to receive sunlight, this makes it very hard for the plants to make their own nutrients!
Plants can be treated with a registered systemic insecticide. The instructions on how to use the insecticide will be on the pack.