Defending crops the natural way

Protection against cabbage root fly and white butterfly.
Protection against cabbage root fly and white butterfly.

In days of yore, when caterpillars appeared on cabbages they were dusted with derris powder or sprayed with the liquid version. It derived from the roots of a tropical plant and was deemed to be safe.

But that could have been obviated by erecting protective netting to keep the white butterflies out in the first instance.

Organic pest control methods demand persistence.

Hand-picking caterpillars and slugs with tweezers, setting and emptying beer-filled pitfall traps, and laying physical barriers, such as grit, sand and soot, can all be effective.

Copper, being a conductor of electricity, has also been engaged in our slug defences. Rings, tapes and pastes encircle susceptible plants like a castle moat and deliver a sharp shock to intruders – ouch!

Biological control has an important part to play.

Leaf-litter left under the beech hedge ensures there’s always a hedgehog presence.

Our small pond supports a healthy frog, toad and newt population.

Nesting and roosting sites encourage insectivores, for example robins, wrens and tits, to take up residence.

And equally effective are the micro-organisms fighting our corner in the soil.

Typical of these are the nematodes – microscopic worms that existed long before humankind, yet it’s only in recent times that they’ve been commercialised and sold in handy sachets.

They parasitise a range of soil-borne pests, such as slugs, leather jackets, vine weevil and chafer grubs, and one application lasts six weeks in the soil.

They are certainly not cheap, but check them out online at www.nematodesdirect.co.uk and see if they’re right for you.