Gardening | Keeping watch over your plants for pesky summer pests

Insect pests have been waiting in the wings all season for the opportunity to munch their way through your summer garden. Photo: Shutterstock
Insect pests have been waiting in the wings all season for the opportunity to munch their way through your summer garden. Photo: Shutterstock

The summer harvest of stone fruits, berries and those glorious salad vegetables are ripe for the picking, but there are critters keen to sink their teeth into these summer delights before you do.

Insect pests have been waiting in the wings all season for the opportunity to lay eggs or munch their way to a productive life.

Fruit fly would have to be the most dreaded of them all as they can ruin an entire crop if not managed.

Biting into a luscious peach and discovering a bunch of writhing, wriggling maggots is nobody's idea of summer but it is unfortunately a reality for many home gardeners.

The problem is that it's now too late to do anything this season for fruit fly other than bag and bin any affected fruits or feed them to the chooks, at least that will prevent the maggots from pupating to ravage your crop next year.

Caterpillars will be looking for an easy meal and what better place to dine than the veggie patch to feast upon soft, lush, leafy salad greens.

Fortunately there are some simple methods for getting rid of these voracious little pests.

A simple molasses spray applied to all plant surfaces is enough to deter them, dissolve one tablespoon of molasses in a litre of warm water and add a drop of detergent, spray plants once a week.

An alternative is to use a commercial caterpillar killer spray. These sprays have an active constituent of a bacteria, deadly to caterpillars but harmless to other organisms including humans.

Another problem that is hidden from view this time of year is the dreaded curl grub.

Christmas beetles have been busy over the festive season laying their eggs into exposed garden soils and taking advantage of easy access to potting mixes of containerised plants.

Their larva, the curl grubs will hatch and begin feeding on the fine feeder roots of plants which makes it difficult for plants to absorb moisture from the soil.

If left unchecked curl grubs can cause major damage, resulting in loss of vigour or even death of plants.

Control can be achieved by drenching affected container plants with Neem oil, be sure to follow the label rates.

Sap suckers such as aphids and bronze orange bugs are also out in numbers, so the best approach to pest problems in the garden is to keep a vigilant watch over your plants and take action only as required.