One of the biggest problems for those of us who want to have a truly organic garden is what to do about the pests that will either damage or destroy your crops.
The first step is to understand your micro-climate and grow plants accordingly – this will assist in reducing the number of pests you need to control. You also need to be fully aware of what pests are in your local area, so you can look out for them, perhaps placing lures or picking their eggs off the leaves.
Physical Barriers to Keep Insect Pests Out of Your Organic Garden
A good way to start is to consider physical barriers which are an environmentally friendly way to keep most pests, from your fruit and vegetables.
In my case some of the larger pests include kangaroos, possums, rabbits and fruit bats.
Where smaller pests are the problem it’s necessary to prevent them reaching individual plants rather than whole garden beds.
Consideration should be given to a perimeter fence with wire mesh small enough to exclude small animals such as rabbits and strong enough for larger animals such as kangaroos or deer.
The netting must be buried in the soil to a depth of 15cm and bent outwards away from the growing area to prevent the animals from digging underneath the fence.
Unfortunately this is not enough to keep some animals away from your crops; to keep possums, fruit bats and other pests that climb and fly you will need to have a complete enclosure.
The picture here shows how I have solved this problem in my vegetable garden, using materials that were readily available.
I had found that my fruit tree seedlings were very vulnerable in the first two years as the new growth was very attractive to kangaroos and wallabies. I solved this problem by putting a barrier of either acrylic or wire of at least 1 metre in height, around the base of the tree.
There are many types of netting available to protect crops from pests, that admit light and water however, you need to ensure that you don’t stop pollination, so the timing of placing these bags or cloth is important.
Cost and longevity are often the two main considerations in the type of material used.
You can use of horticultural fleece, fine mesh (1.5mm) or cloth which can be either netting or bags on plants,
Tunnels to support the netting can be bought in kit form or you can make your own from material you have to hand such as plastic water pipe, which can be cut to whatever size suits, depending on the height of the tunnel required.
Cheap Barriers for Individual Plants
Individual covers made from old plastic drink bottles or milk cartons are useful for protecting young vulnerable plants against slugs.
Or for Brassicas you can make disks from old carpet or matting or perhaps even layers of newspaper to place on the soil as collars to stop the cabbage root fly laying its eggs near the roots of the plants.
No eggs means no maggots to devastate the plants root systems.
Or you can make individual bags to place over fruit; these can be made from cloth or mesh.
Netting/Crop Covers to Keep Out Birds
I, like all gardeners struggle with the dilemma of trying to keep animals from my fruit, however we need to balance this with protection of the local wildlife.
Never buy the thin nylon monofilament netting sold by most hardware stores instead always buy the white knitted netting or chicken wire with a mesh size 40mm or smaller The black monofilament netting thrown loosely over a tree has the potential to cause horrific injuries to birds and wildlife.
The only safe netting option is to make a frame around your tree and then stretch the netting over the frame and secure to the ground with stakes.