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Gardening: The Good, The Bad E-mail
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Monday, 02 July 2007
Gardening: The Good, The Bad


The People (London, England)

By Steve Riches

SOMETHING is bugging you lot. What with the wet and mild winter, warm spring and all, gardens are full of creepy-crawlies - and I don't just mean the barbecue guests.

Judging by my mail, you are being overwhelmed by uninvited visitors and are keen to show them the door.

But not all bugs are bad.


BUMBLE BEES are our mates. All they do is harmlessly buzz about, collecting pollen and nectar for their hive and freely fertilising our plants.

CENTIPEDES do not look good, but they love feeding on the eggs of the monstrous vine weevil and snack on other nasties. They won't eat your plants, though - they are carnivores.

DUNG BEETLES are worth their weight in, well... dung. Animal waste is their favourite and they will kindly break it down for you and plant it in the soil.

EARTHWORMS are lovely, but I couldn't eat a whole one. (Mind you, my grandson can). They feed on rotting, composting material and spread nutrients in the soil as they excrete castings high in nitrogen and potassium.

LACEWINGS and LADYBIRDS spend all day chomping through the assorted aphids who suck sap from your flowers. They are particularly partial to greenfly.

MONEY SPIDERS may give you the creeps, but they are much more scary if you're a midge, fly or aphid. You'd be on the menu.

WASPS, EARWIGS, WOODLICE and ANTS may not be quite as welcome, but they do not pose much of a threat and can be left alone if they are not a nuisance.


SLUGS are Garden Enemy No 1. They're voracious feeders and thoroughly unpleasant to boot (now there's a thought), and you will find it hard to eradicate them, but there are dozens of control methods. I always go for nematodes, microscopic organisms which kill slugs without harming anything else. They are marketed as Nemaslug.

VINE WEEVIL are also high on the monster list and again nematodes (called Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer) are your best allies.

LILLY BEETLES and HORSE CHESTNUT LEAF MINERS, of the remaining common bad guys, are probably the most destructive.

But you won't have your arms out to welcome these other familiar foes - caterpillars, carrot fly, whitefly, red spider mite and wireworms.

Most of them can be eliminated with vigilance and a gentle squeeze between the fingers. Failing that, a drop of Fairy Liquid should do the trick and you'll have hands as soft as your face, too. If you must resort to chemical weapons of bug destruction, remember that when you are spraying plants you will kill just as many of the good guys as the bad. And that would never do.

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