Imagine your garden as a giant smorgasbord. That’s how garden pests view it and, guess what, they are planning to come to your place for dinner to feast on new spring growth!

Pests of all types are active in gardens from tiny thrips and mites that are hard to see with the naked eye through to the more obvious caterpillars and bugs such as aphids. There are also the animal pests – possums are particularly busy in spring when many have young and there are lots of tasty shoots and buds available.

Observation and Action

There are several ways to control the amount of damage done by garden pests but the number one factor is to be observant and notice if there’s damage occurring to plants. The faster the damage is noted, the faster it can be brought under control.

If pest damage is noticed deal with by either removing the pest or preventing it getting access to your plant. Physical removal – such as squashing or hand-picking – is the fastest way to get rid of a pest, while physical barriers – such as protective netting – are the quickest way to keep pests away.

Physical removal doesn’t always remove all danger of pest attack and may not target all parts of the pest’s life cycle, which is why some type of pesticide may be necessary as well.

Handy Control Guide

Here are some simple remedies to deal with pests in spring gardens. If necessary, apply a registered pesticide following application rates and times on the container and repeat as recommended.

Ants: Remove pests such as aphids that are attracting ants; use barriers including sticky traps and banding to prevent access.

Aphids: Squash; hose pests off shoots; encourage predators including ladybirds and small birds.

Beetles, Bugs: Remove adults by hand and look for larvae in soil or feeding on or near the plant; squash egg clusters (for example leaf-eating ladybirds); turn off outside lights at night (which can attract pest beetles).

Caterpillars: Hunt for and remove or squash caterpillars (examine both sides of leaves and look for frass or droppings which indicate their presence); squash egg clusters; use organic controls registered for caterpillars (including Nature's Way Caterpillar Killer Dipel or Success Ultra).

Birds: Use bird-safe netting over maturing fruit crops or over newly planted seeds. Check nets daily looking for trapped birds or small animals or reptiles.

Earwigs: Set up traps (such as inverted pots filled with screwed up newspaper) and empty daily; remove and dispose of infested flowers and buds. Place them in a bag in the rubbish - not in the compost bin.

Fruit fly: Apply organic baits and lures to stakes or surfaces near maturing fruit; net fruit to prevent access by adults seeking to lay eggs in crops.

Grasshopper: Catch and squash individual insects or feed them to chooks.

Possums: Cover vulnerable plants at night with netting (can remove during the day); use spikes or bands to prevent access to trees or fences; apply deterrent sprays like Poss-Off.

Scale: Squash or scrape off scale on stems or the underside of leaves; prune off heavily infested growth. For serious infestations spray with eco-oil.

Snails and Slugs: Use baits such as Multiguard Slug and Snail Killer Pellets which are known to be less dangerous to pets and wildlife. Always use according to package directions.

Thrips: Remove thrips-infested flowers or buds.

Whitefly: Apply extra water to counteract feeding by pest; attract with sticky traps like the Insect Glue Trap.