Dealing with pests and creepy crawlies in the organic garden in Andalucia
I have noticed that more people are interested in growing their vegetables and fruit without using chemical fertilisers or herbicides. This article looks at the pest prevention measures that seem to work on the allotment. The aim here is not to kill all insects, fungi and microbes; the majority are needed for a balanced ecosystem. Natural predators of troublesome pests are very effective but there is a limit to the number of aphids a ladybird can eat. Sometimes they need a little help.
The predators you will find in Andalucia include ladybirds, praying mantis and spiders. If your garden has a decent mix of flowers, shrubs, vegetables and trees, then these creatures will find you. Please do not spray them.
My first line of defence is netting. Small mesh netting pegged to the ground surrounding a row, supported by vertical sticks with upturned plastic bottles on top to prevent the netting sliding down the sticks, keeps brassicas free of cabbage white butterflies - a prevalent pest here, and carrots clear of carrot fly. It also prevents rabbits from eating my lettuce and loose chickens from eating everything.
Netting does not deter aphids, mites and thrips and once they have a hold, they are difficult to eradicate. An oil spray insecticide usually works.
Mix 250 ml of vegetable oil with one tablespoon of washing up liquid and mix thoroughly. Keep it in a sealed jar or bottle; it has no ‘sell by date’. Dilute this mix at the rate of 2 teaspoons to 2 litres of water and spray as soon as you see any flying pests on your plants. The oil coats the bodies of the insects, effectively suffocating them.
Garlic is as indispensable in the garden as it is in the kitchen. I am not sure whether this recipe deters or eradicates but, since it is entirely harmless to plant and animal alike, you can use it liberally before pests arrive.
Puree two bulbs of garlic in a food processor with a small amount of water. Let the mixture steep overnight and then strain into a ½ litre jar. Add 100 ml of vegetable oil and one teaspoon of washing up liquid. Fill the jar with water. Dilute at the rate of 200 ml to 2 litres water and spray. The mixture will keep for a week in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.
Now we come to the big guns. If the first two fail, which is most unlikely, try a chilli spray. Wear gloves while you prepare and use this spray and keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
Blend ½ cup of hot chilli peppers with one cup of water. Make up to 2 pints with water and bring to a boil. Allow to cool and then add one tablespoon of washing up liquid. Spray it at full strength.