Tactics for the battleground

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It’s a battleground out there; a war between man and beast, man and weed, man and the elements. Welcome to the world of gardening.

It’s July, and things are growing – some well, some not so well. And while the gardener tries to do the right thing, his enemies are sneaking up on him.

So, it’s battle stations, with your eyes as the first line of defence. Look under the new leaves of tomatoes at the growing point of the plant to check if whitefly are gathering. Spray the pests with a systemic insecticide that is approved for use on edible crops – and be prepared to spray again when the pests re-group.

Plants in the vegetable or fruit garden are sure to be facing competition from annual weeds and grasses. Left undisturbed, the weeds will rob the soil of moisture and nutrients – reducing the amount available to your food plants.

To help keep weeds under control, you can regularly hoe between the rows, although there’s always the risk of damaging vulnerable roots of the crop you’re trying to protect.

Chemical warfare may be the answer – an application of weedkiller containing glyphosate will knock back any invasive weeds, but ensure you shield your precious vegetables or fruit from the spray and target only the weeds.

French and runner beans could be ready for picking from the end of this month. Early in their life they are vulnerable to attack from slugs and snails, but by now these pests should have moved onto easier-to-reach growth.

If you can live with losing a few plants, or you have a friendly hedgehog dining al fresco, leave them be. Otherwise, take the war to the mollusc – use slug pellets, hollowed-out grapefruit skins, beer traps or even scatter sharp grit or broken eggshells around vulnerable plants. You don’t have to kill the enemy – just deter them.

But although runner beans are probably now out of harm’s way from one pest, they are very susceptible to the onslaught of another – blackfly. If these sap-sucking pests are spotted, use an insecticide recommended for use on beans.

In the fruit garden, pick raspberries, loganberries, strawberries and blackcurrants as they ripen and before birds get in on the act. Otherwise, you may have to protect the fruit garden with netting.

Fight the good fight and the rewards will surely come.