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How to decide on the best pest control for your garden.

You’ve spent hours in your garden getting everything looking perfect. Your flowers are blooming, your fruit and veggies are powering along, and your herbs are jumping out of their pots ready for harvest. Everything is great!

The last thing you want then is for all your hard work to go towards feeding some uninvited guests in your garden, rather than you and your family.

It can be tough and very complicated deciding on the best way forward to control pests in the garden, so read on and we’ll help send you in the right direction.

Step 1. Know your enemy

This is the best place to start in deciding on the best method for pest control in your garden.
Something is obviously eating your plants, but do you know what it is?

The easiest way to identify your pest is to see it. Even just looking at the damage being caused can help you identify the problem.

This little guy was having a munch of my broccoli. The deep cuts in the leaf are clearly from a caterpillar
This little guy was having a munch of my broccoli. The deep cuts in the leaf are clearly from a caterpillar

Obvious deep bite marks or tears along the leaves usually point towards chewing pest like caterpillars and snails. Smaller holes with wilting or discolouration around it on leaves or fruit means nutrient sucking pests like aphids or scales.

Other byproducts of pest damage are also good to look out for. Sticky honey dew being covered and farmed by ants for example is a tell tail sign of sap sucking bugs, and giant lumpy galls on branches are definite signs of wasps.

ant aphids

If you know what your pest is, then you can better decide how to fight back.

Step 2. How bad is it?

Yes, pests eat your plants, and this is annoying. But is one little caterpillar nibbling away at the leaves on your broccoli really cause to nuke your entire garden with pesticide? Probably not. Could you simply fix the problem by picking off the pest, or breaking the infected leaves and throwing them out? It’s important here to think about how bad the issue really is.

I suggest coming up with an acceptable level of loss, and just deal with the problem by picking the bugs off and cutting dead leaves as needed. It’s up to you where you draw the line, but a few leaves here or there from your veg aren’t going to be the end of the world.

If though your losses start getting greater than this point, then it’s time to escalate things, and knowing exactly how bad things are will be important.

Scale insects on Persimmon tree

Step 3. Deciding on a method control

This is the time you need to make the decision on how to control your problem. You hopefully know what pest your dealing with, or least know what types it could be. You should also know how much of a problem it is, and ultimately how much control is going to be needed to keep it in check.

With this knowledge, you can better decide on the control method that best suits you and your situation.

Probando (Weatherly 620 B)

Each situation is different. Different environments, pests and plants. Personal preferences and health issues also play a part in making decision on pest controls. Therefore it is really up to the individual, but here are some options to help you along.

Pesticides – Chemicals which will kill the target pest through poisoning. These are incredibly effective on large scales, but aren’t the healthiest choice. They act via direct contact with the pest, or by entering the plant tissue and poisoning them when they eat, but they can also kill beneficial bugs in your garden. Often relatively cheap and easy to get your hands on.

Non-chemical pesticides – Technically still pesticides, but these kill through direct contact with the bug. They can work by blocking the breathing holes or mouth parts. They do not poison the pest, so they are a bit more friendly for you and your garden, but it does mean you need to spray them directly (which means you need to find them first!).

Physical control – Basically removing any pests you see. This can be as simple as picking them off individually, or more drastic measures like cutting plants back to remove infected parts. This is ok if you’ve got small numbers, but gets less and less viable to larger the infestation.

Marigolds are an easy and popular companion plant
Marigolds are an easy and popular companion plant

Companion plantings – This involves planting other species into your garden that will act to either discourage pests from entering the area, encourage predators to eat the pests, or to simply act as sacrificial plants that you’re happy to lose.

This is a good method to use before the problem gets too bad, but probably wont save you if you’re already in trouble.

Beneficial bugs and bio-controls – This refers to releasing or encouraging predators into your garden to eat pests.

You can achieve this in a couple of ways. First is by simply increasing the diversity of your garden, so that you encourage more insects in.

I know it sounds funny, but more bugs will actually mean more competition and that means less dominance by a single species and THAT means less likelihood of pest levels getting out of control.

You can also buy predator bugs like ladybirds, or bacteria which attack and kill certain pests. It’s important to remember that using pesticides can harm these beneficial bugs as well as your pest, so be careful!

What’s the answer!?

Well, a bit of everything really! A diverse garden with strong ecological diversity will mean that it’ll be less likely for one species to grow into numbers where it becomes a problem. If it does, then companion plantings can help keep them away from your prized plants, and you can simply just pick the pest off to keep them in check if needed.

If things do begin to get out of hand, then a little bit of spraying isn’t the worst thing, just make sure to keep it minimal, and always follow the directions on whatever product you purchase.

Hopefully now your garden will be pest free, and all your hard work will be enjoyed by you and not them!

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Clinton Anderson

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