How to deal with 3 common summer pests and diseases
The warm weather brings its own set of problems to the summer gardener. Hannah Stephenson looks at how to keep 3 of them at bay
Are your pots already drying up despite your attempts at watering? Are aphids sucking the life out of your plants? And what about the black spot on your roses?
Summer throws up its own set of problems for time-hungry gardeners, but there are ways you can tackle them now to keep your plot looking beautiful this season.
1. Aphid attack
Greenfly, whitefly and blackfly can do their worst in summer, sucking life out of the stems and buds of plants and multiplying prolifically at the same time.
Heavy infestations stunt growth and soil the plant with sticky excrement, resulting in sooty mould.
Insect spray may zap them, but that is also likely to affect beneficial insects, so if you want to get rid of them more organically, you may have to take a bit more time over it.
Among the most effective ways is to spray them with a dilution of mild washing-up liquid and then run your fingers up and down stems and buds to squash them.
Another way is to attract beneficial insects to your garden including lacewings and hoverflies, whose larvae feast on aphids and are often found on aphid-infested plants in summer.
Try to incorporate a variety of pollen-rich plants in your garden to attract a wide range of natural predators to control the pests.
2. Black spot on roses
Many roses will have succumbed to black spot this year, particularly those which have not been watered or fed enough in the heat. Roses are hungry feeders and will end up the victim of pests and diseases if their resilience is reduced through lack of care.
Telltale dark brown or black blotches, often edged with yellow, appear on the plant from early summer, which can lead to the leaves falling prematurely and weakening the plant.
Some roses are more susceptible than others, so choose resistant types if you can, such as the Olivia Rose Austin from David Austin Roses (davidaustinroses.co.uk).
Pick off any diseased leaves you see and dispose of them. Black spot is thought to be encouraged by potash shortage and warm, wet weather in summer. Feed roses with a high potash fertiliser and mulch to stop spores splashing up from the ground. Only spray with a fungicide as a last resort.
3. Wilting hanging baskets
During prolonged hot, dry weather, hanging baskets are often the first to suffer as the compost quickly dries out, leading to straggly, wilted plants.
You need to water baskets twice a day in summer – once in the early morning and again in the evening when the sun has gone down, to reduce evaporation.
Those who have incorporated water-retaining granules into their basket compost may have more chance of keeping the soil moist, but plants won’t take long to wilt if you forget to water, even just for a day.
If the compost has dried out to the extent where the water going in just seems to come through the basket immediately, you’ll need to take down the basket and dunk it into a bucket or washing-up bowl of water, leaving it there until the compost is really wet again. Hopefully, the plants should pick up if they haven’t totally dried out.
Once the compost is really wet again, add a couple of handfuls of new compost and some plant food granules to the surface, water again and rehang.
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