Natural Control for Pests in Italian Gardens

Pest control with small insects

The weather here in Italy is lovely right now with glorious sunshine,

blue skies and warm temperatures- but we are not the only ones to make

the most of it…!

More pests up close Pests on a leaf

As spring advances the pests in Italian gardens are multiplying by the

hour in our vegetable gardens and flower borders- and they really mean

business! Hungry and voracious after a winter hibernating underground,

under leaf matter and in hedgerows they have their eyes on your vegetable

patch.

The Flea beetle (Phyllotreta spp) is a tiny, industrious

and social little insect that jumps rather like a flea when disturbed-

giving it its name. Despite its minute size it can ravage small seedlings

and young leaves in the vegetable garden by appearing in vast numbers

that quickly set about eating tiny holes in the leaf’s surface thus

nearly destroying the plant.

The adult flea beetle emerges from its hibernation in early spring

and has a flying range of around 1km, it soon lays masses of eggs at

the base of the plant which soon hatch into tiny larvae that feed on

the roots of the plant. On emerging they meet en masse in the nearest

vegetable patch and begin devouring brassicas and other leafy, salad

vegetables – leaving the leaves with large areas that appear to have

been peppered by shot from a shotgun.

Flea Beetle eating brassicas

The flea beetle is a particularly nasty little pest, in that it is

extremely mobile and difficult to eradicate- without using harmful,

toxic pesticides. Covering the plants with a fine mesh after seeding

can prevent the beetle from reaching the plant and the planting of more

desirable ‘trap’ plants like the Chinese giant mustard (Brassica

juncea ‘Crispifolia’) between rows or around the vegetable garden

can reduce the infestation but its effects are somewhat limited.

Garden infested with flea beetles

Mulching the young plants with straw can benefit the plant by helping

water retention and aiding healthy growth, but by far the most effective

treatment is a simple crushed-garlic and hot chilli spray… let’s do

it the Italian way.

  • garlic recipie organic pest control6

    cloves of garlic

  • 1 heaped tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon of pure soap
  • 1 large bucket of hot water

Crush the cloves in the water and allow it to rest for a couple of

days.

flea beetles and how to get rid of themThen

pour the mixture through muslin or an old sheet and the remaining liquid

can then be used as spray.

Hot chili powder can also be dusted on the leaves of plants (preferably

when leaves are slightly damp) to repel the flea beetle and other leaf

eating insects. The application of simple potash at the base of the

plant will deter the emergence of the insect after its larval stage.

By Jonathan Radford

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