Gardening advice: Three tips for outsmarting pests such as whitefly and slugs

French marigolds – the smell of them acts as a repellent to whitefly

AS YOU get ready to sow, plant and re-arrange your vegetable beds and flower borders, now it the time to take steps to outsmart the pests that can so often ruin your crops and leave plants in tatters. Here's some advice

1. Use smelly plants

Pests can often be confused through scent, or simply don't like the smell of certain plants. You can repel whitefly from valuable crops by planting French marigolds, Tagetes, next to them. The whiff of garlic and alliums, which are ornamental onions, can also keep pests at bay generally. Mixing highly scented plants together makes it more difficult for pests to find their favourite target. The strong smell of catmint, Nepeta, can deter flea beetles, while hyssop and mint put off cabbage white butterflies.

2. Create barriers

Place a barrier of grit or eggshells around plants frequently targeted by slugs and snails, such as hostas and lupins. Cover vulnerable young vegetable plants with fine-mesh crop-protection netting, or even old net curtains, and protect new brassica plantings with collars of horticultural fleece to stop cabbage root fly. Cover newly sown carrots with horticultural fleece to deter carrot fly.

3. Use sacrificial plants

It may be worth losing some plants, in order to keep others. If you want your beautiful hosta leaves to remain undamaged, try planting Chinese lettuce nearby, which slugs also love – so this will hopefully give them enough food to feast upon without reaching the hostas. Grow nasturtiums and garlic to deter aphids from attacking your vegetable crops. Cabbage white caterpillars also love nasturtiums, so you might want to plant a row of them as an alternative menu to cabbages and broccoli, which the caterpillars would also devour.

Use broad beans to attract red spider mite, nicotiana to lure whitefly, and potatoes to provide a feast for mealy bugs. You'll have to dispose of these plants once the pests have taken hold, but at least this method should leave other crops untouched.

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