When bugs attack – how to defend against future invasions

Crimson Broad Beans | she cooks, she gardens


Previously, I wrote about how to deal with a couple of problem pests in the garden. Now that you’ve dealt with your bugs you might be inclined to sit back and think your work is done. As I said in my previous post, bugs will generally hit vulnerable plants so now that you’ve got the situation under control you need to look at what you can do to stop (or at least minimise) the likelihood of it happening again. In the same way you might take some vitamins when you’re feeling run down, you need to make sure you take care of your plant and nurse it back to health so that it is strong enough to withstand future attacks. Here are some of my tips:

Feed your plant back to health

If you’re feeding regularly with seaweed solution then you are already on the road to protecting against future attacks, if you’re not then you need to start as regular feeds can help keep bug attacks under control. If the plant is looking particularly unhappy then there is no harm in upping either the frequency of feeds or the dosage, just follow the instructions on the back of the pack to find out the right amount to give your plant. Another good thing to do is to check out the soil that your plants are living in, could it do with a top-up? Is the soil starting to look a little old and tired? If so, a great way to boost your soil is to replace the top layer of soil with some compost, manure and mulch. Water in well and watch it thrive.

Yellow sticky traps – gross but effective!

Other ways to defend your garden.

One of the best investments I’ve ever made in my garden defence system are yellow sticky traps which I hang at plant level throughout my garden. The colour yellow is particularly attractive to white fly and the little nymph which lays the aphid eggs that causes so many problems in the first place. They are lured to the sticky trap and become stuck in the glue where they die. The traps are waterproof and only cost a couple of dollars but will need to be replaced at the end of every season as they will fill up with bugs fairly quickly.

The grubs that are eating your plants are on their way to becoming those white moths you have probably seen fluttering around your garden, so you need to either stop them from laying their eggs in the first place or be in a position to identify the eggs and get rid of them before they hatch. Where you’ve got caterpillar issues then it’s worth considering companion planting. I’ve found planting garlic, dill, onions and leeks around my more susceptible plants (such as broccoli and cauliflower) does a good job at keeping the problem at bay. You could also look at putting in a netting system if you’re under siege but it can be costly and a little unsightly so sometimes it is necessary to spray. I’ve recently started using Dipel which is a bacteria that specifically targets caterpillars. It’s safe to use and won’t harm other ‘friendly’ bugs like ladybugs and mantis (more on those later). Another option is to try hanging up white bread bag tags (or little butterfly shaped pieces of white plastic) around your plants, as in the photo below. Moths are quite territorial and generally won’t tend to lay eggs in an area where there are other moths. I’ve had moderate success in one of my beds with the little contraption and it only cost a couple of dollars to make.

My ‘greens bed’ – a haven for aphids and caterpillars. Kept largely under control with companion planting, the yellow sticky trap and my slightly kooky ‘white tag hangy thing’.

Know thy enemy

Aphids are fairly delicate little creatures and they don’t tend to like extreme heat, cold or heavy rain so I’ve found them to be most problematic in autumn and spring. I’ve come to expect to see an infestation hit around the end of the season when everything is in need of a good feed. The sooner you get onto it, the better. Remember to look for the obvious signs and get busy with your hose.

The butterfly or moth laying eggs on your plants are highly productive. A single female butterfly may lay up to 400 eggs. They are usually laid on the under-surface of the leaves and will take about a week to hatch. The time from egg to adult depends on the weather. Like aphids, butterflies and moths don’t tend to like extreme heat, cold or rain. It’s important to remain vigilant though as under warm favourable conditions a generation of the cabbage moth could develop about once a month.

So now you’ve gotten your insect issues under control it’s time to start thinking about how to boost the eco-system in your garden to help turbo-charge your gardens defence system.

Next: Predatory insects, your best defence against bugs

What bug issues are you dealing with at the moment? Do you have any other tips on how to defend your garden from bug attack?


  • louisa says:

    thanks for this info – just bought some aphid traps – tried making my own last year with yellow paper and vaseline but they didnt work very well.

  • Ooh I’m going to get some of those yellow sticky things! Any tips for rats? That’s my latest problem unfortunately. They cleared out all my lettuce and spinach over the weekend. I’ve started again with those in the top of my stacking garden and I’ll plant some tougher plants in the ones the little rodents can get to.
    How often do you fertilise?

    • Erin B says:

      Hey Claire, sorry to hear about the rats. I’ve definitely battled them before and tried a number of things – soap flakes, chilli spray and even row covers but they are cunning and still managed to decimate an entire crop of tomatoes one year (devastating!). Finally I conceded and laid baits, it was hard but I didn’t know what else to do. I also cleaned up the yard and tried to make sure there were no convenient little hiding places (like piles of wood or leaves etc) for them to hide out in. Good luck!

    • Erin B says:

      ps – I use manure and compost at the start of every new growing season, and feed weekly with seaweed solution. One week I use regular seaweed concentrate (ie. Seasol) and the other I use PowerFeed. About once a month (or so) I spray seasol onto the leaves using a little spray bottle.

  • Grant Nowell says:

    Some really fantastic tip, I love the companion planting ideas and the plastic bread tags is just brilliant!

  • Hi Erin
    Our veggie garden is thriving now that I’ve worked out how to keep the chickens and the possums out! The bugs are another story, and I’m expecting an onslaught as it gets hotter. My garden is fairly overflowing with self seeded wheat, courtesy of our chickens running rampant for a while, and it seems to be hiding a lot of new growth from the evil bugs.
    I’m definitely going to invest in some of those sticky yellow things – they look great!
    look forward to more tips!

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