There isn’t much private greenery in Ireland. In our rain infested climate there is always an abundance of the pests that plague our newly grown plants. There are well-trodden and easy solutions to this, just go to the shop and buy a plastic bottle of pesticide; it will indiscriminately kill the good and bad insects, but safer options seem too time consuming.  

There is an easy option, it is companion planting. This is the old concept where planting plants together for the benefit of both plants. This is as seen when you plant beans with corn and squash, the native Americans called them the three sisters. The corn provided a structure for the beans to grow on, the squash kept the soil damp and acted as living humus and the beans fertilised the soil. You can also grow plants that shelter and deter insects, these planted around your important plants can create an ecosystem that will be beneficial to your garden. 

Weeds are the next companion plant. Some plants are considered weeds that really shouldn’t have that distinction. Dandelion is a common pest for gardeners, however, the dandelion has many benefits. Its roots attract earthworms to your garden. Earthworms are one of the most beneficial insects. They aerate the soil, their excrement fertilises the soil. Dandelions also have a long singular root, which brings the nutrients from deeper into the top-soil for shallow rooted plants. 

There are some pests from the animal kingdom. The worst of them being aphids, slugs and snails. Aphids also referred to as greenfly and are one of the most abundant pests in Dublin. Chances are if you pass a garden in Dublin you can spot them. Aphid infestation symptoms are the curling leaves and twisting new growth inward. There are endless hoards that seem to attach to every plant that it can. Fortunately there are many solutions, not all are easy.

aphids

To deal with Aphids there are the trap plants, these plants attract so many aphids that provide a stable population of aphids in your garden. This may seem counter-productive, but these trap plants, take the aphids away from your important plants. Trap plants biggest strength, however, is their ability to attract ladybirds and hover flies. Ladybirds and hover fly larvae eat aphids, vociferously. 

The average aphid infestation can be unsightly, but long term damage is rare. If you plant ‘trap plants’ then there will be a suitable prey population for the predators. With just aphids alone the ladybirds are not always guaranteed to enter your garden. In order to make your garden even more appealing to ladybirds, it is always a good idea to plant Yarrow, Dill, Coriander and mint. Ladybirds love these plants. Then once you have all that organised it is waiting and hoping; you have done all you can but still it may take years to have the ladybird population to control aphids. 

Snails trip small at the big

Slugs and snails are quite common in Ireland. It is near-on impossible to keep them out of your garden. Keeping slugs out of the garden doesn’t always have to be difficult. In fact many of the plants that deter slugs are quite pleasing to average gardener. It’s smells that deter these pests that can decimate the garden. Basil, lavender, garlic and rosemary are strong smelling and slugs hate them. Planting even garlic around all your leafy plants that slugs love will make sure you never those plants again. 

There are other handy little hacks that can alleviate the outside interference in your garden. French marigolds release chemicals that kill nematodes, for years after they are planted the soil can be nematode free. Marigolds, however, are a favourite food for slugs, so be sure to plant them near a garlic bud. Clover throughout your grass will mean it will always remain green. Clover contains nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their rhizobium. Nitrogen is the strongest fertiliser for plants, so planting a few can fix your soil organically for years.