02 February 2023 .: Environmental » Healthy plants and pest free gardens :. Register  Login
Best practice for healthy plants and pest free gardens Minimize

Best practice for healthy plants.

This article was prepared for the Uitkamp Action Group Members by Michelle Steenkamp of the Durbanville Nature Reserve. She has been working there has a student horticulturist & has been very involved in the establishment of the nursery that will be used for the propagation of indigenous plants for replanting in the Uitkamp area.

Use the following general measures to encourage healthy problem free plant growth and reduce the need to use controls.

- Provide appropriate food and shelter to encourage natural predators.

- Create a good soil structure.

- Feed the soil with composted organic soil improvers.

- Grow plants that suit the area.

- Do not sow or plant when temperature are too low.

- Practice good hygiene- clear away pest-ridden and diseased foliage and plants, both in the garden and under cover.

- Encourage good airflow around plants, by thinning out and pruning.

- Do not overfeed, particularly with nitrogen, which causes lush growth, attractive to pests.

- Use a crop rotation when growing vegetables.

- Pick of pests and diseases when they appear.

- Grow resistant cultivars.

- Grow flowers that provide habitats to encourage natural predators.

- Keep out pests with barriers, traps and crop covers.

Spraying-best practice

- Never spray if another method is available.

- Always identify the problem correctly, so the right spray is used.

- Check that the product is legally, and organically, approved for the job, Regulations are frequently changing.

- Spray at dusk to avoid harming bees.

- Follow the instructions on the bottle or packet.

- Wear protective clothing and use a good-quality sprayer.

- Avoid spraying predators.

It is only recent generations that have come to rely on artificial chemical inputs for pests and disease control, and in doing so many gardens have forgotten that it is possible to produce good food and maintain beautiful gardens without pesticides.

Organic gardening emphasis soil, health and the link between a healthy soil, healthy plants and our own health. A healthy soil leads to healthy plant growth in a stable and sustainable environment. Natural environments, or ecosystems, usually contain a diversity of plant and animal species, including plant pests and casual agents of plant disease, all the organisms live in a balance with one another. In organic gardens we try to emulate this balance of species and the ecological stability that results. Although gardens are never natural ecosystems, sensitive planting and design can create gardens that attract wildlife (including beneficial animals) and encourage diversity: productive gardens where plants and animals live in stable equilibrium.

Organic gardens seek to work with nature to limit damage from pests and plant disease, rather than to control nature using artificial inputs. The dream of the organic Gardner is sustainable gardening. It is a different dream to the utopia of a pest- and disease free garden promoted by the garden industry. It is a more realistic approach to gardening, accepting that plants occasionally show spots and blemishes just as our bodies from time to time show imperfections. Instead of quick fixes with their environmental side affects, organic gardeners aim for prevention and sustainable management of pests and disease.


They live in colonies in flowerbeds, lawns, compost heaps and plant pots. Ants are generally a nuisance rather than a pest. Ants rarely damage plants directly, but their activities can disturb growth, and increase damage caused by other pests. Tunneling can interfere with root activity, causing wilting and death. Some ants build their mounds over their nests in lawns, spoiling the appearance and making mowing difficult. Ant’s steel seeds especially those with high oil content. Many feed on the sticky honeydew excreted by aphids and scale insects, so ridding the garden of ants will keep down the numbers of the far more damaging aphids, scale insects, and mealy bugs. They may ‘Farm’ these pests moving them around a plant, and protecting them from predators.

Ants are almost impossible to eliminate, so it is only worth trying to control them where specific damage is being caused. Grease bands, or a band of fruit tree grease, can prevent ants moving up into a tree, shrub or greenhouse bench.

Douse the outdoor colonies thoroughly with cold or boiling water; flooding pot plants with water may flush them out of a nest. If ants attack your fruit trees, try this Chile-vinegar spray(Warning:- some solutions especially those containing oils and soaps-can burn delicate plants, causing the leaves to dry up and fall off.

Chile-vinegar spray for fruit trees.

4 jalapenos, habaneros, or other hot chiles, sealed and chopped.
2 cloves garlic
1 ½ quarts water
2 oz. beer (try using the rest as snail bait.)
½ cup vinegar 

Mix chopped chiles, garlic, water, and beer. Cover and bring to a boil for 5min, then let the mixture steep in the pot for 24hours. Add the vinegar, strain well, and pour into a sprayer. Spray leaves (but not blossoms). Test first to check for burning.

For ants else were in the garden, try ant death bait, served in a jar lid or cut-down paper cup. Place the cups throughout your garden and yard where you know ants will find them. To protect dogs and other animals from getting into the cups, it may be necessary to put a cardboard box (weighed down with a heavy rock) over the cup. You can poke small holes into the base of the box with an ice pick to give ants’ easy access and keep pets from eating the poison. Note: - boric acid is a liver and kidney toxin which, over time, can make children and pets sick. A small one-time dose will most likely cause only an upset stomach, however if you’re in doubt, contact the poison control centre in your area.

Ant death bait

1 tablespoon boric acid powder (available at grocery, hardware and drug stores.)

1 tablespoon white sugar
⅓ Cup water

Mix the boric acid powder, water, sugar together. Divide between two small jar lids or cut-down paper cups.

Serves thousands.

To get rid of ants u see, spray a commercial window cleaner on the ants ant their trail. Any cleaner with ammonia (or pure citrus extract) will work, or u can make your own solution. It will kill the ants and break their trail. You can also combat ants by sending poison back to their nest with them, there is a simple indoor ant bait, its the borax-corn syrup mixture and works wonders on ants that enjoy a sweet dinner. Grease ants which love oily foods will ignore this, If u find ants are grease hungry kind, try the ant death bait above. If u can, follow the ants back to their nest. Here you can also use the ant death bait in dry form. Omit the water, and sprinkle a thin layer of acid/sugar mixture evenly around the nest opening. (Don’t make piles that dogs can lick up, ads they love sugar.) The ants will carry the mixture into the nest and feed the colony with it, killing those that eat it. Repeat the sprinkling as long as u see ants.

Ammonia solution
1 pint water
1 tablespoon ammonia

Mix and spray on surface areas. 

Indoor ant bait

9 teaspoons light corn syrup.
1 teaspoon boric acid or borax

Mix ingredients together. Place one drop of the mixture on a postage stamp-sized piece of cardboard and place it where you see ants. Let the ants swarm the bait and take it back to the nest, where they will eat it and feed it to their young. The ants prefer fresh bait and trend to ignore bait that is dried, so you may need to replace it periodically.

An organic pesticide spray is: Pyrethrum; plant oil-based product. 

Know your ant enemy: - Ants are members of the wasp class of insects. There are more than 3500 species of ants living in nearly every habitat around the world. All of these ants are social and live in colonies called nests or mounds. When a nest gets overcrowded (some nests have over a million ants) the queen will produce winged males and females that go out and establish new nests. Different species of ants, looking for different foods, can invade your home at the same time. The pale pharaoh ant searches for fatty foods, while the thief ant prefers protein foods. One of the worst invaders, the Argentine ant, has caused havoc since its introduction to this country from Brazil, it is partial to sweet foods, but it will eat just about anything.

Scent trails left behind by a scout ant provide a chemical connection between the nest and a food source. The trail only lasts for a few minutes, but that’s usually long enough for the ants to get from the nest to the food. Scientists have demonstrated that ants are capable of individual learning and of passing on what they have learned. They have the ability to display memory and correct mistakes, which explains why they can be so hard to get rid of. 


Most plants may be attacked by aphids. Many aphid species are plant-specific; aphids may spend the summer on certain plants, moving to a different host in winter. Tender young growth is most prone to attack, but aphids will also colonies leaves, stems and, in some cases roots. Leaves and shoots become distorted. Heavy infestation can kill a plant. Leaves are often coated with honeydew, a sticky substance produced by aphids. Black sooty moulds grow on the honeydew, inhibiting photosynthesis and spoiling appearance. Root aphids can cause plants to wilt. Aphids also transmit viruses.

Tolerate aphid colonies where they are not causing damage. They will act as a nursery for aphid predators and parasites to feed and breed on. To control aphids, rub them of or pick off infested shoots. Grow attractant flowers and create suitable habitats for birds, earwigs, ladybirds, hoverflies, spiders, ground beetle, parasitic wasps, lacewings, and other natural enemies of the aphid. Allow natural predators time to work. Do not overfeed plants with nitrogen, soft, sappy growth is a magnet to aphids. Keep containers adequately fed and watered, and pot up plants when necessary. Use crop rotation to avoid build up of root aphids in the vegetable patch, Grow resistant cultivars. Aphids need minimum temperature of 10ºC and at least 2 hours at 18ºC every day to stimulate activity. Lacewings and ladybirds love to eat aphids, so welcome these predators to your garden. Make a solution of 5ml liquid soap in 1L water. Spray the aphids away with the solution. 

Slugs and Snails.

Soft bodied, slimy pests, which move on a slimy muscular foot. Some feed above ground, others inhabit the soil. In the daytime slugs may hide in cracks and crevices and under any shelter where it is cool and damp. At night, especially when damp, slugs will be found feeding and crawling over plants. Slug eggs are laid in clusters in soil cavities. A huge range of plants are liable to be attack, particularly seedlings and young plants, annuals and herbaceous perennials. Slugs will also attack tubers and fruit. They eat irregular holes in roots, stems, bulbs, tubers, buds, flowers, and leaves. Seedlings fail to come up with fail to come up or are eaten off. Most damage occurs at night. Tell-tale slime may be seen.

There is no single, simple method of controlling slugs. But several different methods like ringing plants that snails and slugs love with a thick layer of bran, (yes bran!). It can be bought at any feed store (or grocery store, though it will cost more there), and works great to control snails and slugs. Besides being inexpensive, it is completely harmless to children, pets, and other animals. Diatomaceous earth can also be spread around plants to control snails. When a snail or slug crosses the diatomaceous earth, the silica in the earth cuts the body of the snail or slug and kills it. If u live in an area where sawdust is available, it works in much the same way datomaceos earth does. Unfortunately, all these must be reapplied after a rain or heavy watering.  When sowing seeds, water the bottom of the drill then cover with dry soil. Encourage quick germination and growth of seedlings and young plants. Plant out sturdy module-grown transplants rather than sowing directly. Water in the morning, damp soil and plants in the evening encourage slugs and snails. Do not mulch young plants. Protect individual young plants with plastic bottles. Hoe regularly to disturb slime trails that may be used by other slugs and snails to locate edible plants. Dig in winter to expose slugs and eggs to weather and predators. Hands pick slugs at night and destroy. Use traps baited with beer they are a tried-and-true remedy, Place a saucer of beer (with the lip at ground level) in your yard or garden in the evening, and collect the little beer-lovers in the morning. Dispose of them in a bucket of salty water or give them to ducks at your local pond, ducks love snails and will find them a treat! , milk or grape juice will work as well. Planting sacrificial plants like French marigolds or Protect pots and larger plants with copper-coated tape. Traps made out of small cans also reduce the snail population. Bury the can almost to its rim and place a piece of decaying fruit at the bottom. Check and empty the can daily (You may catch more than snails with this method.) Encourage natural enemies like frogs, beetles, centipedes. Hens and ducks also eat slugs and snails. According to the clever people (National Botanical Institute) tobacco dust is still more environmentally friendly than snail bait, so it can also be used to rid the garden of snails and slugs, it should be dusted at the base of the plants in a circle manner.


Foliage gets eaten; a plant may be stripped to a skeleton. Examine plants regularly when the butterflies have been seen. Squash eggs, pick off caterpillars. Wasps are particularly effective at controlling this pest. Grow crops under fine mesh netting to exclude the butterflies. Biological control: - Apply Bacillus thuringienis (Bt) as a spray to infected plants. Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths.


Various nocturnal moth caterpillars are grouped under the general name of cutworm. These soil living larvae tend to be fat, and curl up as a ‘c’ when disturbed, cutworm feed at night and can be found at almost any time of year. They eat stems of seedlings and young plants at ground level. Roots, corms, tubers, and leaves may also be damaged. Cultivate invested soil in winter to expose caterpillars to predators or allow chickens to scratch them out, keep the ground weed free as weeds provide sites for egg laying. Protect susceptible transplants with a collar-such as a cardboard or plastic tube, or tin can with the base removed- push down into soil around base.


These insects breed all year round, they transmit viruses. Leaves may develop yellow spots and other discolorations. The plant may become sticky and stunted. In bright sunlight the leaves may wither and die. Hang yellow sticky traps near plants to control small infestations, and for monitoring the appearance of whitefly. Dispose of badly invested plants. Mites eat whitefly. Damp plants down regularly, examine new plants before introducing them into your garden; they come from the local nurseries most of the time. A water alcohol solution is known to be an effective control for whiteflies. 

Little fly, big trouble: - These little flies are closely related to aphids and scale insects. White flies are found worldwide and have been quite a problem, Whiteflies are so named because of the fine white powder that covers their wings bodies. Whiteflies start their lives as tiny eggs, attached by short stalks to the underside of host plants. The nymph s hatch in four to twelve days and are called “crawlers”. In this stage the whitefly is able to move about on the plant. The crawlers soon begin feeding on the plant by inserting their piercing mouth parts. After feeding and growing, the nymphs molt to a legless form, which is flattened oval resembling a scale or mealy bug. The whitefly goes through two more molts and then emerges as an adult. Three to four generations are produced in a season. The whitefly’s unusual life cycle makes it one of the most difficult pests to treat.

Whitefly control spray
1 cup water
¾ cup alcohol
Mix and spray on plants.

Check for burning before treating the entire plant. Rinsing the plant after spray has been on for a few minutes will help reduce the chance of burning.

Mealy bugs.

Severe infestations on young growing shoots can weaken plants. Wax covered colonies are often found in leaf axils and on cacti spines. Leaves may be covered in sticky honeydew; this in turn may be covered in black sooty mould. Cut out and burn severely infested shoots and branches. Wash out inaccessible colonies with a powerful jet of water or remove with a paintbrush as appropriate. Repeat inspection and removal of mealy bugs two or three times at twice weekly intervals. Examine all new plant introductions, ideally, quarantine new plants for a month. U can also try to mix equal parts methylated spirits and water and remove any remaining mealy bugs by dipping a cotton wool bud into the solution and wiping insects away. Other ways of getting rid of the little suckers are dislodging them from their host plants is quite an effective control. On small infestations, try touching a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to the insect, which should die in a few days, even wiping the insects with a rag saturated in alcohol will work-just be careful not to burn your plants with the alcohol. You can use oils to suffocate the insects, especially scales-try dormant oils in winter, and in the summer, special oils that won’t burn the leaves. Check at your local nursery for the best oil to use. Many parasitic wasps, lacewings, hoverflies, and ladybird beetles are natural enemies of the mealybug and scale. Just as with aphids, ants will defend mealybugs from predators and use the honeydew they produce food. 

Spider Mites 

If u see small dots moving on some of your plants. Closer inspection reveals minute ‘spider’ webs and tiny light specks on some leaves.

Many people wonder why they experience a spider mite outbreak just after spraying pesticides on their plants, research on mites has sown that when they’re exposed to certain pesticides (carbaryl and parathion), they will reproduce much faster than they normally would. If your area is dry, it’s important to sprinkle water on pathways around trees and gardens, in order to keep dust down. Spider mites, like other species of mites, love dry, dusty conditions so adequate watering is essential to keep them away. A simple spray of water from a hose can dislodge the mites from their host plants and reduce their population. Be sure to really blast the underside of the leaves, too. When they are a problem on plants, one method that is effective is to rub a cotton swab dipped in equal parts water and alcohol on the plant. If the infestation is mild, this is usually all that is necessary to control them, rinse the plant well after treatment to prevent burning.

Mites are very small and sometimes completely invisible on first inspection. Most people notice the damage done by mites before they notice the mites themselves. Generally, when mite damage reaches a noticeable level, you are talking about an infestation of millions of mites. Mites belong to the same arthropod order as ticks and are not insects. Spider mites are related to order pest mites such as red mites, harvest mites (also known as chiggers or red bugs), and water mites. All mites have eight legs instead of the insect’s six legs. Spider mites are usually a pale yellow or green in color. Much like bees, spider mites are able to determine the sex of their offspring. An unfertilized egg will become a male and a fertilized egg will become a female. Mite populations fluctuate as weather conditions change. When the weather is warm and dry, the mites will multiply rapidly, sometimes going through ten or more generations in one summer. Cool and damp conditions greatly reduce the numbers of mites. 

All purpose Repellents:

Chiles can be one of growers’ greatest allies. Depending on the type of pest that is bothering your garden, chiles prepared in many different forms can be just what the doctor ordered.

Chiles are members of the Capsicum plant family, which has over 200 different varieties. When using chiles for repellents, you need to use ‘hot’ chiles.

Eucalyptus is also an excellent insect repellent, the pungent odor of eucalyptus has much the same effect as cedar, their oils can be put on a cloth and dabbed on and inside the areas where the insects are a problem, a mulch made from eucalyptus when spread around your growing area, is sure to stop quite a few insects as well as animals. Eucalyptus oil can be diluted to make a great insect repellent.   

Garlic also has many beneficial qualities, it repels many of the major insect’s pests, especially aphids, and it has been shown to lessen the need for other control measures. Garlic has shown to protect bushes from black spot, it’s also known to respell aphids, a garlic tea, sprayed on your plants can provide protection from many insects and even animals, which dislike the garlic’s odor, and the spray has also been credited with eliminating fungus and mildew on plants.

Places were u can find organic pesticides and indigenous plants

·        Kirstenboch National Botanic Gardens Cape Town

·        Kirstenbosch Garden Centre Retail Nursery Tel: - 021 797 1305

·        Karoo National Botanic Gardens- Worcester

·        Harold Poter Gardens- Betty’s Bay

·        Feathers Nursery in Constantia.

·        Silverhill Nursery in Kenilworth Tel:- 021 762 4245

·        Fernkloof indigenous Nursery in Hermanus

·        Joostenbergvlakte nursery on Joostenbergvlakte farm on the way to Stellenboch.

·        Cape Garden Centre

·        Caledon Fynbos Nursery Tel: - 082 772 4681

·        Good Hope Nursery Cape Point Tel: - 021 7809299

·        New Plant Nursery Wholesalers of indigenous plants Tel: - 044 8890055

·        Indigigro Fine growers of Buchu and Erika’s Tel: - 0232320506

·        FineBushPeople fynbos seed suppliers Shop online at

·        Rust-en-Vrede Nursery Tel:- 021 9814515

·        Summerfield’s Indigenous Bulbs and Seeds Helderberg Tel:- 021 855 2442

·        Witkoppen Wild Flower Nursery Bryanston Tel:- 011 465 7793


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