16 September - Pests and fleece

Rats and rabbits: As well as damaging container-grown plants, rats are also a hazard as carriers of Weil's disease.

This is particularly important should your nursery be near cereal crops that have been harvested over the past few weeks. Check bait boxes and change the bait's active ingredient each time you reorder from your supplier. Rabbits may also become a problem. Typical damage includes stems and leaves being bitten off at a 45 degs angle. Install wire netting perimeter fences around vulnerable crops. Dig it into the ground and lay it horizontally under the surface for at least 500mm to the outside. Check and repair holes as required. Electric fences will provide useful temporary protection. Apply Grazers as a deterrent and use carrots as bait in traps.

Cultural work: Check fleece and Cosytex for holes and dampness, and order new supplies if required. Replace damaged tunnel sheets while air temperatures are still warm enough. Clean all gutters and downpipes on structures as well as checking all drains.

Biocontrol: Some predators will be affected by decreasing day length. Increase your predator numbers to compensate for this slow decrease in activity and start to think about introducing broad-spectrum contact-acting products as a clean-up where appropriate. Aphids and spider mites will still persist on foliage, particularly on protected crops.

Green manures: Order seed for planting at the end of the month. For additional biofumigant effects, try the Caliente mustard seed range. Sample fields beforehand to determine pH and nutrient levels for correct fertiliser applications prior to sowing.

Vine weevil: Adults are now laying eggs. Start nematode applications by the end of the month or drench ornamentals with Calypso (EAMU 2014-2153), Chess WG (EAMUs required) or Steward (EAMU 2008-2905). Focus on crops without compost-based controls.

Spray programmes: Now is the time to start reviewing your successes and failures from this season. Check where predator applications can be improved or even introduced. Consider including some of the biopesticides into your spray programme for a more predator-friendly approach and to help ring the changes and prevent resistance issues.

Drains: Check container bed drains are in working order and cleaned out. Check drainage on sand beds and stir up the sand if percolation is low from compost deposits and moss and weed growth. Strim ditches to remove large weeds and encourage free-flowing water during any wet autumn periods.

John Adlam, Managing director, Dove Associates


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