With autumn on the horizon, so too is the emergence of a number of annoying garden pests set on destroying your garden’s va va voom.

Well-known Greenfingers horticulturist, Hilton Rishworth, says participants in this year’s Die Burger and PE Express PE Garden of the Year competition can expect unwelcome visitors like lawn caterpillar, weeds, conifer or cypress aphids, sooty mould, snails and ants.

“Brown patches on your lawn are one of the first signs of the lawn caterpillar setting up shop,” says Rishworth. “They hide by day and feed on the growing points of the grass at night.

“Fortunately, the roots are seldom killed and the grass recovers in due course,” he says. “Hadedas frequenting your lawn can be another sign of infestation.”

Weeds can be a major irritation this time of the year, says Rishworth. “While lawn grass growth slows, some weeds continue to grow very actively as temperatures drop and weeds such as clover can take over an entire lawn.

“Besides being unsightly, weeds consume water and nutrients that would otherwise be available to the grass,” he says. “Weed control should always be done before it goes into flower, as this will prevent seeds being distributed.”

Although conifer (pine) or cypress aphids are an autumn hazard, the symptoms (brown spots on leaves) only become visible in September and October and they therefore have to be treated preventatively, says Rishworth.
“Sooty mould, which looks like black dust sprinkled on the leaves, is often associated with plants such as fiddlewood and eugenia. This affects the health of the plant and it can also spread to groundcovers.”

Snails become more active when the weather is cooler, for instance during autumn and spring, and they are especially devastating for young seedlings, according to him. “Ants are a nuisance during dryer months as they eat the growing tips of the roots of the grass.”

Rishworth says certain garden pests are treated preventatively while others are treated symptomatically. “Consult an expert to assist you with the various treatments available.”

The PE Garden of the Year competition is held in conjunction with Sherwood Garden Centre, Re/Max Independent Walmer and Swabey Velthuysen Attorneys.

Categories include small, large, water wise and corporate gardens, with each winner receiving a R5 000 gift voucher. The overall winner will be selected from the four category winners. Small, large and water wise gardens can enter in the corporate category.

Judges will be looking at elements such as first impression, focal points and special features, but criteria such as passion, imagination, effort and uniqueness will also be taken into account.

Winning gardens will be featured in the PE Express and the Leefstyl supplement of Die Burger.

To enter, fax the entry form that appears on this page to 041 581 1552 or drop it off at Remax House, 171 Main Road, Walmer, or Sherwood Garden Centre in Walker Drive. The deadline for entries is March 14.

An organiser will contact you to set up a meeting for preliminary judging.

For more information, contact Carmel Wolf at 041 398 4408.