I have received many questions on the subject of scale over the past few weeks – it appears that they’re out in force in your gardens and it’s certainly that time of year! So I wanted to address them in a practical blog post, arming you with the organic tools you need to do battle!
There are many different types of scale affecting many different varieties of plants. Scale insects feed on a wide variety of plants and can be specific to particular host plants or groups of plants.
Scale are sap-sucking insects which in turn means they are sucking all the nutrients out of your plants. In some bad infestations, this can actually cause the death of a plant.
Scale seem to thrive in dry, warm environments when the plants are particularly vulnerable. They are generally found under the leaves and on the stem of plants. A good sign you have scale is the presence of ants going up and down your plant collecting the honeydew secretions. These secretions in turn encourage the growth of sooty mould, which is a black fungus that can prevent the plant from photosynthesising properly.
Scale insects can infect nearby plants, so early control is advised. There are numerous types of scale – from soft shell to hard shell scale. The harder shell is harder to control. If you have only a few scale, these can be picked off by hand and squished.
I’m also pleased to share with you my homemade recipes for scale – using organic and natural methods to control this pest:
1. Mix 2 tablespoons of oil with 5 litres of water and spray on infected areas. This will smother the scale and then it can easily be wiped off.
2. If you have a fungus present, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the oil spray and shake well and spray on the plants.
3. I use EnSpray 99 oil for my insect problems, which I can happily send you if required.
With all homemade sprays, I would advise doing a test patch first to make sure there are no adverse reactions from your plants.
The biggest trick up my organic sleeve is prevention.
When your plants are at optimal health, they will not get affected by scale.
Did you know that insects sense vibrations? Rather than looking at your plants and thinking ‘mmm, they look tasty’, they instead feel the vibration of your plant to determine whether it is healthy or not.
If your plant is struggling, weak or diseased, it will have a much lower frequency vibration than a plant that has great health and a strong cell structure. When insects feel the lower vibration, they will target that plant – they are attracted to the lower vibration. Nature always preys on the weak – it is nature’s way.
Therefore, my top tips for organic scale prevention is to look after your soil, feed your plants, give them regular water and they will really benefit from a good thick layer of mulch, especially over the summer months.