The garden is home to innumerable invertebrates. All of these have to eat. Some eat plants, some eat plant-eaters but all have a home here, and we use no pesticides - ever.
Deciding that, for us, 'there are no pests' gives us the freedom to enjoy all of the species that make the garden their home. Some plants may get nibbled but we are not looking for perfect foliage and flower in a garden empty of life. We want a garden that is alive with hot insect action. We want a garden that springs to life after rain as snails go-a-grazing. We want to see ants shepherding greenfly and guarding them from ladybird hunters. We want to see breeding wrens and tits foraging in spring and know the chicks won't be poisoned in the nest by our use of pesticides.
Relying on the natural balance of predators and prey to deal with any problems has been successful for us. Sometimes the balance takes time to be apparent; the early spring population explosion of aphids can be a worry but will be gone in a couple of weeks once the ladybirds get going. It just takes patience - we simply look the other way and don't worry!
How we deal with other peoples 'pests'
Slugs and Snails
We do not worry about slugs and snails. Slugs and snails are nature's gardeners. Without their 'weeding' all of the 2,000 seeds shed in a summer by a single dandelion would grow to maturity. They do the weeding for us!
Eating mainly dead plant material they are major recyclers and are as important as worms in dealing with the autumn leaf-fall. They do eat soft young growth and succulent young seedlings, and can destroy small young plants in a single night. This can be upsetting but we have learnt to grow seedlings and cuttings in pots until they are large and tough enough to survive a bit of nibbling. Of course sometimes they will eat the lot - such is gardening! Some plants are just too soft and tasty to survive so we do not grow them - we are not aiming for succulent salad crops after all. We grow our plants hard without the fertilisers that encourage over-vigorous soft tender shoots, the tough growth we aim for isn't tasty to snails. Their palate seems to change from year to year depending on the conditions and a wet spring will see more damage than a dry one. Established plants will grow out from any damage as the season gets going and it is rare for longterm damage to be done.
(adult snails and slugs release a hormone in their slime that suppresses the growth of their young. If the adults are removed - or killed - the hormone suppression ceases and all of the thousands of young will race to fill the gap. Studies have shown that use of molluscicides increases the population long term - a good reason not to poison the ones we have)
Aphids - Greenfly - Blackfly
Aphids, the greenfly and blackfly are everyone's biggest pest worry when they explode onto the scene in very early spring and cluster on soft shoot tips. The sap-sucking hordes can cause twisting of shoot tips and can make plants look very sorry for themselves. The worst clusters get wiped off between finger and thumb, when we notice or can be bothered, generally we leave them alone, confident that they will be gone in a few short weeks as their predators; ladybirds, lacewings, hoverflies, later out of hibernation, catch up with them - blue tits feed hundreds of thousands to their chicks. Any clusters remaining after this, we know, will be being defended by ants that 'milk' aphids for the sweet honeydew they excrete.
We do not spray as we feel there is no need - spraying is indisciminate and kills aphid predators too - finger/thumb and predators do the job nicely.
Bright red Lily Beetle and their disgusting faeces-camouflage young can decimate lilies eating leaves and buds completely. Of course we don't spray but instead simply catch the adults and squash them (it is helpful to hold a bowl underneath when you try to get them - they see you coming and drop to the ground - or straight into the waiting bowl). This doesn't get rid of them totally but will keep their numbers in check.