So, we know sowing seeds immeasurably improves your sense of well-being but we now need to consider the dark forces that can descend as you sleep and rob you of all this self satisfaction in a few strategic rasps their radulas. I am referring of course to slugs. There are many bizarre substances said to deter them: eggshell coffee grounds, beer traps, wool ..(and no doubt the eye of newt and toe of frog) They are said to be averse to copper so I have tried surrounding particularly sensitive shoots such as emerging clematis with copper rings.
My friend Louise was so exercised by slugs eating her seedlings that her husband Rob constructed a special seed bench on copper legs, confirming my hunch that behind every successful lady gardener there is an obliging man. You’ll spot the copper tape around the seedling pots, a case, Louise concedes, of taking prunes with her Allbran, but her message to you is not to bother – the copper tape is expensive and peels off – corroborated by sister Elaine.
Truthfully, (and I am now whispering) when push comes to shove I will resort to just the tiniest sprinkle of slug pellets, please don’t tell Monty Don.
Living on a farm we are also plagued by mice and voles who seem to think
our glasshouse and polytunnel have been provided to give them cosy winter quarters, and a tasty supply of pulses for their winter fodder. Seriously the only way I can germinate and grow on sweet peas is to suspend them from the ceiling with binder twine. I am growing three varieties this year; Fig and Ice, Albutt Blue, and a new introduction Lathyrus belinensis which is romping away in a very promising fashion, according to the packet it has a red and a yellow flower and an unusual coconut scent – will keep you posted.
Now rabbits are a different matter as, being country folk, we have a pack of highly trained secret weapons which can be deployed as and when necessary. It has to be a very brave rabbit to wander onto our patch.
I am struck however by how every garden has its own particular set of vermin issues, a friend of ours who gardens in the rather posh Surrey Hills had a flock of (also rather posh) ring necked parakeets descend on his precious homegrown sweet corn and strip the cobs bare in a matter of hours. Even the gentle doyenne of gardening Beth Chatto writes about having to concrete the
banks of her stream to stop an infestation of the now rare and endangered water vole (I do hope this was pre the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act or she may still get a visit from the boys in blue…) I know that Elaine, gardening on chalk at the foot of the South Downs in Eastbourne has her work cut out to keep a particular mollusc at bay…..
Yes, indeed Laura, here I am, locked in mortal combat with the infamous snails. Something about our chalky soil drives them to reproduce like they do on the Discovery Channel, and to eat plants they don’t even enjoy much (rather like me and swede). I have a couple of strategies that help: my husband cut up copper pipe into rings which I put round the base of the Sweetpea plants when they are little:
It doesn’t help that much though, when the plants are bigger and the snails shin up the supports and munch at the top.
Something that DOES work round the Clematis shoots is Slug Gone.
This is a tip that I gleaned from Helen Yemm – it’s a natural and organic way to annoy the little wotsits; it’s made from wool, and the pellets when wetted form a mat around the base of the plant – they seriously do not like it up ’em.
My other main plan of attack is simpler – I don’t grow the plants that are their
favourites. Two or three years of ravaged Hostas and the like have made me much more pragmatic. And guess what! There are LOTS of lovely plants in my cottage-style garden that they don’t touch – honesty (out in its fabulous purple swathes at the moment) foxgloves, hellebores, aquilegias hardy geraniums, epimediums ……lots and lots.
And whenever I have a rush of blood to the head and propagate the thousand white Delphiniums to which I referred last time, I am lucky enough to have the luxury of planting them in the French garden….there are no snails there!
Here I must confess some sympathy with poor Beth Chatto, Laura. We too have water voles making enormous holes all over the place, and through the steep banks of the pond. They are the most enchanting little creatures to look at, but wha
t with the moles EVERYWHERE (my husband’s deadliest enemies), it’s a wonder that we, and the flower-borders, don’t disappear through the surface of the soil into all the winding burrows beneath (actually, we occasionally do).
Chuck in a few rabbits, stoats and weasels, and the French garden is the very embodiment of Wind in the Willows. We even have our very own Toad – the very extraordinary Midwife Toad, to be exact, but that’s a story for another day…
I bet the wildlife in East Lothian has some tricky customers for a Caroline to deal with……..
Hmm well I’m still registering the need to bag a husband able to do inventive things with copper piping, but since my betrothed is currently wrestling with the assembly of six deep root planters, now is not the time to suggest further horticultural commitment.
The biggest garden pests in Scotland affect gardeners more than the plants – midges – and despite all the excitement about Avon’s Skin so Soft being the most effective repellent, the truth is that in high summer only a space suit or Scotland’s robustly consistent onshore Force 8 – allows you to garden on.
I was spoiled when I was in the Highlands – not just because its Himalayan similarities meant I could effortlessly produce stunning
stands of the Meconopsis betonicifolia (to the amazement of my clever sisters) – but very few predators had the balls to set up home there. Although I still had the opportunity to marvel at the comprehensive demolition work of solomon’s seal sawflies. To be honest I love Solomon’s Seal for its structure when shooting and beauty when flowering – after that the sawfly were welcome to a decent dinner in my book – we’ve all got to share this planet.
At Aberlady we are blessed with a lovely population of hares but am I the only one asking – where are all da rabbits? They’ve all but disappeared up here. Laura’s canine wrecking crew are nothing compared to the effects of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) which has vastly reduced the population up here and it’s hugely apparent. Is it just a Scottish thing? I’m now worried about the rabbits and yes, oddly I do miss their languid progress from my rock garden to the lettuces. I want them back. A sentence I never thought I’d write…
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2 replies on “We’re slugging it out with garden pests”
We’d occassionally get a visit from our neighbours wild rabbits that plaqued their garden forcing them to have rabbit fencing around borders and veggie plots. We kept them at bay with some homorne warfare. If you’re brave enough to collect urine and sprinkle it on the boundaries to your garden and on any rabbit latrines that are on your patch the rabbits soon get the message and leave well alone.
wow yes indeed Phil – that would work. I’m not sure how much experience my sisters have of collecting urine for garden pest control, we’ve never discussed but I’ll see if they’re up for a doing a demo pic for the next blog. Thanks for the tip – free and environmentally sound!