Protect your plans with organic care
There are few things more frustrating for the aspiring gardener than seeing a tender broccoli plant decimated by slugs, or delicate rosebuds swarming with greenfly. Sometimes gardening can feel like a bit of a battle with these tiny garden pests, and it’s tempting to pull out all the stops to get rid of them! Chemical-based pest control may get the job done effectively, but can have disastrous knock-on effects on wildlife both in your garden and further afield both through poisoning, or wiping out a valuable food source.
The good news is, there are plenty of effective eco-friendly methods of pest control that do actually work. In this article, I’ll let you in on some gardeners’ secrets for controlling mini-beasts in a way that’s kind to other creatures and our environment.
Tiny green aphids love nothing more than to congregate in their hundreds on budding roses and the shady underside of young leaves. They may look harmless, but they suck the sap from plants and may cause wilting, distorted growth and even cause mould to grow.
If you spot an aphid infestation, the quickest and easiest method of dealing with it is to mix a small amount of dish detergent with some tap water in a spray bottle, and soak the affected areas well with the liquid. You may need to repeat this action regularly, but you can do so without fear of damaging the plants.
Pick by hand
This method is not for the squeamish, and can be a little labour intensive if you are aware of a larger infestation. Simply picking off or squashing pests is certainly an effective method of control, and allows you to target specific areas. Picking is also effective for the aphids mentioned above – a firm brush or gentle squeeze with your fingers will deal with dozens of aphids in one go.
Natural control and baiting
Sorry, slugs, but this town isn’t big enough for both of us where my seedlings and young veg are concerned! Salt is a commonly-used method seeing off slugs, but this can damage the delicate balance of your soil and offers a pretty grim end for the slimy visitors. Another method is to part-bury traps in the soil, like containers with a small about of beer or milk in to attract the slugs, but again this ends in a drawn-out demise which isn’t exactly humane. Could there be another way?
Alternatives to killing slugs include protecting young plants with cloches or slug collars, and planting a ‘bait’ plant like a young lettuce nearby that you are happy to sacrifice to the slugs. You can also visit your plot during the night armed with a torch, and do some picking yourself – bring a container to put the slugs in and carry them to a less destructive location. Slugs thrive in damp conditions and are nocturnal, so early morning watering may ensure the soil is dry enough by the evening for your plants to escape a munching. Finally, you could look at natural barriers as in the next section.
Lots of unwanted garden visitors are sensitive to particular materials and features, so barriers can be created quickly and easily to stop them in their tracks. Copper tape is a brilliant feature that can be placed around the rims of pots and raised beds that slugs will recoil from – this can be picked up cheaply online. Broken egg shells in soil also have a similar effect on slugs, and will break down nicely in the soil over time. Plastic drinks bottles cut into cylinders make great practical shields to place around the base of young plants, and pet bedding straw is a nice natural way to disrupt a pest’s journey to your prized plants.
Encourage natural predators
The good news in all this is that the natural order of things is designed in your favour, and really you have an army of garden creatures who are quietly supporting your efforts. Ladybirds and spiders, for example, are the gardener’s best friend! If you see these in your garden, definitely let them continue roaming free as chances are, they’re on their way to snack on some of your sworn enemies.
Ladybirds in particular love aphids, so you may want to guide them to plants or areas where you’re aware an infestation has taken hold. You can even purchase ladybird larvae online if there’s a shortage in your garden! Birds, hedgehogs and mice are also your ally in the fight against pests – you can find out more about this here.
Happy gardening, and I hope this has given you some ideas for keeping on top of pesky visitors in your garden.