It’s at this time of year that battle commences. I always start off the season with a generous live and let live attitude, perfectly reasonable, thinking it can’t be that difficult to outwit a few slugs and snails. As I try to keep an organic garden, I really would prefer to be more considerate to the pesky little blighters, but by mid May I’ll usually be outside at the dead of night with a torch and a bucket and all sorts of desperate and dastardly schemes of mollusc removal!
So in this post I intend to share all of my chemical free tactics for how to beat the garden pests which I’ve tried and tested over the years, none of which are 100% effective on their own, but when combined and applied with a good deal of determination they will help you come out on top in the end.
In my opinion slugs and snails are a gardeners worst enemy, there are plenty of other voracious little pests out there just waiting to gorge themselves on our precious seedlings. But slugs and snails can do the most devastating damage, often eradicating whole rows of baby beans or peas over night.
Everyone tries to avoid the use of harsh chemicals in the garden these days, in order to protect and preserve the wildlife and encourage as natural an environment as possible. It is always much better to work with nature rather than against it.
But one thing is sure, wherever new seedlings are planted out, slugs and snails will be there almost instantly. They only feed at night however, so to avoid disappointment, be ready for them with these organic methods of control.
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16 Tips On How To Beat The Garden Pests
- Coffee grounds and ground-up egg shells are uncomfortable and unpleasant for them to crawl over, so surround your newly planted seedlings with a ring of protection.
- Use recycled plastic bottles as individual cloches on particularly tasty plants like peas and beans, to give them a chance to get established. A more mature plant can then survive a snacking snail.
- If you live near the sea, collect dried seaweed, crush it and mulch your plants – it’s salty, scratchy and sharp!
- Some people protect plants with individual “collars” of tin cans so that the plants get the chance to reach a less vulnerable size. Put the protective collar around each little seedling when you plant them out.
- Copper strips (purchased at the garden centre) placed around the base of plants and pots give a small shock that sends them on their way. You can also glue copper pennies around the top of pots to avoid the garden centre bill!
- Hair trimmings will also put them off as they find them very itchy and also help to discourage any hungry rabbits.
- Beer traps are a popular method, especially as they’ll crawl to a happy ending! Submerge an old tin can in the soil with a couple of inches of beer at the bottom. The next day you can bury the contents and that will have the added benefit of feeding your plants organically too.
- Use cornmeal in an up-turned jam jar in a similar way to the beer, it’s also very attractive to them.
- Moistened grapefruit halves, melon rinds, banana skins, potato peels and even a mulch of damp newspaper will attract the slugs and lure them away from your seedlings. Place them at strategic points and remove the unwanted guests in the morning.
- Make sure you do regular rounds of slug and snail collecting, you can feed them to the wild birds if you don’t have any chickens, or failing that drown them in some vinegar and water in a bucket and then add them to the compost heap.
Decoys & Deterrents
- Slugs and snails like a damp environment, do your watering in the morning to make it less comfortable for them.
- Plant things that they don’t like, around the plants you want to protect. They hate aromatic, onions, garlic, ginger, chives and mint and can’t stand the taste of bitter plants like chicory or kale.
- Smear vaseline or vicks vapour rub around the top of any pots or planters, then they can’t move over it.
- Scrunched up fine netting around the base of plants will also provide an impenetrable barrier and trap them too, so that you can collect them up the next day.
- Encourage birds to your garden with some thick shrubs and hedging and a bird bath is always very popular.
- Keep chickens or ducks, they love to feed on as many slugs and snails as they can find, and will also do a good job hunting them out if you let them.
- A small pond will encourage frogs, toads, hedgehogs and beetles and they will do their best to keep on top of the problem. Keep a small ‘wild’ area with some upturned pots, logs and overgrown natural planting which will give them a safe haven.
- Nematodes are an extremely effective way of controlling soil based pests in the garden. They are completely harmless to humans and pets, and so make an excellent organic choice. You need to be sure to get a good fresh supply and be careful to use them as directed, so that the tiny microscopic worms are fighting fit when you water them into your soil. There are several different strains of nematodes available to target different specific pest problems and they are particularly effective against getting rid of fleas in the garden, so great if you have pets. Choose carefully and expect to reapply every 6 weeks during the Summer, but if you stick with it, they definitely make a huge difference and offer a good organic solution to pest problems.
As you can see, I really mean business! This list seems a little obsessive, but you only have to worry for the first few weeks after you plant things out. It’s also a good idea to sew a few extra seeds and pot them up to keep as back ups anyway, you never know what the weather might do, and it’s always best to be prepared.
Once the young plants have had a chance to get established they can survive a little nibbling. But if you get into the habit of checking and collecting, whenever you do the watering, then you’ll keep on top of the problem and you’ll definitely know how beat those pesky pests!