Garden Pests

Fast-moving insects are friends. Slow-moving insects are foes.

There are a large number of garden pests. Despite the fact that the list of plants, trees and shrubs chosen have been recommended as they are in the main trouble-free, there are, nevertheless, a great many roses that are vulnerable to greenfly and blackspot. An attack by either is unsightly and a cause for concern. But both can easily be kept under control.

To deter greenfly, fill an old squeezy bottle with soapy water made with soft soap, not detergent, and spray it over the offending insects – the liquid will not harm the roses.

Blackspot, yellowing leaves, mildew or other fungi on roses are best dealt with by Benlate, a reliable chemical and one of the few remedies to do the trick. If used as directed, it is quite safe. Make sure any diseased leaves are burnt or put into a plastic bag or thrown away. Do not throw the leaves back on to the soil or into the compost heap; if you do the trouble will persist.

Slugs

Slugs tend to be more of a pest in vegetable gardens than anywhere else, because they get to your food before you do. But slugs are partial to all young leaves and shoots. You may not wish to use slug pellets as they are harmful, so glass jars sunk into the ground to the level of the earth and filled to the brim with half beer, half water and a little sugar usually do the trick. The slugs, attracted by the smell, are overcome by the fumes and fall into the beer and drown. Should you choose this method, prepare yourself to see the odd inebriated bird, intoxicated by beer-marinated slugs, mistaking the cherries on your sun hat for real! To say nothing of the drunken hedgehogs who love slugs. Thrushes luckily eat snails so won’t be affected, unless you are fortunate enough to trap the snails this way as well.

Another way to deter slugs is carefully to lay soot round your most treasured plants. Do not let the soot touch the leaves as it will burn them. Small stones, ashes and egg shells can also be used, as slugs do not like anything rough under their belly. A collar of perforated zinc about 3 in (7.5 cm) high around a stem is another way of deterring slugs from eating a special plant.

In order not to encourage slugs, try not to leave logs or rubbish lying around: slugs are attracted by the dark damp underside of the wood, pots or debris.

Snails

It is not uncommon to see keen garden lovers of a certain age walking round their garden crushing snails with the butt of their walking stick to stop them eating tender young shoots.

If nature was doing its stuff, the birds would eat and keep down the snail population, but unfortunately the snails outwit the birds by hiding under large leaves such as bergenia where the birds can’t get at them. So if your garden has a lot of snails (they love moist leafy spots and feed on the young shoots and leaves of any plant), I’m afraid you have to get rid of them, especially in the vegetable garden where they can do so much damage.

Other than picking them out of their hidey holes by hand and crushing them, the best methods are either the same technique recommended for slugs (see above) I.e.: use beer in a yoghurt pot sunk into the ground; or protecting your young plants in glass cloches; or put gravel, ashes or soot round the plants you wish to protect. Snails do not like to travel over surfaces that are not smooth.

Slug pellets are harmful to pets, slow worms, hedgehogs, beetles and birds, so if you can deter slugs and snails other than by using chemicals, you should do so.

Animal Pests

Gardens can easily be ruined by domestic animals. Dogs weeing on the grass leave unsightly yellow patches and cats constantly scratching in the soil disturb and burn the roots of young plants, to say nothing of rabbits and tortoises who can, in an afternoon, if given the chance, indiscriminately eat their way through your flower bed and leave an alarming trail of plants nipped off at the root never to flower again. Three years’ growth of a fair sized border can be severed in half an hour. That’s why many people favour the animals Medusa has already cast her eye upon as stone cats and rabbits are much less trouble.

The legal position regarding animals is that it is the responsibility of the owner to keep his or her animal in his or her garden. Cats are an exception to this rule and they can wander where they will and no one can do a damn thing about it. Even if the cat sits in the pram on your baby’s toes, you are the one who should have had a cat net.

Dogs

On the whole dogs are easier to control than cats, as you can have some say over their movements. Provided they are taken for a walk twice a day they should not need to foul the garden.

If you have no option but to let the dog use the garden, then ‘Doggie loos’ bins set in the ground filled with chemicals and covered with a lid are one solution. The mess can be scooped up and dropped into the bin.

If you have a dog and a newly planted garden, it’s important to protect the trunks of young trees by surrounding the base with chicken wire at least 18 in (45 cm) from the trunk of the tree so the dog’s acid excrement is not constantly eating its way into the young roots.

Cats

A newly planted garden is extremely tempting to cats: they love the soft earth of freshly prepared beds. Unfortunately their excrement burns the leaves and their scratching disturbs the roots of young plants. Until a plant is well-established this disturbance can be very damaging.

It may not be your own cat that will cause the problem: she or he will usually use someone else’s garden. So it is more likely to be your neighbour’s cat that will be tempted by the soft soil and bird life in your garden. The solution is simple and needs about one hour of your time.

1. Buy some Renardine in a garden centre.

2. Wear rubber gloves when doing this job.

3. Saturate chopped firewood in Renardine, then push the sticks into the earth around the newly planted shrubs and plants. Do not let the Renardine sticks touch the leaves of the plants as it is a rather strong substance and will burn them.

The smell of Renardine will remind you of a fox or skunk rather than lily of the valley, and it is this strong smell that deters the cats. It is not harmful to pets but do remember to wear gloves when handling the saturated sticks, otherwise the smell on the hands lingers and lingers and lingers!

There is an alternative solution, other than standing guard on your plants for two years until they are well-established. An old lady whose neighbour had 17 cats advised that if you leave a small area of soft soil without plants in one of the flower beds in the corner of the garden for the cats to foul, they will not disturb the rest of the garden. Worth a try, and not so smelly as Renardine. But credit where credit is due, cats do catch rabbits, one of the garden’s worst enemies.

Rabbits

Fortunately moles and rabbits are unlikely to invade town gardens but whatever gardens they do invade, they are persistent intruders. Rabbits are particularly destructive and should be deterred as quickly as possible, before they have done too much damage.

There are many methods of trying to keep rabbits out, but few are completely successful. Special rabbit fencing which goes down beneath and along the soil can keep rabbits out but it can also keep them in. If their run goes deep under the fence and the rabbits are inside as well as out, your rabbit kingdom will rapidly increase and experts will have to be called to gas all the warrens. Also rabbit fencing is useless if gates are left open for any length of time, as they will soon find the alternative route.

Renardine is very effective in deterring rabbits (see above.) Renardine used as a ‘smell fence’ around your favourite plants can certainly help to keep this destructive animal away. One sniff of this fox-like smell and the rabbit will turn tail.

To protect a large group of shrubs and plants, a boundary can be created by saturating string and sticks in Renardine and then attaching the string from stick to stick, thus cordoning off the plants.

If you have rabbits all young trees should be protected by plastic tree guards. (If rabbits eat round the bark the tree will die.) You could always get a cat. They deter rabbits, although they do have a few destructive habits of their own (see above).

Moles

Moles are pretty elusive creatures. They have confounded better folk than me. There are many devices that can be used to deter moles: Mole Smokes or steel traps (from garden centres), thorny rose branches laid in the hole, milk bottles, moth balls put in the ground and garlic or Jeyes fluid poured into their run. All these are moderately effective.

If your house is situated on the edge of a common, park or village green and the moles there are abundant, the primary task is to track down the main run from the ‘outside world’ to your garden.

Moles usually only have one ‘entrance’ run, so once you have located it, place your chosen device in their run and once that ‘entrance run’ has proved fatal, they should not invade your garden again. But moles can easily turn one to drink and one man was reportedly in such a state that he mistakenly took the Jeyes fluid himself instead of giving it to the moles.

Gardeners have resorted to recruiting masses of children to jump up and down on the grass singing at the top of their voices for hours on end to frighten the moles away with the noise of their feet and larynxes. I have myself resorted to this method and no one has complained, not even the moles. Hardly surprising as they live happily beside motorways.

Other people have taken the view that more drastic steps are called for, and dug a hole in the ground near the main mole run. They have then placed a loud speaker wrapped in a black dust bin bag in the hole, then connected the speaker to a tape recorder and played heavy rock music at full volume to frighten the moles away. ‘Rock and mole’ as it’s known in the underground world.

But moles are not all bad; they eat many unwanted grubs and bugs in the soil and, more important, where there are moles there are worms. Lovely worms which do so much to improve our soil. But remember if a mole has been on the rampage beneath your flower bed, heel in plants again after moles have disturbed them.

If all else fails and the moles persist as a last resort you can always call in the local council’s Pest Department. They may deal with the problem free of charge. In some areas the local council are unable to help, but the Ministry of Agriculture will give you the name of a mole catcher who will put strychnine-coated worms into the run. Moles eat dead moles so, provided one mole has eaten a strychnine-coated worm and has died, the chain reaction results in the rest of the moles dying too. Nasty but effective.

Starlings

Starlings are deceptive. One imagines that those dear little birds that make such a racket roosting in the tree at dusk are perfectly harmless. But if they are roosting in your tree you should deter them as quickly as possible as their acid droppings prevent anything growing beneath the tree, and the tree itself will eventually die if they do not move away. Indeed, whole copses have been ruined by roosting starlings.

Frightening them with fire-arms is inadvisable unless you are a game-keeper, and banging wooden spoons on saucepans and singing loudly as they start to settle is not always satisfactory, especially if the neighbours don’t like your voice! Added to which I know from experience that they come back to roost the moment the noise stops and it’s impossible to plan one’s life to be available each evening to deter starlings. But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are very helpful and can advise you on starling alarm tapes used by the Forestry Commission.

20. June 2013 by admin
Categories: Garden Management, Pest and Disease Control | Tags: , | Comments Off on Garden Pests

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