Cut out harmful chemicals and encourage natural predators
Pests can be a big problem in the garden and cause a lot of damage to our much loved plants. Rather than being quick and heavy handed with poisonous chemicals try a much safer, long term measure which won’t harm the wildlife in your garden. Encourage natural predators into your garden to redress the balance and they will quickly have your pest problem under control.
- Top of the list of pests in the garden come slugs but some slugs are actually the gardener’s friend. The great grey slug actually eats other slugs that do damage, so let them live and maintain the balance naturally. Other slugs recycle nutrients into the soil and help your garden grow. If you have pets, the European black slug eats dog and cat faeces and turns it into fertiliser.
- Slug pellets not only kill slugs and snails, but all their natural predators too: hedgehogs, birds, frogs and toads. So scrap the pellets and encourage the predators instead by providing food and shelter
- There are some smaller slug-predators, too: glow worm larvae prey on slugs. Ground and rove beetles eat both slug eggs and the adults. These beetles, along with centipedes that also eat slugs like damp shady areas, so leave some stones and logs unturned in your garden and they’ll help you out with your slug problem in return for a home. Build a rockery or Make a wood pile to attract these species to your garden.
- If you have vulnerable plants try barrier methods to keep slugs and snails away. They dislike the acidic solution given off as pine needles decompose, and they don’t like moving over fine, dry grit so try spreading it around plants to deter them.
- Grow plants that are less slug and snail friendly, for example, sea holly, lavender, geraniums, heathers and fuchsias.
- Try a cloche to protect young plants at night. A plastic drinks bottle with the bottom cut off will be perfect.
Other pest controls
Employ some ladybirds and their larvae and hoverflies to deal with these pests for you. You can attract hoverflies by planting simple plants with accessible pollen such as poached egg plants, angelica and California poppies. Ladybirds will go wherever the aphids are, so be patient.
Greenfly and blackfly
Companion plant marigolds near plants you want to protect. They produce a scent that deters both black- and greenfly.
Stock up on nematodes (tiny parasitic worms) which prey on vine weevil. You can buy them from your local garden centre or order them online.
Encourage birds to nest in your garden and they’ll help you control caterpillar numbers. Remember that although caterpillars may munch through some of your garden plants, they’ll soon turn into beautiful butterflies that help pollinate them.
Avoid planting pest species such as the invasive Japanese knotweed which is spreading across the country. Even common garden plants such as rhododendrons can become a pest when they spread into woodland and push out native species.