Garden pests

Posted: Tuesday 17 June 2014
by James Alexander-Sinclair

Sometimes gardening feels less like a soothing and relaxing pastime, and more like a series of skirmishes against an unvanquishable enemy.

Sometimes gardening feels less like a soothing and relaxing pastime, and more like a series of skirmishes against an unvanquishable enemy. I've just returned from a very jolly spell at Gardeners' World Live where many of the public's questions were about killing things - weeds, woodlice, ants, the neighbours’ encroaching climbers, as well as the obvious aphids, slugs and snails.

I have a number of vermin (otherwise known as 'wildlife') in my garden. I have squirrels, whom despite their fluffy tails are just waiting to launch an assault on my greengages. I have woolly aphids sucking the life from my Pyracantha (they look like puffs of cotton wool, but on further investigation such innocence shelters a nest of insects). I have greenflies clustering around the soft tips of my roses. There are ants busily doing whatever ants do, and a rabbit grazing on the Sanguisorbas. I've just found a pair of copulating scarlet lily beetles so I expect their vile offspring to lay into my one surviving lily at any moment. All this, as well as battalions of slugs and snails woofling around.

Am I bovvered?

Not really.

Yes, I could spend a lot of time setting traps and spraying things, but I have more enjoyable things to do. The snails will destroy the odd seedling, but that isn't really the end of the world. If I didn’t have aphids, then there'd be nothing for the ladybirds to eat. If no ants, then the gorgeous green woodpecker would cease to bring her young to feed on the lawn. And if I murdered all the slugs, then the toads and hedgehogs would pack their bags and head off to pastures new.

Don’t get me wrong, I'm not averse to disposing of the odd snail should it cross my path - and if I catch a slug in flagrante, then it's its own fault. I've even shot the occasional squirrel, but most of the time I think it's best to just let nature get on with it: there'll always be enough flowers and we aren't exactly going to starve if a couple of cabbages fall victim to caterpillars.

All things considered, I think I’ll sit down and watch it all happen, instead of trying too hard to intervene.

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Hester Scott 17/06/2014 at 13:16

For the first time ever I'm considering giving up my allotment, as I have never had a year like it. I must have sown or transplanted peas and mange tout maybe six times. Just about all gone. This inspite of the best netting I can do. Pigeons rabbits and pea weevil. There are a scattered pawky few individual plants inches tall which will never come to anything. French beans, runners, are a little better. Even chard, supposedly reliable is attacked. The best things I had were cucumbers, well netted good soil, are succumbing to leatherjackets one by one. Slugs are easy to manage. The others are not.
Fraid to say the above blog strikes me as smug, and I feel like crying, fact I think I will.

Clarington 17/06/2014 at 13:20

Hopefully this winter we will have a very cold spell with plenty of frosts to kill a few things off (hopefully more bugs than plants) to "balance out" nature verses successful vegetable plots.

the tidy gardener 17/06/2014 at 15:01

totally agree with you hester. I was thinking the same thing.even

getting rid of the whole of my veg plot and putting a lawn down!

but then I looked at my new neighbours with their new plot,excitedly coming home from work every night and checking their (now netted)veg.


it is frustrating  and I share your pain, I had most of my plants that id grown from seed munched overnight by snails and slugs, even the sparrows(thinking they were my friends I feed them enough)have been picking at my peas and tomatoes!

when I watch monty don putting in tonnes of new veg plants,i think,how much did that cost?!!

I do think the wet warm(ha)winter has really done it this year for the slugs and snails.and pigeons grhhh.... if I had a gun!

don't give up tho! could you go and have a look at a garden centre and see if anyones selling anything of cheap?

 I got a tray of Brussels for a £1 and some geraniums from the market, I took out my poor cosmos and replaced them and felt so much better.

get some cheap beer for slug traps watch them tumble in and have a more expensive beer yourself!


bekkie hughes 17/06/2014 at 15:56

It can be so hard on an allotment, alot depends on your neighbous too.
Ive managed to get everything in balance, more or less in my garden which i whole heartedly believe is the trick to it all.
How about trying the old camoflage trick of mixing everything in together to try and confuse the little blighters
What about companion planting, do u think it will do anything for you?
Ive been in your shoes, i know how you feel but chin up, it will get better

chrissieB 17/06/2014 at 18:25

I've had a slow start as well and am on my second lot of beans as the first were munched. My mange tour are only about 6 " tall at the moment. And I think I had a duff packet of courgette seeds as none even germinated and they are usually so easy : (

But I don't have a garden so still love my allotment and all the non- edibles are growing splendidly so that keeps me going. I also kep justifying the presence of buttercups on the basis that the bees love them : )

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