As I’m going to be joining in the Garden Organic slug and snail survey (“So, Mr Helix, are you happy with your wash?” Sorry…) this story caught my eye in a magazine today – the RHS top 10 garden pests in 2008. Slugs and snails took top place, thanks to a cool, wet summer, and we certainly had our fair share of them last year, with my precious Victorian Purple Podded peas bearing the brunt of a particularly savage attack by the vicious, viscous little varmints. However we still managed to get a good harvest of seed without resorting to anything nastier than eggshells, copper tape and a pointy stick (never, ever underestimate the versatility of a pointy stick). I recall learning from Daughter of the Soil that tall peas are a better bet where the Slimy Ones are a problem because they are more likely to get their main growing tip out of reach before the whole plant is mauled, leaving the lower leaves and shoots to hopefully act as distracting sacrifices. (It’s convenient then that the other trial I’m doing is for tall peas!).
We’ve also suffered from No. 4 on the list, vine weevil, and are keeping a sharp eye out this year. Nematodes will come in to play again if necessary – they were effective last year, and as we have some special rhubarb and other containerised plants the £12 or so a packet of treatment would cost is worthwhile. We’re reasonably confident that we’ve seen harlequin ladybirds and rosemary beetles (the latter extraordinarily pretty – I will dig out some photos soon) and we do have some lily beetles, although these mainly trouble the few giant Himalayan lilies we grew from seed in pots (“because we could” – they flowered for the first time last year). And we’re not great friends with the local grey squirrel population but there’s not much we can do about them except to be vigilant with the wire netting and generous with the holly tree trimmings.
On a much nicer note though, I also found this linked to on the RHS site:
Surprisingly little is known about earthworms and the soils they live in, so the OPAL Soil Centre is organising a survey across England to investigate. It starts in March 2009.
We’d like everyone to get involved. Together we can build a picture of soil quality and earthworm populations across the country.
It looks like there will be more information available on their site closer to the survey start date. I do like an earthworm or two (socially, not gastronomically), to the extent of “rescuing” them from the pavement when they look too abandoned – I have no objection to them being eaten by birds and other wildlife but one of the saddest sights is a dried out worm literally doing no good to man or beast. If I find time to take part I’ll post up about this here as well.