Good, bad, and not so ugly – garden pests and friends

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:

OPAL soil and earthworm survey

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.

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4 thoughts on “Good, bad, and not so ugly – garden pests and friends

  1. Matron says:

    Don’t we just hate those slugs and snails! I tried using nematodes last year but they are expensive and you keep having to apply them every few weeks. I am fighting the good fight each year. I must confess that a sprinkling of slug pellets usually does the trick once in a while.

  2. MissFuggles says:

    The nematodes are expensive it’s true, and the other problem with the ones for slugs and snails is that if you have a pond you’ve got to be ultra careful as they can affect your pond snails too, and I’m quite fond of my pond snails! I was really pleased with the nematodes for vine weevil last year though so thanks for the reminder Matron – we need to go shopping now!

    I can see the temptation of slug pellets, as you say especially a light sprinkling, and if it allows you to grow your own vegetables rather than have to buy them in when all you’ve got is skeletal lettuces and a forest of felled seedlings, then it seems pragmatic. We’re trying to resist the temptation though, hoping the “barriers” combined with the slow-worms, birds and amphibians will get their act together and start earning their keep. Wildlife eh?!

  3. VP says:

    I found a perfect use for couch grass root last year – spear slugs with them! I’m not usually violent, but slugs and vine weevil bring out the worst in me 😉

    I’m doing the OPAL worm survey this year – my pack arrived on Friday yippee!

    • MissFuggles says:

      Gosh, that’s cunning, almost poetic in its nefariousness. I’ll happily be a witness for the defence if the slug police come knocking…

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