Composting, George, How To, Mice & Rats, Pest Advice, Pest Control

Composting is a great way to reduce the waste you send to landfill and produce organic fertiliser for your plants. One of the biggest concerns around having a compost bin in the garden is whether it might attract pests or vermin. The short answer is yes, it can. But that’s why we’ve gathered advice to ensure you can build a pest-proof compost bin and enjoy all its benefits without the pain.

pest proof compost

Why are pests attracted to compost bins?

The most likely pests to seek out you compost are rats and mice. They are a common part of a residential ecosystem and look for two things: food and shelter. This is why rodents are particularly attracted to compost heaps, especially in winter. It provides them with food and a warm, sheltered spot to sleep in.

Insects, however, are generally nothing to worry about in compost heaps. Worms, slugs, millipedes, spiders, beetles and more are regular guests. They are a crucial part of the decomposition process, so embrace the bugs!

slug compost

Tips for deterring pests

  1. Avoid putting any meat or dairy products in your compost, including fatty oils or bones. This would smell like a feast to rats.
  2. Over autumn and winter keep your compost bin damp – this will help with the decomposition process and make it less attractive to rodents.
  3. They also don’t like disturbance, so be sure to turn your compost regularly or give the bin a kick when you walk past!
  4. Cover food scraps with dry leaves or soil in the bin to conceal the smell of decaying food.
  5. Rodents are reportedly put off by the aroma of mint, so try sprinkling peppermint oil on your compost or planting mint nearby.

mouse in garden

How to protect your compost bin

It’s very hard to completely protect a compost bin against vermin as mice can squeeze through holes as small as a penny, and rats can chew through almost anything. Compost bins are much easier to seal against invading pests than open heaps, so if you’re worried about rodents then they’re the better choice. Surrounding your bin with rocks and bricks can make it a bit more fortified.

If you have a plastic bin, this is easiest to seal. The best time is before you start using it as you’ll need to line the bottom with wire mesh. Ensure the holes are only small enough for bugs to get through, not burrowing mice.

If you have a wooden bin, again you’ll need to line the bottom and sides with wire mesh. Make sure this is sealed firmly round all the edges with no gaps.

compost

Last resorts

Hopefully these tips will make your compost bin as unattractive to pests as possible. While the best defense is prevention, if you’re still experiencing issues then it might be time to look into pest control, such as traps.

Happy composting!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

How To, Jorge, Pest Advice, Pest Control

Getting rid of pigeons is difficult as they can perch almost anywhere and are not afraid of humans. It is best to secure problem areas through bird spikes, rather than try to get rid of them altogether, although you can try using bird decoys or ultrasonic repellers.

Other than dulling your car’s paintwork, pigeon poo can damage statues, roofing materials and air conditioners. It is possible to contract three diseases –  histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis and psittacosis – through inhalation or touch, so it is best to use a hose when removing stains. Nests contain mites, so it is important to use gloves when handling, instantly disposing into a bag.

Pigeon Profile

The rock pigeon, the most common species of dove, inhabits sea cliffs and mountains in the wild, which leaves them well adapted to finding ledges in urban areas.

Fearless, pigeons happily cohabitat with humans and are the oldest domesticated bird.

It these factors – fearlessness, widespread domestication, and suitableness to urban environments – combined with humanity’s never ending supply of rubbish have enabled their rise.

Probably the most common bird in the world, there are an estimated 17-28 million feral birds in Europe alone.

Remove the Attractants

Pigeons will return to any area they have found food, water or shelter. Hence, rubbish should be secured in a bin and bird feeders and baths left empty. Chimneys and attics should be sealed to prevent nesting.

Secure Your Surfaces

Bird spikes are extremely effective at deterring pigeons from roosting. They can be attached to gutters, windowsills and even trees.

Sloping covers on windowsills or ledges will make it difficult for pigeons to perch.

Netting can be used to secure large enclosed areas, although you must make sure to release trapped pigeons.

Pigeon Deterrents

Ultrasonic devices can be used to deter pigeons. Ultrasound is inaudible to humans, but disorientating to pigeons, who will quickly move on. Our model is fitted with a strobe light for maximum effect.

Decoys of predators such as falcons and owls can be used to deter pigeons.

An old farmers trick, reflective surfaces (cds and mirrors) can be used to scare off pigeons from ground level. Rotating, reflective devices have been developed complete with predator eyes.

Supposedly, hosing pigeons tells them they are not welcome, and the more times you do it the more you reinforce this perception.

Using Multiple Solutions

Pigeons are notoriously difficult to get rid of, so using multiple solutions in tandem is often required. Bird spikes can be used be used to stop birds defecating from perches, and ultrasonic devices and bird decoys can be used to scare away the fearful among them. 

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

How To, Jorge, Moles, Pest Advice, Pest Control

Getting rid of moles can be tricky in that they live underground in large tunnel networks. To get rid of them, both ultrasonic repellers and traps are effective, although ultrasonic repellers are the only lasting solution to your mole problem. You can kill your resident mole, but if your garden remains an attractive environment, another one might move in.

Mole Profile

Rarely seen, moles live solitary lives constructing networks of tunnels, which provide shelter and act to trap unsuspecting worms.

Moles are perfectly adapted to life underground, owing to three adaptations. Moles’ blood cells have a special form of hemoglobin with a higher affinity to oxygen, which allows them to endure their low oxygen environment without ever surfacing. They are covered in sensory hairs that allow them to navigate their low-light environment and have spadelike claws for digging.

Similar to a human breaststroke, moles use a fore-and-aft motion to construct tunnels, using their back legs to push materials through tunnels. Evacuated soil is pushed through vertical tunnels forming surface mounds or molehills.

A mole’s tunnel network includes both permanent (nests and highways) and semi-permanent tunnels (shallow channels near the surface where most food can be found). Their tunnel system can be several hundred feet and moles may work different portions, digging up to 15 feet an hour.

Moles are attracted to damp, fertile soil, where their primary food source (earthworms) resides. During times of drought moles will migrate towards irrigated soil or otherwise dig deeper in search of moisture.

Protecting Your Lawn

Watering should be kept to a minimum to prevent attracting moles. Lawns will suffice on one-two inches of water per week.

Prior to installing new turf, special netting can be laid to form a barrier between the topsoil and layers below.

As moles will only enter areas deep enough to tunnel, situating you lawn in shallow soil is recommended.

Solutions

Ultrasonic Deterrents

Primrose recommends ultrasonic deterrents as the permanent solution to your mole problem. You can kill a mole with a trap, but all it does is make room for another.

Ultrasonic devices work by emitting low frequency bursts, inaudible to humans, but audible to moles, who confuse the bursts for predators and other moles, and hence quickly vacate the area, moving to other parts of their tunnel network.

Mole repellers are simple to set up, all you do is place them between your house and the mole hills, pushing them back whence they came.

Primrose stocks both battery and solar powered models. Solar powered models work in nearly all situations, however if you have a north facing garden, or are concerned about a lack of sunlight, we stock an all year round deterrent kit composed of a solar-powered model and a battery-powered model, with the latter model working as backup.

Our brand new 4 stake solar chaser has been developed in response to limitations with previous designs. Complete with a 1200mAh battery backup, which can also be charged by USB, the device will remain powered for four days without direct sunlight. With four stakes, you can create a wider barrier, ensuring moles are shepherded more effectively.

ultrasonic mole repeller

Mole Traps

Key to effective trapping is to avoid contaminating your traps with human scent. Moles have excellent smell and will avoid suspect areas. Thus, you should only buy traps you are sure haven’t been touched by humans and use disposable gloves when setting up traps.

There are three types of traps: tunnel, claw and spring. Tunnel and claw traps trigger when a mole moves through the tunnel disturbing a plate, while spring traps trigger when the mole goes to unblock its tunnel, triggering the tongue. Thus, with the former the tunnel must be free of debris, while with the latter it must be blocked.

Claw traps are easy to locate as the handles remain above the soil. You can see if its triggered as the handles will be splayed apart. Tunnel traps are completely covered in soil and are thus perfect for areas with livestock/pets present. A downside is that they will need markers to locate, and it is difficult to know if they are triggered.

Mole traps need to be nested within a tunnel, preferably one of the frequented highways. You can locate a tunnel by pushing a sharf into the soil between two mole hills. When you no longer feel pressure, you have discovered a tunnel. Creating holes in multiple tunnels can be used to find the best location for your trap, as areas it repairs are likely frequented.

Once you have decided on the optimal placement, dig a hole no wider than the tunnel’s diameter. Be careful not to disturb the tunnel floor as a mole may go under the trap. If you do, firm it up.

Next, place the trap, so the trigger ring goes across the run, no more than 2cm above the floor. Test the trap, so you are sure the placement is correct. With claw traps, you are blocking the tunnel, so as the mole moves the debris it touches the tongue, causing the claw to close.

Once you are happy with the placement, replace the turf, but not so tight as the trap won’t trigger. (Tunnel traps should be completely covered with turf). Cover any gaps where light may be let in with grass and place a plant pot over the trap to prevent tampering. With tunnel traps place markers so you can easily locate your traps.

Much of the above applies to humane mole traps, although their effectiveness is disputed.

Castor Oil

Castor oil coats mole’s prey, rendering them distasteful, causing diarrhea, and forcing them to leave for new pastures. It is a common ingredient in mole repellent granules.

You can create your own spray from a mix of unrefined castor oil, dishwasher liquid and water. To start, blend 100ml of castor oil with 50ml of dishwasher liquid. Then add this to 100ml of water and blend again. This can be added to 4L of water, which will cover 90msq. It is only effective in areas that aren’t extensively irrigated and may need to be reapplied. The solution remains effective for 30-60 days.

Alternatively, you can buy aluminium ammonium sulphate based sprays, which is toxic to mammals.

Mole Deterrent Plants

Some swear by Euphorbia lathyris, which root exudates supposedly scare off moles. Be sure to remove the flower heads come spring, or it will spread rapidly.

Mole deterrent bulbs remain a bestseller and supposedly secrete a smell, undetectable by humans, but horrible to moles.

Ineffective Solutions

Broken glass, razor blades, barbed wire, thorns have all be used to try and deter moles. These methods are probably more dangerous to gardeners. Moles will simply circumvent by blocking off those tunnels and digging new ones.

Insecticides will poison the groundwater, kill beneficial soil organisms and harm desirable wildlife.

Coinciding with Moles

The topsoil moles bring up are perfectly structured granular peds, which constitute the perfect potting mix. Moles help with drainage, which can be useful if you have clay soil, which is prone to be waterlogged. Molehills can be hidden with a switch to informal planting.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

How To, Jorge, Pest Advice, Pest Control

Heron proofing a pond is essential for keeping fish safe from harm. Luckily, many of these solutions are effective against cats, which combined with herons, will quickly put your hobby to an end as long as your pond remains unguarded.

Heron Profile

Concentrated around rivers and wetlands, herons will target ponds during periods of bad weather and for an easy meal come breeding season. Young birds, venturing off in June-July, will target ponds for an easy meal.

Difficult to catch in the act, herons fish at dusk and dawn. They prefer to hunt in the water, where they remain motionless, before thrusting their neck into the water and swallowing fish whole. Herons will generally land nearby and prefer to wade into ponds. Thus, high banks can help protect your fish.

Herons are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), so it is illegal to use clinical solutions.

Restricting Access and Visibility

Key is to prevent unimpeded access to the water’s surface. Herons have a reach of about 60cm and can put their beaks through 5cm gaps.

Access can be impeded with vertical sides and low water levels. A downside to this is ponds will be less attractive to other wildlife, and hedgehogs will fall in. Sides need to be reinforced to prevent collapse.

Fences, electric and otherwise, as well as tripwires can secure a pond. Velda’s tripwire is made of nylon, which is invisible to herons, and complete with little bells that help scare; their electric fence is also effective against cats.

Pond crop netting and fish tiles can be used to prevent access. Primrose stocks netting with small 1.2cm gaps, and interlocking fish tiles that can be used to completely cover a pond or just the perimeter.

Every pond benefits from fountains and pond plants, which promote oxygenation, although they also provide cover for fish. It should be noted that many pond plants will die back in winter, so artificial lily pads or floating planters can be used.

Herons prefer large vistas where they can easily spot approaching predators. Tall shrubs enclosing an area will make them wary.

Heron Deterrents

Highly recommended come our jet spray repeller. Complete with a motion sensor, our repeller will release a 5 second spray of water, which will scare the bejesus out of any heron or cat.

We also stock a laser guard, which will use a combination of sound and light to scare away any heron approaching your pond.

Similarly, ornamental eyeball scarers will startle herons by reflecting flashes of light into their eyes.

Decoys

Decoys can be used to scare away herons, although their effectiveness is disputed. You can make your own in human form or otherwise, or buy a heron decoy.

Maintenance

Whatever solution you choose to use maintenance is essential. Ingenious, herons will exploit any weakness in your defences. Solutions can be used in tandem, so if one fails, another can prevent herons accessing your fish.  

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.