There’s no doubt about it: pests can be the bane of a gardener’s life. There’s nothing worse than growing the perfect crop of tomato plants, only to have them demolished by slugs and insects. Chemical pesticides can be highly effective at deterring and removing unwanted critters, however, these can be detrimental to the environment, and other beneficial wildlife. So here are some great eco-friendly pest control methods that can be equally effective.
Netting & Cloches
Pigeons, along with many species of insects, enjoy eating flowers and vegetable plants. Protective netting is a great way of keeping your plants safe and sound, however, there needs to be space between the net and the plant, otherwise, birds may land on the net and peck through it if they can. You can support your netting with bamboo canes or upturned pots, however, cloches and grow tunnels provide a ready-made safety system. This set of 3 Victorian Glass Bell Jar Cloches are a stylish way to protect growing plants.
Companion planting involves growing your plants alongside other species that will disguise the vulnerable plants, or attract predatory insects that feed on pests. This is a great method of eco-friendly pest control, as it is harm-free, increases the biodiversity of your garden, and can also have other benefits such as improving taste and yields. Good companion plants for repelling unwanted insects include dill, fennel, allium, basil, coriander, and marigolds. Check out our full guide to companion planting here.
Sprays have long been used to deter bugs from plants, however, there are plenty of eco-friendly natural alternatives to chemical pesticides. Spraying plants with water or a light soap solution can remove aphids, caterpillars, or similar insects from plants, and creating a herbal water spray from essential oils such as sage, thyme, basil, or rosemary can act as a repellent. You could also spray with a pepper or alcohol solution to deter pests.
Your garden can be a great place to support species of animal that are declining in the wild, and many of these creatures have the added benefit of ridding your garden of unwanted pests. Animals such as birds, hedgehogs, ladybirds, frogs, and lacewings are great at limiting numbers of common garden pests such as slugs and aphids. To encourage these critters into your garden, make them welcome by adding homes such as bird nest boxes, hedgehog houses, andladybird towers. You can also add bird feeders, birdbaths, and leave out bowls of food and water for wild animals.
Many organic substances are great for deterring unwanted pests, and are completely environmentally friendly! Many plant oils can be used as an insect deterrent, along with garlic- you can stick a clove next to your plants to drive unwanted pests away. Slugs do not like the sharp edges of eggshells, so surrounding plants with them can keep them safe from these pesky critters. Beer traps are also a common method of slug protection.
Ultrasonic repellers are a high-tech humane way of deterring a wide range of unwanted pests from your garden. These handy devices emit high-pitched noises that are beyond the range of human hearing but scare away other creatures. They can be used to keep larger creatures such as foxes, deer, and cats out of your garden, but can also be used in your house to deter pests such as spiders and mice. The Advanced Solar Mole Repelleremits low-frequency vibrations into the soil to deter moles from digging up your lawn, and the Advanced Rat and Mouse Repeller combine ultrasonic frequencies with electro-magnetic technology to keep your whole house free of rodents.
It is well known that slugs are widely disliked among gardeners, especially when they are invading your vegetable patch. It is true that slugs love to munch on your cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce – however, slugs are widely misunderstood creatures. Around 95% of slugs you won’t actually see nibbling on your plants as they live underground. Most slugs feed off decomposing plants, making them a vital part of our ecosystem. This is part of the reason natural slug deterrents are the best bet in getting rid of slugs from your garden.
Slugs are nocturnal creatures, only coming out at night to feed. They are lovers of dark, damp environments and are most active during the warmer more humid months; however you may see slugs around any temperature over 5 degrees celsius. Tell-tale signs include slime trails and irregular holes in the foliage of your plants. If the former is causing you bother in removal, white vinegar is a good solution.
Of the slugs that do feed off the plants you have lovingly grown, there are a number of things you can do to deter slugs naturally and organically. Read on to find out more about natural slug deterrents in the garden.
There are many benefits to choosing natural slug deterrents over traditional chemical pest control.
One thing to point out is that the use of slug pellets does not just affect slugs – it also affects the predators of slugs, including hedgehogs, ground beetles and frogs. The use of these slug pellets not only kill off these predators’ food source, but also cause them to ingest the poison present in the slug corpses they eat. Slug pellets can also pose a danger to any pets you may have.
Another is the effectiveness of slug pellets – although they are the number one choice for gardeners when it comes to slug pest control, they are not necessarily the most effective. They are said to only kill 10% of the slug population in your garden.
If you are gardening organically (and there are many benefits to doing so), slug pellets should not be used as they contain harmful chemicals that will disrupt the natural balance of your garden. With so many natural slug deterrents for your garden available, there is really no need to use slug pellets, unless as a very last resort.
Natural Slug Deterrents: Prevention
As mentioned previously, slugs thrive in damp conditions where soil structure and drainage is poor. Improving the soil in your garden may help deter slugs from making a home there.
One way to do this is by adding organic matter to your soil in the form of compost. You can find out more about how to compost here. You can also add leaf mould to your soil, which will improve its structure along with encouraging beneficial bacteria.
Creating a pond or water garden will help improve the drainage of your soil, as well as adding a beautiful extra feature to your garden.
Cultivating the soil in your garden involves breaking up and loosening it with a rake. Regularly cultivating will disturb slugs’ environment, leaving them more vulnerable to predators. It will also allow for the top of the soil to dry out more, resulting in limited movement for slugs.
Slugs thrive in dark, damp areas and make home in decaying plant matter, so keeping your garden clear from any debris will help deter them. Be sure to put any leaves and grass clippings into your compost heap instead of leaving it around. Additionally, be vigilant when tidying up any stacks of flower pots as you are probably likely to find a whole family of molluscs in there.
Choose Resistant & Trouble-Free Plants
Instead of waging a war against slugs once your garden is in full bloom, choosing plant varieties that are resistant to slugs may save you a lot of stress and time trying to deter slugs.
The following annuals and perennials are particularly resistant against slugs:
Although many believe slugs will eat anything and everything in their garden, there are some plants which slugs will not touch with a barge pole. Try planting these near the plants they love to deter them from the whole area. Slugs tend to dislike strong-smelling plants, and plants with hairy foliage. Here are some examples:
You can also try planting varieties that slugs love away from your prize plants. This will distract them away from what you don’t want them to eat. Lawn camomile is a good one for this. Rub the leaves of the lawn camomile to further release the aroma that attracts the slugs to the plant.
Natural Slug Deterrents: Attracting Predators
As mentioned previously, the predators of slugs include hedgehogs, ground beetles, thrushes, frogs & toads. Encouraging these natural predators in your garden will help control the slug population. There are a number of things you can do to help attract these predators to your garden.
Plant perennials where ground beetles can take shelter
Natural Slug Deterrents: Barrier Methods
You can deter slugs directly from your plants by creating barriers around them. Barrier methods come in the form of barriers that slugs cannot physically cross, and barriers that slugs could cross but would prefer not to due to discomfort and unpleasantness. Be sure your plants are free from slugs to start with before implementing either of these methods – the key is to trap the slug in the area away from your plant, not near it!
Slugs do not like to touch copper, as when they do, a chemical reaction occurs and they are given an unpleasant shock. This form of deterrent is available in the form of copper tape, copper rings and copper pot feet. Tape is useful to stick around the top of planters. Copper rings can be placed around small groups of plants.
Creating a barrier of broken eggshells around your plants will deter slugs, as they will dislike moving across the sharp and jagged edges. In addition, the eggshells add calcium to your soil as they decompose. Be sure the eggshells are clean and the inner membrane is removed before spreading around your plants.
Nutshells work in a similar way to that of above. The hard shells of nuts such as walnuts work best.
Not only is seaweed great for your soil, it is also a natural repellent for slugs. Slugs consist mainly of water, and the high salt content of seaweed will put them off venturing through it, even if there is food on the other side. Place the seaweed powder or fresh seaweed around your plants to ward slugs off. In dry weather, fresh seaweed will dry out and become rough, further deterring slugs from crossing it.
If all your efforts have failed, and slugs are still a problem, there are a few ways you can extinguish slugs you see in your garden. Be wary that doing this will affect the natural biological cycle of your garden and its delicate ecosystem, so it is only to be used as a very last resort.
Slugs are attracted to citrus. Leaving grapefruit halves around your garden and leaving overnight will attract slugs, and they will take shelter under the skin. In the morning, collect up the slugs and dispose of them in the compost heap.
Slugs love the smell of beer. Take a small container, such as an old tuna tin and fill it with beer. Slugs will take a sip and end up falling in and drowning. Be sure to place the container above ground, as otherwise it will kill other wildlife such as ground beetles, which are actually a predator of slugs. Although this method is effective, it will only trap slugs within a few feet of the beer, so a lot of beer traps are needed.
Overall, there are numerous natural slug deterrents available for you to try. If you try any of the above, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.
Greenhouses are wonderful tools for keen gardeners, offering a much needed space to tend to gardening projects outside of the usual summer season. But while protecting your plants from the elements, greenhouses can also be prone to sheltering pests and diseases that will ruin all your hard work. Armed with our top greenhouse pest control tips, you should be well equipped to give your plants the best protection possible.
1. Keep your greenhouse clean
As with any form of disease or pest prevention, cleanliness is the number one priority. As part of your general upkeep, it’s worth thoroughly emptying and cleaning out your greenhouse once a year. This involves washing down the windows and surfaces, hosing off the floors and cleansing all the pots. Doing this should give you a fresh, pest-free start for growing each year.
2. Inspect your plants
It’s vital to check over all your plants before they enter the greenhouse in order to prevent pests spreading inside. Just as flowers and crops love the warmth of a greenhouse so too do bugs, and they multiply in the heat. So give any new plants a thorough inspection for signs of insects or larvae on the leaves or stem before bringing them inside.
3. Disinfect your tools
Most gardeners will regularly use the same tools all round the garden, transporting them around the shed, flowerbeds, lawn, vegetable patch, compost heap and greenhouse. This means they can pick up pests from the soil outside and infest the plants inside the greenhouse. So to be extra careful, it’s worth giving your spades, trowels and other tools a good clean every now and again – a soak in soapy water should do fine.
4. Use insect catchers
Chances are, insects will always find a way into your greenhouse. Catch them where they fly, with simple greenhouse pest control products, like hanging fly papers and wasp traps, or using spider spray at the door.
5. Use netting
Obviously, greenhouses need good ventilation and it’s never worth sealing them up completely to stop incoming pests. But you can easily cut down on the number of large flying insects entering by hanging netting across open windows or other vent points.
6. Move pots outside in the heat
In the summer months, greenhouses can often become hot and dry throughout the daytime. Moving potted plants outdoors not only helps cool them down but also reduces the build up of spider mites on the plants. Spider mites increase rapidly in number in dry heat so it’s worth keeping the greenhouse ventilated and also using a mister to keep the humidity up. If you’re going out for the day a good trick is to dowse the floor with water, which will evaporate into the air throughout the rest of the day.
7. Use potting soil
Often regular soil from the garden will be packed full of creepy crawlies, insect eggs and other pests. So for the container plants in the greenhouse, it’s a good idea to pot them in shop-bought potting soil or compost. This should be sterilised free from any pests or diseases and well as being rich in nutrients to help the plants grow.
8. Rotate crops
If you plant directly into the ground inside your greenhouse, clearly you won’t have as much control over the spread of potential pests within that soil. A method of combatting this is crop rotation – each year vary what type of plant you are growing in that piece of ground. This tends to prevent the buildup of pests in the soil, as similar plants usually encourage the same types of pest.
9. Freeze the pests
This is an extreme measure that you could perform once a year if you believe your greenhouse is truly infested. During the winter, allow your greenhouse to enter a chilling period by opening up all the doors and windows for a day or two. The temperature will drop right down, killing off any pests inside, including their eggs and larvae. As long as it’s not cold for too long, the plants should survive this. Obviously, any tropical plants or those that require constant warmth should not be left out for this.
10. Use biological pest control
Many common greenhouse pests, such as vine weevil grubs, whitefly and spider mites can be fought with biological control. Each pest has a corresponding organism that you can introduce to the infested area and it will feed on the pest, keeping its population under control. If the pest is eliminated then the control dies out too due to lack of food source, so you don’t need to worry about them destroying the plants instead. Some of these biological controls are available to purchase.
Hopefully by putting these tips into practice, your greenhouse will remain pest-free and your plants will thrive. Let us know how you get on or if you have any greenhouse pest control advice of your own!
George 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.
Having trouble with keeping pests at bay? Ever wondered what sort of creepy crawlies could be lurking in your home? If you would like to minimize the chance of ever meeting them, our simple infographic guide can help you understand where to look, and how to prevent these pests from infesting your home.
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Geoff works within the Primrose marketing team, primarily on anything related to graphics and design.
He loves to keep up with the latest in music, film and technology whilst also creating his own original art and his ideal afternoon would be lounging in a sunny garden surrounded by good food, drink and company provided there is a football nearby.
While not an expert, his previous job involved landscaping so he’s got some limited experience when gardening.