Thursday, 8 May 2008

Pest Control

I have been meaning to discuss this for a while, but since my nematodes arrived in the post recently, and as I mentioned I put them down at the weekend, it seemed to be an appropriate time.

The greatest problem, at least for the UK gardener, is slugs and snails.

I did plant up an English-style Cottage Garden for my parents, who live in the Midwest of the USA, and they don't seem to be quite as troubled by the problem as I am. Perhaps it's the harsh winters over there?

As you can see they have a beautiful Hosta right in the centre, which looks tremendous every year (they send me pictures!).

My Hostas, however, took a beating last year. I have had them since my two previous gardens, both container gardens. They came with me here, in their pots, but I am very reluctant to put any kind of Hosta in the ground, as they are the piece de resistance for snails.

Last summer, for the first time in their lives, they looked like lace. Like any poor Hosta who's been a great meal for a slug/snail.

I'm not sure of the difference except I know that snails have that shell, and are easily spotted, and you can pluck them up and ... do what you will with them. Throw them against the fence, or just step on them, in my experience. Harsh, I know, but when you see your plants decimated by these fellows, well ... I assume that a slug is just a snail without a shell, much more difficult to deal with as they are down there in the soil. Ugh.

Nematodes are a natural way of dealing with the slug/snail problem. And I am here to tell you, they work. The brand name, at least in this country, is "Nemaslug". They are easy to find through many online or mail-order garden stores, like or Harrod Horticultural. I have not found them in any garden centre, I think because they are living organisms, and once you receive them through the post you need to keep them in your refrigerator until you are ready to put them in the ground. I ordered a packet last year, having had them suggested to me and after some Googling, and they sat in my fridge for a good month before I put them down (they also have a "best by" date).

I was warned against putting a Delphinium into my border, as that would present some slug/snail with a very happy meal, but I had no problem with this beauty last year at all.

Once I put them in, post-rotovation but pre-planting (about the end of May), I had no problem whatsoever in the left border. To be honest that is the only place I put them, although I wish I had thought of popping some into the Hostas in pots (over by the kitchen door). There was nothing else going on so I splashed them all in on the left! And all I found, routinely throughout the summer, were empty snail shells. Result.

It's fairly straightforward to get them down. You water them in with a can, but you must use a coarse rose on the can. When I did it last year, I clogged up the rose on the watering can I used something awful, for the rest of the summer. I purchased a special rose for the can this year, and still it does clog up, but you just have to flail the can around, and it will unclog, and get them in. You are watering in living organisms that come in a protective pouch, and you split them up as you go, in 9 litres of water at a time.

However, do be aware that they should to be replenished every six weeks or so. This year, I have ordered a cycle of three packets (the packet I'm using treats 40 sq metres which I think is enough for my borders). I will be sent a packet every six weeks which should take me up, I hope, to the end of the summer.

I know that they do die away after a while, because I put in two of these lovely ornamental cabbages in the autumn. There is a warning on the label, "not for consumption." Not for human consumption. But consumption by snails? Oh yes.

They were in shreds in two weeks. I only put one lot of nematodes, down, you see, so I have learnt the lesson of replenishment.

Now, I will tell you what I have also read in my readings about Essential Oils. I am very interested in Essential Oils for health, so I have read much on the subject. There is a chapter on gardening, which I never paid much attention to before! Snails apparently don't like garlic. I'm not sure how well this worked, because the other night I saw two fat, happy new customers (for the first time this year) in the garden meal for them, that is my left border. Early on in the year, I think in February, I had read about the garlic thing, so I put a bunch of cloves down along the front edge. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I think it was so temperate, I thought it was worth a go.

The other problem that I have encountered, is greenfly, on the Rose.

I was not happy to see this, as I feel very protective of this rose. It is a perfect English specimen, and if you may remember, it was a housewarming present. It didn't disappoint. The most beautiful, fragrant blooms all summer, even it it's first year. It's bursting at the moment with buds. But when I saw this, I felt I had to take action.

I know it's not very organic of me, but I found a rose spray at the garden centre, the "Rose Clear 3 Gun!" (it does have the exclamation mark on the bottle itself, so it's not me being overenthusiastic about the product). I did initially try a more natural remedy, with a spray made up of Lavender essential oil. I have also planted garlic around the base of the plant, and that was specifically for the greenfly, and not as much for the snails. When it grows up, perhaps I can stop spraying it with the pesticide, but until then, I will do whatever it takes to protect my precious rose.

The most extraordinary thing is, all those garlic bulbs I put down back in February to deter snails - just individual cloves that I had broken up from a head that I bought from a shop, to cook with, and not the ones I specifically purchased to plant around the rose - they are all growing! I only kind of chucked them down and tucked them into the soil, very near the front as recommended by what I had read, as that is where the eggs would be laid by the slug/snail.

Well, I feel quite well protected from the slug invasion. And of course, this time with the nematodes, I have copiously watered them in to the vegetable patch. The number one enemy of potatoes, apparently, is the slug. My lettuces, too? Much protection needed. They are there at the back for the tomatoes as well, although I believe that is less of a problem for the tomato plant. Still, all those nematodes will be of great use, wherever they are. And they shall be replenished, throughout the growing year!

Happy growing!

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