Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Pest Patrol

When we moved into this house the garden had overgrown ponds, a fake stream and even parts of a model railway wending around the borders. It had been unloved for several years and it took a lot of work to get it under control. At first we used all means necessary to tackle the pests and weeds, but over the years we have started to allow nature to take over some tasks.
We found a hosta that the previous owners had left behind, but it looked like lace when the snails got to it. We used slug pellets to try and salvage it and our newly planted salad leaves. We bought cloches to protect young plants and grew as much as we could in pots. I even went out with a torch at night to pick off the biggest snails. It didn’t seem to help. One morning I was mortified to find a dead blackbird on the lawn. Although the pellets said they were ‘wildlife friendly’ I felt so guilty.
Soon afterwards we got a puppy and had to stop using anything in the garden that would harm him. We also put chicken wire around the fences to stop him escaping. I expected the slugs to get worse but they didn’t. As our garden is now cat and chemical free it has become a haven to birds and toads. Our slug and snail problem has all but vanished over the last two years. The hosta is huge now and we grow more salad leaves than we can eat. Each morning all sorts of birds flock to the garden, hopping around the vegetable beds picking off any pests and in the evening we often come across fat toads eating grubs.
Now we just need to find a way of dealing with the cute resident mice that eat my french bean seedlings.

-- Claire Sutton

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