My 5 Biggest Pests (and how to deal with them)

I’ve been spending a few hours in the veg patch over the last few days as we’ve finally had some nice, dry spells. Mostly I am busy preparing beds for spring, and weeding and harvesting winter crops. Whilst pulling up the last of my mouse-nibbled brussels sprouts I started pondering pests and how I could combat the worst offenders this year. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Rabbits
    I cannot tell you what an ongoing battle I have with these little guys, not least because I think they are SO sweet and I secretly enjoy them being in the garden. But they have plenty of things to nibble at outside of the veg patch, so this year I am determined to keep them out. Sadly, this involves some manual labour that I know I’m not going to enjoy. I am going to have to succumb and put up a rabbit-proof fence that is actually rabbit proof, right around the perimeter of the veg patch. I did a half-hearted attempt at this last year but failed to muster up the energy to dig the fence in to the ground, so of course the bunnies burrowed underneath. Lesson learnt.
  2. Slugs (and snails)
    Well, I have tried all sorts of things over the seasons:
    beer traps: quite effective for a few days but need topping up regularly and I felt guilty about drowning the poor creatures.
    copper tape: not hugely effective, in my humble opinion.
    wool pellets: quite good and acts as a mulch, but needed regular replacing.
    organic slug pellets: they work but I’m not entirely convinced that they are the most ethical even though they are organic certified
    nemaslug: worked well, but again it felt a bit cruel and murderous
    dusk patrol with head torch and bucket: an onerous task but effective.
    So, here’s my conclusion for 2018 – lots and lots of wool pellets and the odd dusk patrol when things get bad. Please, please Rocket Gardens, start stocking them soon!!!
  3. Pigeons
    Ok, here’s my dilemma with pigeons: They eat my brassicas, so I put up nets, but then little feathered friends, like a little robin, get trapped in the netting! And I don’t like that at all. Further research and a trip to the garden centre have come up with two options: use debris netting or enviromesh instead, or try stringing up lots of old CDs. Now, I’ve tried using CDs to keep crows out of the chicken run, and it worked for a few days until they cottoned on. So, with this in mind I think I will invest in enviromesh netting this year and be a bit more careful about how I put it up.
  4. Caterpillars
    Well these tend to affect brassicas as well, so the enviromesh netting used to keep pigeons away should serve as a double whammy by keeping butterflies off my crops. I might also try a bit of companion planting, popping a bed of nasturtiums nearby as a caterpillar decoy!
  5. Mice
    I never really expected mice to be an issue in the veg patch, but they do an awful lot of nibbling!! Courgettes, squashes, sprouts and peas have all had their fair share of mouse damage. Frustratingly there are 3 terriers and 4 cats on site which are, frankly, not doing their jobs very well so I’m going to be a) clearing the veg patch of all debris that could provide shelter for the mice, and b) setting some pet-friendly, non-killing mouse traps (I also think mice are kind of cute and I don’t want to hurt them!)