Pests and Problems
It is inevitable, at some stage in your vegetable garden, you will encounter garden pests and/or diseases that even the most experienced garendener has to deal with. This is by no means intended as a comprehensive guide to vegetable garden and fruit pests, primarily because there are just so many, but also, because some don't cause problems in every climate zone, let alone country. So the following list (that will continue to be added to) reflects those that I have to deal with in our temperate climate.
The following list is divided into three sections, the pests - those that crawl & fly, chew & suck or just plain peck, the insects and birds and the problems that occur caused by disease. The final section, a guide to remedies that I have or do use. If there is an environmentally friendly alternative, I'll list it, but, you need to consider all of the information here as a guide.
You should complete your own investigations as to the most appropriate solution for you. Benton Rise Farm assumes no responsibility for any outcomes that result from any information listed here.
Snails and Slugs: - The Gastropods
Snails and Slugs are basically the same animal, with slugs being the common term used to refer to a gastropod with a little or no evident shell. As such, they are treated the same way. Both are considered to be the most common and widespread vegetable garden pest and can wreak havoc in the garden in a very short period of time. Overnight, newly planted seedlings are irresistable and if not completely devoured, are more frequently than not damaged beyond saving. So what can you do?
Snails and slugs can only survive in relatively damp to moist conditions. Obviously you can't maintain a vegetable garden in dry soil, so the best thing you can do is minimise hiding spots. Snails and slugs are primarily nocturnal and find themselves cooler, moist places to hide from predators and the heat of the day. Look around your garden and make sure you limit these sorts of places.
Physical solutions such as barriers are another option, but I must say, I have not had a lot of success with these. It has been reported that snails and slugs won't cross over sand and dry sawdust, crushed egg shells, wood ash and lime , so you can try putting a barrier all the way around your beds, but these only work when kept dry. The other alternative is a nightly patrol, around 2 hours after dark. Here armed with a torch and good pair of shoes, you go hunting, removing the pests as you find them and squashing them or drowing them in a bucket of water. You must however, be vigilant.
Baits and Traps:
Some of these are not favoured by those that prefer organic principles, but none the less, they are listed.
Snail pellets are the more commonly used approach by many gardeners, but these have their risks.
Pellets are generally made using either metaldehyde or methiocarb amongst additives to make them less appealing if consumed by animals and children. If you keep free ranging poultry, neither of these baits should be used as they are highly toxic to them.
A better organic solution that was made commercially available about 12 years ago and is based on an iron concentrate. This has the added benefit when breaking down, to add small amounts of nutrient to the soil. In all cases, pellets should be used very sparingly as close to the plants as possible.
You can also try using repellants. Commercially available sprays, that are based on garlic and or Wormwood are made from these natural sources and can be quite effective, assuming that you are not experiencing frequent rain (you have to reapply when it rains). You can also make these at home.
My preferred non chemical defense plan is to use beer traps. Snails and slugs are attracted to yeast based products. You may not be popular with the beer drinker in the house, but basically all you need to do is bury a small container, at or just above soild height, near your plants. Fill it with beer (be nice and use the dregs of the bottle) then put a "roof" over the top. This will protect the beer from wet weather and provide a dark cool home for the snails. Attracted to the scent, the snails will enter, get drunk and drown in the beer. All you have to do is refill it when necessary and remove the dead ones. Here are some photo's of our trap placed in a separate vegetable garden bed, freshly planted with Chilli's. I used left over Stout.
Bury a container, at or just above soil level near your plants.
Fill the container with the beer.
Cover the container to provide a cool dark space. We've used a piece of bark, but half a plastic pot will also do well.