17 Jun Beating slugs, snails & other top growing problems
With a summer crop comes the common trials and tribulations of growing your own! Here the team from Gardeners’ World answer your questions.
Beating slugs and snails
Q: Do you know any deterrents for slugs and snails? I’m trying not to use chemicals.
1. Firstly, you can surround your plants with chicken grit or crushed shell.
2. Secondly, you can protect container-grown plants with self-adhesive copper tape, stuck around the rim of the pot, which snails hate as it sends out electrical charges- follow our video on how to attach it.
3. Finally, a more dramatic but really effective way of limiting their numbers is to install a wildlife pond – however small – that will be home to frogs and toads, which like nothing more than to munch on molluscs! (Answered by Emma Crawforth, sub editor and David Hurrion, horticultural editor)
Q: Cats getting into my vegetable patch is my biggest problem- how do I deter them?
A: Love or them or loathe them, domestic cats can cause havoc in the veg garden, but there are a few things you can do. Try to keep the ground well-watered, as cats prefer dry soil, or scatter a pepper-based repellent over the soil weekly. Bare soil is attractive to cats so sow a green manure or plant bedding in any gaps that appear. It’s also worth sowing veg seed in trays or pots, rather than direct into the soil- you can then grow plants on safely in pots and plant them out when they’re large enough to withstand the attentions of your local moggy.
Finally, there’s no substitute for a sturdy cloche or fruit cage. Not only will it keep out cats, but will also protect your precious veg from pigeons, butterflies and other large pests. And look out for the August issue of Gardeners’ World magazine, which has a special feature on cats. (Answered by Ross Bayton, horticultural writer)
Getting rid of blackfly
Q: I have hundreds of teeny black flies on my runner beans- how can I get rid of them?
A: This sounds like a type of aphid called blackfly, that coats shoots and the underside of leaves. Try rubbing them off between finger and thumb while spraying gently with water from a hose to wash them away. Alternatively use a soap-based organic insecticide (available from garden centres). This spray will have to touch the blackfly to kill them, but residues will not enter the crop, which is safe to eat. Ladybird populations will eventually build-up to eat aphids, but, as yet, there hasn’t been many around this year. (Answered by Adam Pasco, editorial director)
Warding off pigeons
Q: How do I stop pigeons nibbling my Brussels sprouts?
A: Winter vegetables, and especially brassicas such as Brussels sprouts or cabbage, are a favourite food for pigeons in cold weather. Scarecrows, wind chimes and other deterrents may work for a short while, but these canny birds quickly learn that there’s nothing to fear. So move deterrents around the garden every week, so the pigeons don’t get used to them.
The only sure-fire way of protecting your crops is to exclude the birds using netting. Stretch it over robust bamboo canes or poles, so that the netting is well clear of the foliage, and remember that many brassicas grow up to 150cm tall, so give them plenty of room. Alternatively, you can buy a ready-made veg cage, which can be lifted off the crop easily for maintenance. (Answered by Ross Bayton, horticultural writer)
Dealing with whitefly
Q: Whitefly on my strawberries are ruining my crop- what can I do?
A: Whitefly are usually a problem on greenhouse crops, but can also infect outdoor ones. There are no natural predators outside for whitefly. Small infestations can probably be ignored, but if they are increasing in number try regularly spraying with a suitable insecticide. I use a soap-based plant stimulant and pesticide called SB Invigorator, but several others are available. Sprays must touch adult whitefly, so use a pressure sprayer to get right under leaves and into the new foliage. Repeat spraying every 7 days to kill the next wave of whitefly that hatch. (Answered by Adam Pasco, editorial director)
Q: I’m growing cucumbers in my greenhouse but a lot of them are withered. Is it to do with how I’m watering them?
A: Be very careful not to overwater cucumbers, especially early in the year when plants have only just been potted up. Lots of cold, wet compost surrounds the roots, and this can cause rotting. Water individual pots from above so that water soaks down into a saucer below. Don’t leave young plants standing in water, and don’t water again until compost appears almost dry – push your finger down into it to test. Remember, cucumbers like warm, humid greenhouse conditions. Also, feed them weekly with a solution of liquid fertiliser. (Answered by Adam Pasco, editorial director)
(Source: BBC Good Food – Read the full article: http://bit.ly/1PxDBBB)