Bunnies, bugs and slugs – oh, my!

As the weather warms up, everything starts growing quickly. Soon, we find ourselves tired of eating asparagus every night, overwhelmed with lettuce and wondering what to do with all that parsley. Garden pests to the rescue!

Our vegetable garden is well-fenced to keep the deer and sheep out. The resident bear stays out, too. However, it is futile to try to stop the rabbits. One crop of radishes vanished, as did some bean plants. I usually plant extra, knowing that the rabbits will sneak in and eat. The dogs are a good deterrent, but we keep them in at night and then the bunnies go to work. Lots of wire, low fencing barriers in the beds, blocks under the gates to make it annoying to get into the garden – I’ve tried it all. Then they go eat the vineyard instead. Sigh. A spray of water, a couple of drops of dish soap, garlic powder and cayenne misted onto the foliage of the beans and radishes will quickly convince a rabbit to shop elsewhere.

Slugs got into the parsley, leaving a slimy path behind them. Yuck. I know slugs have a place in the world. I wish it wasn’t my garden. We have several types of slugs – little grey ones, brown and orange ones, black ones and banana slugs that are six inches long. They don’t like sliding over copper, so I put copper sleeves around seedlings that are prone to slug attacks and put a copper border on my basil box. They also don’t like my new chip paths, either, and have been less of a nuisance so far.

Aphids have climbed all over my Corsican hellebores, but a good blast with the hose discourages them. Ladybugs are wonderful predators of aphids. Aphids also like artichokes, but they like nasturtiums more. So, I grow nasturtiums around the artichoke bed. It is less disturbing to dispose of a nasturtium plant than an artichoke plant. Such “trap crops” are very useful in organic gardens. I also grow a lot of alyssum, which attracts beneficial insects. However, some pests don’t like the smell of alyssum so I let it freely self sow in the greenhouse. I also plant French marigolds in the garden, which act as an inoculant against harmful nematodes in the soil. Some pests don’t like the smell of marigolds, either. Fussy bugs.

Yellow sticky traps are a good way to deal with some small flying pests – no chemicals, just colour. Cornmeal will take care of the sow bugs/pill bugs/wood bugs. Ants don’t like spearmint. Some old CDs hanging in your fruit trees will discourage the birds. Integrated pest management is the “official” name of what we practice on the Far Side. Crop rotation, companion planting, trap crops and barriers are all non-toxic ways to live with nature without heavy crop losses. There are lots of ways of discouraging pests without spraying poison on your food.

We live in this beautiful corner of the world, surrounded by wildlife that was here before us. A harmonious life means sharing the garden with some bunnies, slugs and bugs. A happy life is when they dine elsewhere.