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How to get rid of garden pests

By Rachel England Friday 12 July 2013

Removing pests from the garden

We Brits love our gardens. Whether we’re stomping around in the soil planting veggies, soaking up some (rare!) sun or simply having five meditative minutes of time-out, the humble back garden is a sanctuary. Until unwanted visitors arrive, that is. From tiny aphids devouring your flowers to foxes digging up the lawn, garden pests can wreak havoc on your precious space. Here’s how to get rid of them quickly and easily.

Aphids

Common little blighters, aphids will gnaw through your prized flowers faster than a child will devour an icecream. To remedy an aphid problem, first get rid of any currently residing on your plants with a hose – simply rinse them off – then spray the flowers thoroughly with citrus rind spray. You can easily make this at home by mixing the grated rind of one lemon or orange with 500ml of boiling water. Let it sit overnight, then filter out the bits of rind with a fine sieve or coffee filter. Using a spray bottle, apply the mixture to your plants every four to seven days.

Ants

Ants are generally harmless creatures and pose little threat to most garden plants, but if you find they’re causing a nuisance, try a few homemade remedies before calling in the exterminators.

  • Gently rake over the nest every day for a week or two. Ants don't like being disturbed so many set up camp elsewhere. Doing so also exposes them to birds, who’ll appreciate a tasty snack!
  • The old boiling water trick will only work if a) the nest is relatively small, and b) you actually pour boiling water into the nest – there’s no point simply lobbing water over the top of it. Locate the source, gently puncture the soil and pour in several gallons.
  • Try adding this homemade solution for extra clout: one part camphor oil with 9 parts methylated spirits.

Foxes

Once a fox has moved in to your garden, they’re pretty difficult to shift (unless they’re injured, the RSPCA can’t help), so prevention, not cure, is the name of the game here (although there are several products – sonic sound devices and sprays such as Scoot and Get Off My Garden – which may prove effective if they’ve only recently arrived). To prevent foxes taking up residency:

  • Put up fencing or prickly plants around the periphery of the garden
  • Prevent access to areas under sheds or decking – these are prime locations for families to set up camp!
  • Use securely sealed bins
  • Don’t leave any food waste lying around – make sure bird food is placed on raised bird feeders and tables

If you find a fox den in your garden, don’t block it unless you’re sure it’s empty. To check, lightly block the entrances with loose soil or sticks, through which a fox can easily break out. If after a few days the holes are still blocked, pack them more thoroughly with soil. Take care in the spring to avoid blocking cubs into an earth – instead block dens between late summer and late winter.

Moles

Moles make a formidable foe to the freshly laid lawn, and can literally tear your garden up overnight. The good news is that they’re quite easy to deter, providing you do so as soon as they make themselves known. There are several effective methods.

  • Spraying a solution through your lawn that causes the little critters to feel itchy helps to move them on. To do this, mix up a solution of vegetable oil, castor oil, washing up liquid and cayenne pepper (dilute it with water so it doesn’t ruin the grass), then spray liberally in and around the mole hills.
  • Pouring castor oil directly into the tunnel will give moles an upset stomach and discourage them from staying.
  • Placing a few humane mousetraps in and around the tunnels can prove effective, too, since moles are about the same size as large mice. Be sure to release them back into the wild (or at least far away from your prized lawn!).

Slugs

Forget turning slugs into a slimy mush with salt, gardeners have several other weapons in the anti-slug arsenal. Try leaving an open tub or can of beer out overnight – they’ll climb into it and can be whisked away in the morning. Alternatively try sprinkling coffee around areas you want to protect, or even spritzing plants with cooled-down coffee – this works well in deterring snails, too!

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