A beautiful garden is a source of pride for any gardener. That's why it's doubly frustrating when a garden comes under attack from pests. Insects, slugs, snails, birds and small mammals can do a great deal of damage to a carefully-tended garden. A few simple remedies can help to prevent this damage.
Slugs and snails
Although they move slowly, slugs and snails can chew up plant leaves very quickly. The most common method used to get rid of these pests is to put down slug pellets, but these can be harmful to pets or other animals, so some gardeners avoid them. Slugs and snails favour dark, shady locations, so keeping vulnerable plants away from these areas is helpful. Clear away plant refuse and litter. A thin line of wood ash around an area will deter slugs, and a barrier of broken eggshells is hard for slugs or snails to cross. An open shallow container of beer at ground level will attract slugs, which will enter the container and drown.
These tiny insects feed on plant sap and can stunt the growth of plants. The sugar-rich honeydew excreted by aphids can lead to fungal infections. Aphid infestation can be treated by insecticides; some should be sprayed directly onto the aphids, while others can be applied to the plants. If you want to avoid insecticides, encouraging predators such as ladybirds can keep aphid populations manageable. Spraying plants with a 1% solution of liquid soap and water is another method. Spray the whole plant, then rinse off the solution a few hours later. The residual soap will stick to the aphids, clogging the spiracles through which they breathe.
Ants are a normal part of any garden, and a moderate number is usually nothing to worry about. Even a large-scale infestation is not much of a threat to plants, but it can be a nuisance to gardeners. A wide variety of insecticides are available for dealing with ants. If you prefer not to use poisons, placing ant repellents around the garden or using bird feeders to attract natural predators will protect vulnerable plants. The key to stopping an infestation is to disrupt the chemical trails that lead ants to food. Clean surfaces thoroughly to remove them.
Moles don't directly threaten most garden plants, although their tunnels can damage young plants, but they do wreak havoc on your garden lawn. There are a number of ways to deal with moles. One traditional solution is to flood their holes with water to drive them out. Another is to push mothballs into the entrances of the tunnels; the smell repels the burrowing pests. Humane mole traps can also be placed in the tunnels. These need to be checked regularly in order to avoid killing the moles. Small electronic devices are also available which emit an ultrasonic signal that drives moles away.
Bird feeders and bird baths are a great way to attract colourful wildlife into your garden. Problems can arise, particularly for urban gardeners, when a flock of pigeons finds the food you've set out. These scavengers can damage gardens and are an unsightly nuisance. The first step to driving pigeons off is to remove available food sources. Cover vulnerable plants with nets to protect them. Limiting places where pigeons can perch or nest by affixing anti-pigeon spikes will also help control them. Additionally, traditional methods of bird control such as scarecrows can help to deter pigeons from gathering. You can create a simple scarer by hanging old CDs from tree branches; the flashes of sunlight will alarm the birds.