"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Garden pests and Eco-solutions

This has been a frustrating Spring / early Summer.  Seeds had to be planted over, and over, and over again.  I think I sowed bean seeds four times before I finally got some seeds to poke their inquisitive little shoots above ground.

I was going nuts - I couldn't figure it out.  What was I doing wrong.  And who was causing the damage...?

Finally, I caught two culprits.

Firstly, I had a hadedah which kept paying my seedling patio a visit.  They give me the creeps because, to me, they are prehistoric looking creatures.

(pronounced hah-dee-dahs)
It's long beak is specially designed to dig deep into the ground to find whatever juicy cutworms, earthworms or insects that it can.  Normally I have no problem with them, for I welcome their devouring any cutworm they can find.  But, if they decide that my poor seedling trays are going to be their latest treasure chests, then they better know I have their measure.

And it comes in this form...
... a recycled stryrofoam container with netting (and a weight to prevent the South Easter from blowing it off.)  This works against snails too :)

And secondly, the starlings.

Below is the damage that both the hadedahs and the starlings caused to my seedlings.  I even tried covering the seed trays with a clear plastic tray (recycled) cover.  One, or both of them, worked out how to knock the cover off...!
The starlings also decided that the coir baskets round my strawberry baskets would make ideal nesting material.  So they proceeded to "purchase" a mouthful as the whim took them.  I discovered that nest construction always took place before 9.00a.m. in the morning.  Obviously!  The rest of the day was devoted to filling their stomachs!
My poor strawberries produced only a couple of fruit in the early spring, and then stopped.  I could only imagine that they weren't getting enough water, for the starlings removed so much of the coir that water just ran out of the holes the birds had created.

My cure was to line the baskets with some weedguard - no, it doesn't look pretty, but I'm talking about growing strawberries here, not creating a work of art.  I have left the edges protruding over the top of the baskets in order to fill the basket with as much water as possible.  And an added beauty of the weedguard liner is that it allows the water to escape s-l-o-w-l-y.  Water it in the morning, and the next morning the water will still be dripping from the underneath.  And the soil is not drowning - guess the water is lying somewhere between the coir and the weed guard.
And I foiled the starlings from eating all the strawberries also.  I have covered the containers / baskets in netting.  Take that, you dratted birds!
And finally,  I have tried copper coils, I have tried empty loo roll holders.  I have tried egg shells and coffee grinds - the latter two blow away with the good ol' South Easter.  These wretches still manage to get through the barriers.  But, there is one thing that they just can't resist.

And RMan is going to go short here...

The snails cannot help themselves - they have to have their gulp of beer - daily.  Flat beer, bubbly beer - any beer.  As long as it's beer!
Snails in the process of being
exterminated by beer :)
I wonder what attracts them to beer.  Is it the yeast?  Would yeast, sugar and  water work?

Personally, I'll buy them beer whenever they run out.  Or perhaps I should make them some.  Anyone got a good recipe?


  1. Thanks for the laugh...I can so totally relate to your frustrations! Funnily enough, the only bird I have ever seen eat a snail IS a Hadedah. You obviously have too many other snacks on the menu that are more appealing than snail pate. Perhaps once they realise that the snails have been pickled in beer, they might be a bit more enthusiastic about helping you out with that one.

  2. Wow, those birds WERE creating alot of damage. Funny, I've heard of the beer trick with slugs but haven't tried it myself. Last year the DE worked pretty good.

  3. hi,I stopped by to visit,I have come by before but you weren't home---ha,ha but you do live a interesting life

  4. I sure am glad I don't have one of those prehistoric birds running around in my garden...he/she looks like it could eat quite a bit. Too bad you can't train the bird to eat your slugs.

    I tried the beer bait once many years ago and ended up with a container full of dead Ground beetles instead of slugs...unfortunately Ground beetles eat slugs so I had effectivly started killing the slugs predators off but not the slugs...oops. I have heard that sugar water works but have never tried it. Here is a link that provides some information on how to get rid of slugs that you might find useful - http://www.ghorganics.com/page13.html

  5. Oh but the joys of gardening!
    Our biggest problem is rabbits and grasshoppers. some of the rabbits died of severe lead poisoning last summer. Once in a while deer can be a problem. Next year we are using raised beds to control weeds and pests, and maybe even be able to protect from the hail which can be a problem. Starlings are just a pain in the you know what. Not the smartest bird on the block.

  6. I found out how to cure pests around here. Both birds, ground squirrels and other rodents. You see I got the idea to make some beer batter bread and added a packet of Hidden Vally Ranch dressing mix to it for flavor. It turned out so bad I couldn't stand it so I sliced it up and put it out where I usually leave leftovers. Usually the stuff disappears real quick, but nothing has touched it including birds, rodents or insects.

    BTW the EPA now says there is evidence that fracking does pollute ground water. I wonder why I already knew that.

  7. I am amazed at how prehistoric that bird looks! But the bottom line is that no matter where one lives one has to stop the antics of those that want to snack on our food.


  8. And I thought we had pest issues. Your fighting a war over there! I hope your defensive measures confound your enemies!

  9. Sounds like you've got your hands FULL! Well done with all your anti-critter measures...can't believe you have to deal with that hadedah bird though. Not only is it slightly freaking looking but that beak looks designed to steal seeds!

  10. Mad dog - Oh, good grief - I hope so! LOL

    tami - Beer is definitely the way to get these critters :)

    Judy - You stopped by the farm? when?

    We'll be there soon :)

    Mr H - Nope - all I've ever found in the beer containers is snails :) Thanks for the link - I'm going to check it out now...

    John - Hares and locusts / large grasshoppers we have in multitudes too! Raised beds - they'll be next on y list once our latest effort gets stabilized :)

    David - LOL Did it chase them away from everything - that would be a win :)

    Fracking and underground water - don't get me started again... Bloody oil companies!

    Jennifer - Exactly - and if it can be done in an eco-friendly way, so much the better :)

    Jody - I'm determined to give it my best shot... :)

    Tanya - It's beak frightens the life out of me - and all thanks to Alfred Hitchcock - many, many years ago...!

  11. I find that bird beautiful! So majestic and I agree, anything that eats pests is a welcome guest. Your seedling 'safe' should do the trick.

  12. Jane - Dunno if you'd find it majestic if you met it LOL. It stands about 2 feet high ;)


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