Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pesky pests

This time of year, whatever you put in the ground is a magnet for pests of every possible kind. My poor little pea plants which I planted out last month are struggling to get away - what with the deluge of rain that's been going on for a month now, they haven't been able to make much headway, and in the meantime they've been snack fodder for my three major betes noirs - rats, mice and slugs.

I planted some broad bean seeds today, Aquadulce Claudia again, direct in the ground for the first time, since the autumn-sown plants keeled over (a combination of my mistake - sowing them too early - and an accident - the gale-force winds a few weeks ago blew the fleece off and there was a vicious frost which clobbered the top growth). I spent more time protecting the seeds than actually planting them. First I put down slug pellets - before you throw up your hands in horror, I use the Growing Success iron sulphate ones which don't harm wildlife (but do harm slugs).

Then I cut some short sprigs of holly from the next-door woodland and laid them over the top to put the mice off. And finally I sank some plastic lily toms someone gave me into the ground as mouse traps. They're about 18" deep and no mouse could escape once inside: I've baited them with peanut butter and will be checking them regularly, as there's no point setting humane traps unless you're going to be humane about not letting them starve to death in there in the process.

Then I'm in discussions with the local hardware shop as to the best way to deal with the rat problem. Poison is really tricky, as I take my dog up to the allotment. But I've yet to hear of anyone being very successful with traps, though the bloke over the road at the allotment site trapped 36 rats last year with a squirrel trap, so perhaps that's the way to go. Either way, it's quite an investment as the traps are £17.99 each - so I want to make sure I'm getting something that works!

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