The cats, the rats and the greenfly

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When the pests attack your cherished plants, it’s hard not to feel that it’s a personal vendetta, says flower farmer Charlotte Tombs

Pog, the menace of the garden.
Image: Laura Hitchcock

It feels as though there is always something out to get you when you enjoy growing flowers or vegetables. And I find it very hard not to take it personally.
Cats, as much as we love them, seem to be a very common culprits in so many gardens; they will insist on seeing a freshly-cleared, newly-mulched flower bed as one giant litter tray. I’ll admit it does niggle me slightly, especially as we dog owners are held accountable for what their pooches produce when out and about and we as a matter of course clear up after them.
If you do suffer from unwanted feline deposits, rose cuttings are your best secret weapon. Place them over your beds and it will hopefully help as a deterrent – holly leaves work well too.
The prickles method may also deter squirrels from digging up your bulbs in pots; if they’ve sabotaged your pots before, just put the sharp cuttings on top of the pots. It’s not a great thing of beauty but it will save your bulbs being raided, and is only temporary.

Rattus norvegicus
Recently my tulips have been under attack by rats. This is my first big crop of the year – I grow very different tulips from the ones that you can buy in the supermarkets. I choose varieties for their scent (yes, some tulips smell amazing), some for colour and some varieties can reach almost two foot tall, with heads larger than a can of coke. A vase of these is quite a statement!
Anyway, the rats have eaten at least a couple of hundred.
I asked on the Flowers From The Farm Facebook members page if other growers had experienced the same problem and how they deal with it. Apparently the answer is dried chillies. Rats hate chillies! (this did ring bells for me – I remember reading somewhere that you should put chilli flakes in with your chicken food. Chickens can’t taste them)
So, off I went to my local Asian supermarket and bought a large bag of red-hot dried chillis. I’ve sprinkled them all over my tulip beds and it does seem to have stopped the attacks for the time being. Fingers crossed. I have also read that mint tea bags make a good spray deterrent: brew a whole box, allow it to cool and put it in a spray bottle. Then just spray the area you want to protect. I haven’t tried this method yet but it’s worth a thought when I’m desperate.

Shutterstock

Greenfly
These can be taken care of with a washing up liquid solution in a spray bottle, as the little bugs don’t like the sticky soap residue. Alternatively encourage ladybird larvae, they can eat up to 5,000 aphids in their life time!
Other well-known natural remedies include used coffee grounds, baked crushed egg shell or sharp sand placed round plants that are prone to slug attacks. Saucers of beer can help also in your plants survival, and don’t forget that once most plants are big enough, they tend to be OK.

More attackers
My plants also suffer from deer attacks – they love roses! High fencing solves this problem but can be unsightly. Rabbits are an ongoing issue; they always seem to find a way in and I’m forever trying to find how they did it. One year pigeons ate all my hesperis (sweet rocket) – it’s part of the mustard family which includes broccoli and cabbages, so I learned my lesson and now cover it until the plants are big enough.

Charlotte offers workshops throughout the year – please see northcombe.co.uk for further details.

Sponsored by Thorngrove Garden Centre

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