How Do I Stop Slugs From Eating My Plants?

Slug on leafIf you are a gardener, landscaper, allotment owner or botanist you will be fully aware of the problems slugs cause. They not only chew up your beautiful fruit and veg, they lay eggs and create horrible slime trails. Luckily there are a number of solutions to the problem; whether it be natural or chemical there is always a way.

There are a large variety of slugs in the UK, of varying shapes and colours. Species include the Common Garden, Ash-Grey, Lemon, Shelled slug and many more. In most cases gardeners and allotment owners will not be interested in the variety, but how much damage each particular one does, they will only have a goal of keeping them away from their crops and therefore that is what I will concentrate on. There are a wide range of natural and chemical deterrents and methods to deal with the problem; I will explore a few of these and allow the reader to decide which is more suitable for them.

 Natural

 Chuckem’– Seeking them out in the garden and disposing of them by hand is your first option. It may be a little time consuming, but it works. This is obviously provided that you have ample time and willpower. Make sure you take the pests as far away as possible from your and other people’s gardens. This method makes sure none of them die, if that is a concern. (Leaving left over fruit and veg on a tray in the garden is a great way to catch them, leave it overnight and discard the slugs that are sitting on it in the morning.)

SaltPouring salt on them will help to dry them out. Once again, most of the work will be done by searching out the slugs to apply the salt.

Cornmeal – Putting some cornmeal into a jar and tipping it on its side is a natural trap. Leaving it in the garden, near to the crops you wish to protect, will lure the slugs in. The cornmeal is too strong for them and it will kill them eventually.

BeerCreating a beer trap is also very effective. Leave a glass of half water half beer sunken into the ground at floor level. This will give off a sweet smell and work as a trap.

 

Frogs – If you have a pond, plant your crops near it. The reason for this is that frogs are a natural predator and will do the work for you. This has proven a brilliant way of using the ecosystem as natural plant protection.

Copper Tape – This is one of my favourite ways of creating a deterrent. If put around flower pots and stuck to the floor or other surfaces it will create a defensive barrier. Once a slug touches it the reaction causes a nasty shock which keeps it away from you plants. This is a safe way to stop your crops getting eaten.

 

 ChemicalSlug Gel

Pellets These are a very popular and easy way of helping to solve the problem. Sprinkling them around the area of fruit and veg you wish to protect will cause any passing slug to ingest them and kill them. Please make sure the variety you use is safe for your garden.

GelThis creates a barrier around your garden, pots etc….. The gel creates a defensive border, keeping pests away from your lettuce, carrots and other plants.

You are able to get some of these pellets and gels made with organic ingredients so they are not so harmful to have around the yard.

If there are any further tips and hints you have then please let everyone know below in the comments box.

 

 

Polythene Or Weed Fabric Membrane? Which Is Better?

Membrane Sheets 100gsmThis has been a question for a long time, use polythene or geotextile to guard against weeds; the answer is fairly simple.

We supply and sell both materials and over a number of years have heard back from customers with their thoughts and stories. On blogs and websites polythene is deemed to be cheaper alternative, but when looking at the facts it is not suited for this job. Plastic sheeting has many uses, it is great for DIY around the home, for building projects and arts and crafts. Heavier duty versions can often be used in greenhouses and small plots as it is effective at warming the ground, however this is not recommended for large areas. People are usually steered towards buying inexpensive thin sheets to lay in and around the garden. This can cause more problems than it solves. Woven weed control fabric on the other hand has been created with your garden in mind; it is developed for a specific job and in the long term will serve you better. The best fabric to buy is the woven polyethylene version, it is stronger and will last a lot longer. The tight weave is very strong and also at the same time very easy to cut and shape; perfect for the irregularities of the garden. The plastic sheeting available will often get damaged very easily and can rip after installation, especially when laid under gravel and subjected to pedestrian traffic.

In the UK, as most know, we get quite a bit of water. Flooding is becoming more prevalent and we are susceptible to more storms and heavy rain. As the bad weather increases it can become dangerous to line your garden with polythene. Water will be unable to pass naturally through the soil and will pool, this can cause a lot of damage. What was once ‘a bargain’ could have drastic effects on your garden and land as surface water builds up. With the obvious common effects of flooding I have heard such stories as rotten decking, flooded paths, sodden land and more. Using weed fabric will combat this. The material is perforated and therefore rainwater will be able to drain through to the soil below, not only keeping it moist and healthy, but utilising the ground as drainage.

Recovering Your Allotment From Floods; What To Do

AllotmentsIt’s no secret that Britain has seen a lot of rain recently. In fact some parts of the UK have just experienced their wettest January since records began, and allotments nationwide are waterlogged or completely submerged. It’s almost a blessing in disguise that the wet weather occurred when it did. Very few gardeners have crops in the ground at this time of year, and most are simply maintaining and preparing for the rapidly approaching growing season. So firstly let’s all count our blessings. The summer floods in 2012 hit at the height of the growing season, causing incredibly severe damage and financial loss for many gardeners.

Firstly if your allotment was flooded and you had edible crops in the ground close to harvest, then dispose of them immediately. A great deal of flood water would have contained sewage and the possibility of contamination, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Fruit and vegetables that are eaten raw should be avoided for at least 6 months. This will give the plant enough time to recover and for any contaminants to break down naturally. Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, and edible fruit from trees above the flood water should be safe to eat in just a few weeks, but make sure you boil any root vegetables thoroughly before consumption. Any plants that are left should be covered with garden fleece as they will quickly perish in waterlogged soil during the last remaining frosts. The frost fleece will create a microclimate underneath which will raise the ground temperature enough to allow your plants and their roots to survive.

Any debris that’s been left on your plot now that the waters have receded must be cleared away, either with your household rubbish or through a waste disposal site run by your local council. Then dig everything over, and leave it to dry out. Planting anything at this stage will likely be a waste of time as seeds will tend to rot before they have a chance to germinate, and the torrential rain will have flushed away any nutrients in the soil leaving it relatively infertile. With intermittent rain forecast for the next few weeks this may take some time, so sow seeds in trays at home until the soil is dry enough to be worked. If you’re short on space, then you may have to buy juvenile plants from garden centres in mid spring ready for planting. Once the soil has dried out sufficiently it’s worth digging in some fertiliser and mulch. However avoid doing this early as you risk polluting water courses.

It’s highly unlikely that any allotments will experience lasting flood damage, and most will be ready to plant in just a few days once the risk of flooding has passed. Most of the work to be done now is preventative, and work to protect your plot should we experience any more prolonged periods of severe weather. Before you start planting for this years growing season, invest in a good quality mulch fabric. Many gardeners use polythene for weed control which works well, but if you’re in an area prone to flooding you could prevent excess rain water from draining away by using a waterproof plastic sheet. Landscape fabric will prolong the life of your mulch, whilst efficiently preventing any unwanted vegetation. This type of garden ground cover is ideal for raised beds, however if you plant in rows then a heavier duty 100gsm fabric will be far more convenient as it will be able to withstand the stress of people walking between plants.

Luckily the best way of promoting good drainage is the reason you have an allotment in the first place. Plants are very effective at removing and using excess rain water, in fact an average baking potato needs 10” of water over its entire surface area to promote a healthy crop. So it’s important to make sure your plants stay healthy with regular maintenance and pest control. Remove any dead leaves and debris once a week at least, and make sure you invest in a good quality pesticide. Just make sure it’s safe to use on edible crops. I’d also recommend a close weave insect netting to prevent damage from flying insects. A mesh size of around 0.5mm will form an effective barrier against aphids and root flies, whilst also preventing intrusion from larger animals like birds and rabbits. You’ll find that most polyethylene netting is light enough to lie directly on most plants, or you could use a crop cage. It’s also worth burying the edge to ensure you have formed an impenetrable barrier.

Plants aside it’s just as important to protect equipment, pesticides and fertilizers from excessive rain. If you have a shed on your plot, then ensure it’s watertight with the aid of a heavy duty tarpaulin if necessary. If your shed has an electricity supply then make sure it’s turned off before periods of heavy rain, and have it extensively checked by a qualified electrician before switching it back on.

How To Cover Your Newly Built Log Store

Log StoreWith the rise in Log Burners, many homes will have a place to store logs; a lot of these structures are similar to the picture on the left (open and without a roof). With the amount of rain that we get in the UK it is often hard to keep things dry without sacrificing the aesthetics of a structure. Builder’s sheets and polythene are often used to cover them and usually come in green, blue and bright colours and do not match the nice wood of the store.  There is, however, a solution – Canvas.

Canvas usually comes in light beige or a tan shade that looks great when covering wood; it is breathable meaning that it helps to keep condensation away from the wood . The waxed sheets will help to keep of water and the stitched design looks very classic.

The main issue you may face with a tarp is how to keep it all secure; this is easier than you think. You can firstly buy a length of bungee and create a loop around the bottom of the store, through the eyelets of the tarpaulin; pulled tight this will make sure that it is secured. Alternatively if the sheet is long enough you will be able to peg it to the ground, this will give extra protection against wind. There are a number of other ways you can attach your cover, nailing, shock cords and rope; people tend to be very creative with how they cover it.

Battling The Elements; Creating Areas To Enjoy Your Garden In All Sorts Of Weather.

Creating an area for outside eating and entertainment is a wonderful idea! Decked, paved and gravel areas are great for outside eating, parties, entertainment and for relaxation. As with the English weather as it is, it is tough to rely on when planning an outside gathering.  More and more people are building structures, awnings, gazebos and frames to maximise the time that can have in the garden. There are many ways to shield from windy conditions, intense heat (even though it doesn’t happen very often) and of course rain.  In this article I will make some suggestions as to how you may combat the problems caused by the sky.

Wind; a real problem if you are having a BBQ, reading a book and doing work in the garden. Papers can fly about, food can blow about and your hair goes everywhere!  There is a very easy solution – windbreak netting.  Make sure that you get a heavy duty net, one that will last a number of seasons, cheap stuff can rip and break easily in stronger gusts. A good quality product will be knotted for extra strength and will have eyelets to help secure it. The netting can be attached to poles (wood or metal), frames and many other surfaces. The good thing is that you can see through most brands, so you are not putting a great view at risk. Below are some pictures to show how it may be used.

Shade netting above seating area.

Outside garden area

You can kill two birds with one stone; by using a tarpaulin you can create protection from sun and rain. You can either create or buy a frame to sit over areas of your back yard or you can attach it to existing buildings or structures. I would personally recommend a heavy duty tarpaulin that is black on one side and silver on the other, the reason is as follows. With this silver side up it will deflect the sun and keep the area you are using cooler, the black looks great at the top of a structure – very roof-like. Having put one up you have also created an area that is protected from rain, just please make sure that you create a run-off so water doesn’t pool. Do not hang by the eyelets, tarps are often not strong enough and need support.

For other ideas and tips please comment below. People would love to hear what you’ve done!

Keeping Birds Off and Away From Your Balcony

Many people in apartments and flats enjoy their balcony, whether it be for al fresco dining, growing plants, a seating area and more. The last thing that you want is debris and droppings caused by birds spoiling all of your hard work. Pigeons, amongst other birds, are the most common threat to the cleanliness of your balcony and therefore a solution is almost necessary if you want an area to grow plants or have your lunch.

The most humane and economical method of prevention is netting; some forms are almost undetectable when looking out at the vista, yet strong enough to keep out a range of creatures. You can the preventative measures against destruction to your property, without allowing the aesthetics to be compromised. You will need a decent quality net and a mesh size suitable to you needs; the smaller the size of the animals you want to keep out, the smaller the size of the hole (standard is around 10mm x 10mm for keeping out most birds)

You will mostly find that net comes in either extruded or knotted/knitted. The extruded netting is usually of polyethylene construction and is the weaker of the two. It is still expected to last a number of seasons if treated correctly, but will deteriorate more quickly than some other forms of netting. The knotted style is stronger because it is built with multiple strands, creating a weave that increases the tensile strength

In terms of installation you have a range of options; most of them can be altered depending on the size, shape and contours of your balcony. The first is to build or adapt a frame; starting from scratch you can use timber or perhaps steel poles to create a structure that fits on top of your balcony. There are also items such as crop cages and garden frames which you may be able to change in order to fit your needs. With steel frames the poles will fit through the mesh holes to secure it; for wood you can staple, cable tie or nail it on.
You can also attach the netting to the building itself. I will include some pictures of this below:

balcony

Bird netting on balcony

Covering Your Classic Car; Do It For Less

Bespoke Car CoverA large population of the UK own classic cars. These are usually cherished motors, often passed down from generation to generation and whether it be a Triumph, Riley or Jag you will want it to be protected from the elements if it is kept outside, especially during damp conditions or snow.

Usually bespoke protection is available for your vehicle, this can be incredibly expensive though and many people simply can’t afford it. As with a lot of things though it is a possibility to make your own, matching or passing the level of safety achieved by bespoke sheets.

The first step is to prepare the interior. Buying several small dehumidifiers (the crystal type), usually only a few pounds, will help to keep the inside dry whilst it is covered. Moisture can often build up and damage interiors of cars. Make sure it is nice and clean inside and everything is clean. This also applies to the outside; it will need to be clean and dry before placing any cover on.  Any surface moisture can cause rust and damage paint and metal.

You will need to purchase a breathable cover. As it is only the first layer it doesn’t have to be expensive, just something soft as an initial level of protection. You can pick one up from eBay or Amazon perhaps, they are widely available.

The next step is to find something more heavy duty for the final layer. A heavy duty tarpaulin will be the most suitable, whether it is made of Canvas, PE or perhaps PVC. Please make sure you measure your car properly before you buy anything, it is important you purchase something that fits. In regards to tarpaulins something over 250gsm should be perfect, it will be able to protect against wind, rain and snow. Canvas usually aesthetically fits with classic cars; it can be customised with badges for particular makes and models of vehicles.

The last finishing touch is to make sure everything is fully secured with bungee or rope. Bungee is definitely preferred because when it stretches in winds it helps to take the stress away from the eyelets on the tarpaulin. You can create custom ties by adding hooks on the end to run underneath the car, or you can run bungee in a continuous loop, threading it in the eyelets creating a seal around the bottom.

Flood recovery: My Experience

Here in the UK flooding has been a major issue as of late, causing destruction, forcing people from their homes and cutting off power. We don’t need to be reminded of the problems that it causes, but now need to be vigilant in regards to prevention.

Flood Warning SignRecently, due to heavy rain and a blocked drain, I experienced some damage to my property. It destroyed a lot of plants, ruined my shed and came right up to the doorstep, almost breaching the front door and entering the house. Luckily it never actually came in, but that didn’t stop it doing significant damage. Floors had to be ripped up, the whole downstairs needed to be repainted and still further work needs to be done. All of our floorboards had bowed and warped to a huge extent, they looked like a mountain range! The water had got into, and was sitting, in the foundations, and like a sponge it was moving up from below, causing damage from underneath. If I am honest the water company were fairly poor in their service, they even visited before the damage was done, looked at the water level (in the end 22,000 gallons of was pumped out from around the house) and were concerned, but ended up leaving without helping. I have to admit the whole thing was very unnerving, as victims of this sort of thing will know. All the work has been carried out now and the house is back to normal, but we had quite a scare.

I think the moral of this is that, in these sorts of situations, it is hard to rely on help from others and if preventative measures can be taken beforehand then it can do a great deal. The first thing to do is to make sure your house has sufficient protection from moisture. If it is a newer house then is should be fine, fitted with DPC, DPM and the correct insulation and materials. Older residencies will probably not have the amount of protection, if in a frequently effected area it would be wise to check your house meets standard regulations and improve if necessary.

You are able to buy portable water pumps, obviously they are limited in their use, but it would have been very useful in my situation; they seem fairly easy to use and in areas where light precipitation can build up it should be able to pump it away easily.

Flood BarrierThere are many great little pieces of equipment that you may not be aware of that aid defence of your property. Door barriers form a great first line of defence, initially stopping anything coming through doorways; unfortunately these only work up to a certain level tough. You can find very inexpensive ones on eBay or Amazon but make sure you read the reviews, you need to make sure you are buying the right one. This is the same with air brick covers and anti-flood designs.

An old favourite seems to be sandbags as they are inexpensive, easy to use and don’t have to attach to your house. If used properly they do really keep out the water; I used them during my difficulties and once placed, they protected my doorstep. Storage for these is really easy, just pop them in your shed or garage in case of an emergency.

In my case the entire garden was filled with debris after the event. As I said luckily it did not get into the house, but it did into the shed and garage, causing some damage. It is always worth contacting your local council services or utility provider to find out whether it is safe for you to have the power on as it could be dangerous. Everything that has been affected needs to be cleaned, floors, doors and paths etc…  Our local water company took over the clear-up because there had been some sewage on our property. They wore related masks and proper gear and a lot of disinfectant was used. Here is some more information on that kind of thing if you are attempting it yourself.

Everything that needed to be done to the property went through my insurance provider as it would have been quicker than going through the local authorities. Obviously it is different each time, but I was given advice to do that and everything was back to normal in about three months. Even after a small incident things take time, this was something I was very surprised about. The drying process was obviously the longest; dehumidifiers ran constantly for around a month after the floor had been ripped up. People were always coming in and out of the house, taking readings, to measure up, replace items etc… this is normal though. I kept a diary of what was happening and what was replaced, this helped me when dealing directly with the insurance company. I think, because it was largely the water company’s fault, they were more helpful than usual.

In a lot of cases you will have to move out for a few days for repair and building work. Make sure you get full compensation for this, sometimes it can be a real hassle with multiple family members living in the house, each with different needs.

There have not been many further problems that have resulted from this, mostly a spot of mildew here and there and a bit of warping, so I cannot comment on most of the after effects you may find.

Please leave comments and I will try to answer any further questions people may have.

Home-made Boat Cover: Save Some Hard Earned Cash!

Adverse weather conditions can have a variety of different effects on boat hulls, regardless of their construction. For something that is designed to spend a great deal of its life partly submerged in water they are remarkably susceptible to damage from rain, frost, and sunlight. If you’ve spent your entire life savings on one you’re going to want to make sure it doesn’t perish at the first sign of a rain cloud and there’s several ways in which you can do this. Most good marinas offer excellent storage options depending on the size of your vessel. For smaller boats, the option of a dry stack is available to you at the right storage facility. This offers protection from rain and damaging ultraviolet light from the sun, not to mention thieves and vandals who will struggle to damage a boat that’s several metres off the ground. Alternatively for larger craft, there’s the option of sheltered marinas which will help protect your investment from high winds. Unfortunately, dry stacks can cost upwards of several thousand pounds a year, and a sheltered marina offers no protection from rain and frost.

So you may consider purchasing a specialised cover, either custom made or one specific to your model. And there’s no doubt that they will do an excellent job, for several hundred pounds. An alternative low cost solution is a good quality heavy duty tarpaulin. There is a mind boggling range of available and hopefully this article will help you purchase the right one for the job.

Clear TarpIn terms of the tarpaulins construction, I’d recommend either one of a heavy duty polyethylene construction or one made of PVC, which are strong and puncture resistant, whilst remaining reasonably lightweight; it is also resistant to acid and oil which is perfect if your boat is to be transported by road. Any sort of tarp, regardless of its construction, will deteriorate fairly quickly in strong sunlight, so check for UV stabilisation for extra protection. If it has plastic eyelets then they will be easily damaged under tension, so make sure they’re metal ones and set in a reinforced hem. Your chosen sheet should be around 2 metres longer, and 3 times wider than your vessel. This should allow enough length to protect the entire underside of the hull, the keel and the bow.

To prevent damage from condensation you will need to allow a certain amount of air flow between the cover and the deck. The widely accepted method of allowing this is to construct a frame normally using 2 inch thick PVC piping secured to a wooden structure that will support the tarpaulin from underneath. A great money saving tip is to screw your frame together rather than nailing so it can be reused each winter. Make sure you allow sufficient padding on any sharp edges of the frame, puncturing your cover the first time you use it would not be ideal. I’d recommend securing your tarp using good quality bungee cord and hook ends across the underside of the hull and pull it as tight as possible to prevent wind intrusion, which could damage your sheet, especially during transport. You should never secure a tarpaulin using the eyelets alone, so you may wish to use shock cord over the top surface of the cover as well to reduce the risk of eyelets sustaining damage. Alternatively, you could use metal clamps, although I wouldn’t suggest doing this if your boat is to be transported by road. Regardless of how strong the clamps are there is a chance they could be shaken loose in transit.

Please find more information and products here.