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Pest watch and other musings…

Much as I love summer, it’s really hard work on the pest front: everywhere you turn, something is trying to chomp the living daylights out of your plants.

Last night when the rain had stopped I went out with a torch to see how many slugs and snails were about. First I looked at my Hosta “Frances Williams” which I grow in a pot rather than a border, pellet regularly (around the base of the pot and in the pot) and which I have heard named as one of the less appealing hostas to slugs and snails because of its thick leaves. So was it mollusc-free? Er, no. Five large snails and a couple of tiddlers were merrily munching away at the hosta that I thought was protected. Hmm.

Then I turned my attention to my Solomon’s Seal, also pelleted and also in a pot, but placed within a border, and that too was hosting several unwelcome slimy diners. I’ve always thought that it was sawfly grubs doing the bulk of the damage every summer, but this year I’ve kept it sawfly-free so now I know that slugs and snails are as much to blame, if not more so!

And in fact, they were all over the place: slithering over the paving, the gravel, the wooden water feature, the soil and, of course, the plants – it’s a wonder that there’s anything left by morning, to be honest!

The only good news is that thus far they are ignoring my copper-taped veg containers, although whether this is because the tape puts them off or because they simply haven’t found them yet I couldn’t say.*

Then there are the rose sawflies. Much of the soft new growth on my favourite roses seems to be sporting the tell-tale scarring left by the egg-laying activities of rose sawflies, so any moment the poor things will be crawling with grubs and, if I do nothing about it, virtually leafless by July. I foresee many happy hours of picking the little wretches off, oh joy!

We’re still patrolling our solitary pot of lilies for scarlet lily beetle, and still finding one or two from time to time, so if you have lilies you need to keep inspecting them regularly through the summer.

There haven’t been overwhelming numbers of aphids yet, so I suppose I should be thankful for that, but sometimes you wonder whether it wouldn’t just be easier to have concrete and astroturf instead! *sigh*

On a brighter note, the “Widecombe Fair” pink cuttings that I took just over 3 weeks ago seem to have rooted: I spied what looks like fresh new growth on them and an experimental tweak of each one tells me that they’re now anchored into the compost, so I’ve taken them out from under their glass cover to harden off before I pot them up individually.

Also, the 3 new primroses that I made from my single plant a few weeks back all seem to be doing well and making new leaves. I suppose I could plant them out any moment but I think I’ll leave them in my shaded coldframe for the time being – they’re probably safer there!

*Breaking News: just nipped out in darkness with my torch and there was a snail in my lettuce pot, so it doesn’t look like the copper tape is going to be much use. Fiddlesticks. Pellets it is, then…


Red alert!

If you haven’t started already, it’s time here in the UK to begin inspecting your lily plants for these:


Scarlet Lily beetle, a modern invader to our shores that has no natural predators here and whose grubs and adults can completely defoliate your lilies in days if left unchecked.

They’re only small – about a centimetre or so long -but their brilliant scarlet colouring makes them pretty easy to spot, although you do need to inspect under the leaves for the adults, their eggs, which are about a millimetre long, orangey-red and laid in small clusters, and any grubs that may have hatched out (they cover themselves in their own excrement – nice!).

Control is either by hand (pick ’em off and squish ’em!) or there are chemicals available, such as Provado Ultimate Bug Killer (I don’t use chemicals if I can avoid them, so I don’t know how effective this is).

One tip if you’re controlling by hand is to have a small pot or bowl at the ready and when you spot one of the little blighters, put the receptacle underneath and knock them into it, because one of their defence mechanisms when attacked is to drop to the ground on their backs so that their black undersides are uppermost, at which point you will have almost no chance of spotting them!

I’ve only caught three thus far this year, but I do only have a single pot of tree lilies to patrol, and I re-pot them every autumn to try to dispose of any over-wintering adults, so I really shouldn’t have a big problem.

Good luck to all lily-lovers out there!