Garden pests are expensive, annoying and destructive – and they can also be hard to get rid of for good.
For many of us, our garden is our pride and joy. We spend countless hours puttering around, planting our favourite edible and decorative plants and tending to them with care. Not only do we Britons put a lot of our time and energy into our gardens, we spend a lot of money! It is estimated that those with gardens will spend around £30,000 over the course of their lifetime purchasing seeds, fertilisers, garden furniture, plants and maintenance products!
All of this money and time spent on our gardens means that it is all the more galling when pests move in and start destroying our hard work. Ants, moles, slugs, foxes, flies, pigeons, woodlice and midges can all wreak havoc on a garden, and transform it from a dream to a nightmare in short shrift. We love decorating our gardens in this country, arranging gazebos, lounge chairs and lutyens benches around our outdoor space, and so it is always a shame when pests threaten our sanctuaries.
It pays to learn how to get rid of pests in your garden – read ahead to find out what you can do to protect your investment.
How To Get Rid Of Ants In Your Garden
Ants are unwelcome guests in any garden. Here are some ideas for bidding them farewell.
- Boiling water – This is a tried and true method that will have ants fleeing your garden. Pour boiling water into as many nest entrances as you can find, and repeat every day for a week.
- White vinegar – You can also use white vinegar in the same manner as the boiling water method described above.
- Oil and dish washing liquid – A mixture of oil and dish washing liquid will soak into ants’ exoskeletons, suffocating them. Simply mix a teaspoon of liquid dish soap with 2 teaspoons of cooling oil and a litre of water. Pour some of the solution into a spray bottle to aim directly at the visible ants in your garden. Pour the rest of the mix directly into the nest.
- Boric acid and sugar – Any health food store or natural pharmacy will have boric acid in stock. Mix it with sugar (something ants love) and place the paste in strategic areas around the nest. They will carry the paste back to the queen, and the boric acid will kill the entire colony.
- Nematodes – Nematodes are microscopic worms that hunt and devour ants. The ants will pick up and leave rather than live near their natural predator.
How To Get Rid Of Moles In Your Garden
Sure, moles might look cute, but they create unsightly mole hills and mounds all throughout your garden.
- Granular mole repellent – Your first defense against moles should be repelling them in the first place. Granular mole repellent is solid pellets made from castor oil and is spread across the top of the soil, sending moles packing. Popular brands include MoleMax, Repellex, Sweeney’s, and MoleScram.
- Liquid mole repellent – Castor oil based repellents also come in liquid form, and you can even make your own using 100% castor oil. You simply attach your solution to a hose sprayer and saturate the area.
- Mole traps – If your repellents are not having the desired effect, you will need to move onto mile traps. Scissor traps or harpoon traps are embedded into the ground near mole runs, capturing and killing them.
How To Get Rid Of Slugs In Your Garden
These slimy mollusks feast on your plants and leave ghastly trails around your garden.
- Plant natural pesticides – Slugs despise certain plants, and they will avoid them at all costs. Plant wormwood, rue, fennel, anise and rosemary along the borders of your garden and you can say goodbye to these slimy pests.
- Remove shelters – Slugs love to hide out underneath shelters, such as large logs, bricks, garden furniture, wood piles and more. Get rid of these hiding places and you’ll expose slugs to their natural predators, including birds and hedgehogs.
- Get them drunk – It’s no secret that slugs are fond of beer! Slice a tin in half, embed it in the soil, and top it up with beer. They love the scent, and so they will immerse themselves and not be able to get back out.
- Design a prickly barrier – Slugs’ soft bodies are very vulnerable to prickly materials, such as pine needles, diatomaceous earth, crushed egg shells, and any thorny cuttings. Place these in a border around your garden.
How To Get Rid Of Foxes In Your Garden
While foxes are an important part of the British eco-system, they belong in the woodlands, not your garden!
- Fencing – Fences make good neighbours, especially when it comes to foxes! Erect a net wire fence buried to at least ½ a metre, with openings of 5 cm or less. You might even need to add a canopy topper if you have particularly savvy vulpine visitors.
- Electricity – If the fence alone doesn’t work, you can consider an electric fence.
- Noise making/ flashing light devices– Noises and flashing lights really upset foxes, as they prefer a safe and quiet locale. Purchase strobing or noisy devices to let them know they are unwanted guests.
- The family dog – Foxes are fairly non-confrontational, and they would rather avoid meeting larger predators. This is why the barking of a family dog (or 2!) is an excellent deterrent.
How Do You Know If You Have Rodents In Your Garden?
Rats enjoy living in people’s gardens because gardens provide food, shelter and fresh water on a regular basis. They see your garden like an extension of their normal territory, and they are happy to move in. Rats like living in compost piles, plants, lawns and garden beds, and once winter approaches they will be attracted to your warm home. Here’s how you can tell if you have rats in your garden?
- You can see them – Rats travel on power lines, fences and trees, and they are usually most active at dawn and dusk.
- Your plants start to disappear – Your most prized seedlings, sprouts, slips and plants will often disappear overnight as the rats fill their bellies. You might even notice that they have been pulled from under the ground.
- Tunnels throughout the ground: Rats love to build complex systems of tunnels that are topped and tailed by small holes. These tunnels are the death knell for your plants.
- Mounds start to appear: At the entrances and exits of rat tunnels you will find mounds of soil.
- Droppings start to appear – Keep an eye out for droppings that look like grains of black rice.
How To Keep Rodents Out of Your Garden
If you already have rats in your garden you will likely need to seek the help of an exterminator, or set out your own traps. Don’t let it get to this stage – keep rodents out of your garden in the first place.
- Destroy their shelter— Rats love to build their nests in wood piles, brush and tall grass. One of the best ways to send them packing is to destroy and dismantle these habitats. Make sure you maintain short grass, get rid of spent plants quickly, and make sure that all clippings are discarded in the trash. Turn your compost regularly, and move your wood piles on a regular basis.
- Get rid of their food sources – While it is lovely to sit on your Sloane and Sons Garden Bench and watch the birds flit in and out of your garden, your bird feeders might attract rodents. You might need to remove these feeders for a few weeks, enough time to show the rats that their free lunch is gone. Make sure you tidy away spilled seeds and don’t store your bulk seed outside.
- Keep an eye on your lawn grubs — Lawn grubs transform into Japanese beetles, and those are pests all on their own. To make matter worse, they attract many rodents, including rats! Milky spore and other chemical pesticides can kill lawn grubs so that you deprive the rats of this food source.
- Improve the sanitation practices in your garden — If you store your bins in the garden, you need to empty them on a regular basis and never let rubbish accumulate. Give your bins a good rinse with a hose once a week, and clean them with a household cleanser at least once a month.
- Seal up all holes— The rats might like your garden, but they like sheds and houses even more! Make sure that you assess all of your sheds and outbuildings for holes, and seal them with wood and metal.
- Install mesh tubes — You can purchase flexible plastic mesh tubes at garden centres. You place these around your delicate seedlings so that rats don’t move in to dine on them, ruining your hard work and costing you time and money.
How To Keep Cats Out Of Your Garden
- Lay chicken wire into your soil – Cats hate strange textures on their feet, so they will avoid your garden if you embed chicken wire into the soil. Simply lay chicken wire down before your plants begin to sprout above the ground – they can usually grow in between the gaps in the wire. Do you have larger plants that need more room? Simply use wire cutters to snip away some of the squares to make them larger.
- Lay down lattice fencing – In a similar way to the chicken wire, cats will be put off by lattice fencing. Lay down the lattice fencing before you plant your seeds, and the plants will naturally sprout around the lattice. If you need to transplant any existing seedlings or plants, simply plant them in the gaps.
- Make the soil uncomfortable in a safe and natural way – Don’t want to embed anything into your soil? All is not lost. Lay down a thin layer of natural materials, including rough mulch, pinecones, pebbles, or rocks. Cats hate walking on these surfaces, so they will stay away.
- Use scat mats – You can buy scat mats at most hardware stores, proving that you are not alone in your problem! These are plastic mats that are lined with flexible plastic spikes. Even though the spikes are soft, cats hate their textures, and they will avoid your garden. You can usually buy the mats in multiples, and they are easy to lay down in your garden. However, you can’t just lay them down – you need to push them firmly into the soil so that your clever clogs cat doesn’t paw it up and off the ground!
- Add certain plants to your garden – Cats despise the following plants, and they will avoid them at all costs. Intersperse these amongst your other plants, or set planters containing them around your garden.
- Thorny roses
- Lemon thyme
- Coleus canina, also known as “Scaredy Cat Plant”
- Spread strong smelling dried herbs or scented oils – As you likely already know, cats are finicky and particular. While they hate certain textures, they hate certain strong smells even more. If you don’t want to plant some of the herbs listed above, sprinkle generous amounts of the following safe herbs and/or oils around your garden.
- Cayenne Pepper
- Install a low voltage wire – Don’t fret! A low-voltage wire won’t harm cats, it will just send a gentle message that they aren’t welcome! String low voltage about 4 inches (10 cm) away from the ground and remember to keep the little ones away from the garden.
- Citrus peels will do the trick – Cats hate the smell of citrus, and they don’t want to get it on their paws. It’s affordable, easy and fast to scatter dried or fresh citrus peels throughout your garden.
- Coffee grounds or dried tobacco – The scent of coffee and tobacco is revolting to cats, and they will give your garden a wide berth if you spread these materials around. Just remember – coffee grounds can be toxic to cats if they consume them, so keep an eye out to ensure that this doesn’t happen. You can pack the grounds into tea bags to prevent the cats from eating them.
- Spray commercial cat deterrent sprays – Available from most gardening centres or pet supply shops commercial cat repellents contain predator urine. The urine of foxes and badgers is certain to repel them but ensure that the spray is made from these natural ingredients and not harsh chemicals.
How To Get Rid Of Pigeons In Your Garden
Avian visitors are always welcome in a garden, but too many pigeons moving in will mean a layer of putrid droppings covering everything in sight.
- Anti-roosting spike strips – Place these strips across strategic areas, including windowsills and ledges. They will prevent pigeons from landing near your home.
- Place string across roosting areas – Tie a series of strings across and above nesting areas. They prefer to avoid an uncomfortable landing and will stay away.
- Install sloping covers – Sloping covers on windowsills and ledges will prevent pigeons from roosting, as they only like flat surfaces for their nests.
- Don’t feed the pigeons – While you might enjoy feeding other birds in your garden, if you set out birdseed pigeons will start to frequent your home!
- Seal your trash – Now that you have stopped actively feeding the pigeons, you need to ensue that all other food sources – i.e. rubbish – is secured and sealed.
How To Get Rid Of Woodlice In Your Garden
At times, woodlice can be considered beneficial in your garden. After all, they can help to produce compost and they overturn your soil, but if they start to breed too much they can infest your cultivated plants.
- Optimise your compost heap – Make sure that your compost heap is in good condition. If it is too wet or cold, it will become much too moist – something that woodlice love.
- Don’t over water – Again, woodlice love the damp. Be careful that you do not over-water your plants.
- Keep your mulch away – Don’t store your mulch pile too close to your garden and seedlings.
- Biological enemies – Introduce pill bugs to your garden, as they prey on woodlice. So too does the woodlouse spider Dysdera crocata.
- Create a woodlice trap – Place potato, orange peels and strawberries in damp newsprint. Place this bundle in the dampest part of your garden and wait for the lice to infest. Once they do, dispose of them far from your garden.
- Tidy up – Get rid of old bricks, rocks, rotting compost, timber or mulch.
How To Get Rid Of Midges In Your Garden
Midges are sometimes called no-see-ums, punkies or sandflies, and their bites and buzzing can really ruin an otherwise lovely day in the garden.
- Install traps – You can purchase biting insect CO2 traps from any home or garden centre – they work by drawing in and killing them.
- Consider screens – Midges in the garden can often mean that they have an eye on entering your home. Erect fine mesh screens on your windows and doors.
- Air conditioning – An AC unit will prevent you from needing to open windows in the heat of the summer, keeping midges from entering your home.
- Choose your clothing wisely – Until you can get rid of them completely, wear clothing in the garden that covers your neck, back, arms and ankles.
- Insect repellent – Similarly, you should apply insect repellent to your skin in order to drive them away and prevent bites.
While it can seem like pests have taken over your garden for good, you never need to give up hope. By following the simple steps above you can rid your garden of bird, critter and insect pests and get back to enjoying your outdoor space.
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.