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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Snips, Snails and Grasshopper Tales

Here’s a picture to get the brain cells ticking . . .

Q: Which insect on this pink zinnia could succumb in a cloud of bug spray – the fuzzy, pollinating bumblebee, or the destructive grasshopper?

A: BOTH!

How important it is, then, to be mindful of the entire ecosystem when dealing with pests in our backyard farms. A healthy landscape’s stage has room for all sorts of players. Even the pesky bugs have a role as food for songbirds (or chickens!). Yet when pests become divas, demanding center stage and literally chewing the scenery, it’s time for a new direction.

Sarah already shared some great non-toxic bug blasters , and Michael gave us the recipe for a homemade bug spray. Here are some more ideas for protecting your plants.

SLUGS AND SNAILS

Shiny, silvery trails are the snail’s calling card. Since these critters prefer cool, moist areas, it’s often just a matter of altering the garden’s habitat. Remove any fallen, dead leaves, or similar “litter” from the base of your plants that may shelter the snails and their eggs.

Provide barriers. Make collars out of paper tubes, paper cups or tin cans opened on both ends and slip these around your plants at ground level to keep snails from crawling to the main stem. Similarly, keep berry and vegetable foliage off of the ground so snails can’t climb aboard.

Trap the slimy things in slightly damp rolls of newspaper strategically placed in your garden. They’ll go inside during the day for respite from the heat.

Remove slugs and snails by (gloved) hand whenever you see them. Note I didn’t say kill them by hand. (Please use a shovel or shoe!) I’m not a fan of that snail shell crunch, if you know what I mean. As much as I dislike snails for how quickly they can decimate a garden, I once included them in a brief, but heartfelt, burst of empathy for all creatures. So I carried them to the birdfeeder instead! Let nature take its course. Alternately, never underestimate that lost shaker of salt.

GRASSHOPPERS

Cilantro and calendula are said to keep grasshoppers at bay, so try planting them next to your vegetables.

You can spray grasshoppers directly with a 1:8 mixture of black strap molasses and water. This blocks their pores, smothering them. Or, lure them to a drowning death by putting the same mixture inside jars or cans buried so the open top is at ground level. Replace mixture as needed. These ideas come from Golden Harvest Organics, www.ghorganics.com.

Birds and cats are fierce grasshopper predators. I hope, this summer, that my children will be too. I figure that paying them a penny for each grasshopper they catch will be a win-win situation. The children will get exercise, boredom will be abated, and plants will be protected. Sounds great! All I’ll need to do is discreetly dispose of the jar.

Jennifer

1 comment:

Nora Mair said...

Okay, that Elyse is one brave gal! What a great idea in getting rid of the hoppers. What a cool picture of the zinia! And some wonderful ideas otherwise.