Anti-snail defences

My grape vine has been getting munched up by (I assume) the snails; and one of my (still tiny) courgette plants is looking at risk too. After perusing the Organic Gardening Catalogue, I have acquired a set of little spiky fences to go around the grape vine, and some copper tape around the courgette. I will report back.

I've also got ants farming aphids on the apple tree. Apparently, a ring of gaffer tape, sticky side out, around the tree will solve this problem. Again: defences are in place, and I will report back.

And here's a blog post elsewhere on permaculture and container gardening.

A final note: half of my broad beans appear to have grown without any actual beans in the pods (well: the beans are there, but they didn't fill out). My assumption is that this is to do with the crappy weather, but I am nevertheless sad. Maybe the green beans will do better? If the sun ever comes out for any reasonable time...

How to deal with ants: pt 2

I posted before about eco-friendly ways to deal with ants in the garden. Today I dug up the small box of potatoes I was growing (harvest small but hopefully tasty!), to discover an ants' nest, or at least a lot of ant eggs, in the bottom of the box.

This was especially irritating as I'd seen fewer ants around of late, and was hopeful that the cinnamon was doing the trick.

On this occasion, I did decide to try the boiling water, primarily aimed at getting rid of the eggs. As the potatoes were out of the box, it wasn't going to destroy any plants; and despite my reluctance to kill them, I am really not up for hosting an ants' nest on my 5m x 1.5m balcony.

After the boiling water (a kettle-full over the couple of buckets that the compost had been transferred into), I chucked a watering-can full of cold tap water in as well, in the hope of drowning or scaring away any remaining ants. Or at least convincing them to take their nest elsewhere.

Watch this space for results... [sigh] Unfortunately I think it's going to be hard to get rid of them altogether, since I have a lot of plant-pots that I'm loathe to dig out altogether; so there's always somewhere else for them to go.

Dealing with ants

We have ants on the balcony. We also have ants on the allotment (farming the aphids, mostly, which is both impressive and really, really annoying, leading as it does to the death of the broad beans). I have, therefore, been seeking ways to get rid of ants.

The executive summary seems to be: you can't; learn to live with them. I have been trying this for some time, but the depredations are getting to be just a bit much. (Especially as they seem to have killed off the worms in the wormery as well.) So I've tried a few things.

I'm not prepared to do boiling water; plus it would take ages to boil enough with the storm kettle on the allotment, and on the balcony, it would kill whatever plant was in the relevant pot as well.

On the allotment, the best solution without a doubt has been ant nematodes. The compost heap was absolutely swarming with the damn things before I applied these, as was the paving by the pear tree; both are now clear. I also tried it on the balcony, but with less conclusive effect; the satsuma tree (which seemed to be the worst affected pot) looks to be mostly clear now, but they've just moved to the potato box.

Flooding out is one option (if they've built their nest in a pot where the plant won't mind that). After emptying most of a watering-can into the potato box, I very soon saw lots of frantic ants carrying away eggs. But where to? I fear I may need to excavate the Area Under The Herb Table. I'll repeat the treatment on the potatoes again shortly (and the potatoes should do well for it, as well).

Another suggestion I've seen a lot is cinnamon. So last night I went out and sprinkled cinnamon in copious quantities all over the balcony. Curiously, I couldn't actually see as many ants anyway as I had before, so maybe the drenching has sent them off to find a nest somewhere that isn't my balcony. I'll report back on the cinnamon in a couple of weeks.