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Burt Harrison

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since Mar 07, 2014
Shorpshire, UK
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Recent posts by Burt Harrison

Thanks Miles, this might help with the control aspect of the Root Aphids, I am still interested to know if they can be controlled or deterred by companion planted of Alliums and also if they are plant or species or range of species specific, as this would help with the planning of planting next year, as from what I understand this time of the year they tend to lay their eggs and die back until the spring when they can reappear.
5 years ago
Root Aphids have appeared in several of our beds! They first appeared about 6-8 weeks ago in the 6 beds that I have put aside for salad production, then last week I noticed them in another bed on the opposite side of the garden which worries me a little, because I am now concerned that they could start to pop up in the beds in between.

I have searched the internet for more information on Root Aphids and haven’t really been able to find much, so firstly can anyone please give me a little more information on these bugs? For example are there certain conditions that they favour? Do they attack ALL veggies or just curtain ones (so far they have gone through our lettuce crop and they started on the Tuberous Parsley- I have cleared all the affected beds and they are currently empty)? Is there any way to stop the spread or discourage them to start with? Controlling them is one thing but I would like to get to the underlying reason for their appearance in the first place. The only thing that we have done majorly different this year is use nematodes for slug and snail control; could the drop in slug population be a factor? It doesn’t feel as though it would be but I could be wrong.

It would seem that most people recommend either neem oil and garlic water drenches for the affected plants. This got me thinking... next week I am going to plant our garlic and I was thinking of planting garlic into these lettuce beds (which as I say are empty at the minute and will be now until next season) may be triple spacing the garlic so that I can plant lettuces in between them next spring. However I am concerned that the Root Aphids may attack the garlic plants, from what I have read it would seem unlikely but some thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Also I have been advised not to plant lettuces in these beds again next year, which would mean that I would have to change the bed rotation for this part of the garden, not a major problem and I guess continually growing lettuces and mustards in the same beds isn’t all together that wise any way. But that does raise the question what should I plant in these beds, what veggies are not going to be susceptible to attack by Root Aphids and therefore which rotation should use these beds? It seems that the Alliums especially the garlic would be an obvious contender, again any thoughts on this.

The thing that has me worried is the speed with which these bugs are killing the plants, the plants are totally infested and dead within a couple of days of the initial outbreak and in all cases the roots are mush.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.
5 years ago

Or you could just watch the video:

I like the idea of the trap, although in a later video he showed that it didn't work because the rats could reach the peanut butter easily without having to stretch to the point of losing their grip. I do think that with a bigger bucket it work or with a 55 gallon barrel. I will have a go at something like this though.
6 years ago

William we are in the UK and none of our two types of native snake eat adult rats, although I'm sure that they may go for the young. The idea of rubber snakes won't work here as the rats are unaware of them a predator.

I do like the idea of the barrel with bait inside and it just so happens that I have a 55 gallon plastic barrel with a top that slightly pitches inwards, I think that this might just do the trick. BUT as has been stated all we are going to be doing is producing a void for more to move in, however in the short term it may well serve as way to reduce the numbers. I'll dig the barrel out and get some peanut butter to smear around the inside (although I fear that I may find some of our works head first in the barrel!!! ).

6 years ago
I've read this thread with interest. Over the past few months the rat population has increased dramatically, we have the same problem as Tim, the rats have had our entire crop of carrots, sweet corn, beetroot, many peas, many dwarf beans, kohl rabbi, brussel sprouts and many of our tomatoes, two beds of potatoes and the list goes on (I'm sure there are more that we've lost to the rats that I haven't listed).

I have noticed that the population has increased since I built the Hugelbeds and started to hot compost. We have 5 very large hot compost heaps and every time I turn them I count 8 to 10 rats coming out of each one (on the plus side at least they are aerating the compost heaps ), there are 5 rat nest in the base of the Hugelbeds and 3 or 4 nest under the chicken house, and this is just in the garden, they are even moving into the new beds as we make them! Yes we've made 30 new beds this week and 5 or 6 already have rats holes in them, I pretty sure that there hundreds around the cow barns. We have 11 cats on the farm most are good at catching mice and voles but rats... nope! The presence of the cats in the polytunnel has kept the rats out of there for now, but the weather is starting to turn cold and I fear that the rats will become braver as the temperature drops.

I'm at my wits end as what to do, we put so much effort into growing these veggies to lose so much in a couple of nights.

I appreciate that being on a farm we are unlikely to eradicate the problem completely and it could be that we need an on going method of control. I really didn't have a problem with them being around, and when they started eating the tomatoes we moved a couple of cats into the polytunnel (they live there permanently now) and that solved the issue and all was good for a while then as the carrots started to mature; bang! The rats ravaged the garden, eating pretty much everything, they have even 'tasted' the cabbages and cauliflowers but seem quite happy to eat everything else for now.

Reading this thread I am now thing about move the compost heaps out of the garden, to eliminate one popular residence and a source of food (as all our kitchen waste is composted) but due to the combined volume of the heaps it's going to be a couple of weeks work even with everyone chipping in and then where do I move them too? It seems totally impractical to move them too far from the garden as lugging garden waste across the farm and compost back is just... well a lot more work. Then there are nests in the Hugelbeds and other raised beds, these are not really moveable! The chicken house issue can be solved with several rolls of chicken wire and lining the floor of the chicken pen.

It looks like we're going to have try a multi-pronged approach to the problem before it starts getting really cold. I'll keep you updated with how things go.
6 years ago
We already have wildlife habitats, but here in this part of the UK snakes are rare and there are no lizards. There are already many toads and frogs in the garden, there is already a pond about 3 meters from the edge of the garden. I have thought about putting an other pond in the garden to try and increase the frog and toad population. Hedgehogs are another natural slug predator but we don't have too many of them here.
6 years ago
I have spent the past few hours reading through various posts on nematodes as a form of slug control but I haven't really found anyone who has used them and reported how successful they are as a control for slugs.

We have just over 300 sqm of beds and next season that will be increasing to 400-500 sqm. Slugs have been are Nemesis this season, in spring and early summer we were picking between 1500 and 2000 slugs a day! Just as well we had a host of understanding and not squeamish WWOOFers but the man hours spent picking slugs is ridiculous. We have tried most things;

1) Beer traps work but the number that we need and the frequency that the need refilling is not practical.
2) Copper bands and copper tape work to a degree but only stop those on the surface from getting to the leaves and again are not that practical as the number we would need.
3) Wool fleece, now this did work a treat especially around our cabbages when they were young but as the season has progressed the wool has become slimy and is no longer an effective slug barrier as it was. (I will wash and dry it when the cabbages are harvested and try it again next year) but getting hold of the number of fleeces that we need is going to be a challenge.
4) Sand, roasted and crushed egg shells and coffee grinds seem to work for 'surface' slugs but it does need constant reapplication, that said now the weather has turned wet the slugs have found their way into the sand box that we use to protect the seedlings and the seedlings are taking a battering, but in the summer it worked when the surface of the sand was dry.
5) Fermented slug juice (picked slugs drowned in water and collected in a 25 litre drum until it is full then watered onto the garden), I was very hopefully that this would work and it did on a small test area but when applied to large areas didn't seem to make the slightest difference to the slug population.
6) Rotten wood with the underside coated in sour dough, we found that the rats also like yeast products and would turn the wood over eat all the sour dough over night so this didn't work for us.
7) Companion planing tomatoes did see a small decrease in the slug population where they were used but not enough to protect the young plants and this can only be applied during a shortish part of the season and isn't much good in early spring.
8 ) Dog food in conventional slug traps... it seems that out plants are far more tasty than the dog food!

So from my research it seems that the only things that we haven't tried are iron phosphate (Sluggo I believe is one brand) and nematodes. I have read an interesting article, linked on various other posts, about farming your own nematodes, which seems straight forward enough. However the author of said article also said that the naturally occurring nematodes that 'attack' slugs are only really effective when the slug population is disproportionately high. Commercially purchased nematode are impregnated with a mollusc killing bacteria, which makes them a real threat to the slug population.

So of the two options that we have yet to try has anyone else used them, especially on a garden the size of ours and if so how effective have they been?

Next year we are hoping to produce commercially on a small scale and we really need to get the slug problem under control one way or another, if I have missed out any other effective methods of slug control that might work for us then I would be more than interested in giving it a go, but for now it does seem that nematodes are going to be the way forward for us.

Cheers Burt
6 years ago
Leila, we have experimented with wood chip mulch on some of our annual beds this year. It seems to be working really well, although it is a little more tedious to scrap back the wood chip to plant through it and then replace back around whatever you have planted. From what I understand so long as you minimize the wood chip to soil contact area (ie you try to avoid the wood chip mixing with the soil) the nitrogen draw down is minimal, and we haven't had any problems... touch wood (chip) We also have no dig beds which helps.
7 years ago
Michael, I see you posted this earlier in the year. Did you sow clover with the Rhubarb? If so how did you get on with the clover, as I'm going to sowing a mix of white and red clover in one of our annual beds this autumn with the thought of having a N-fixing permanent mulch... just curious as some folks say that white clover can and will choke annuals.
7 years ago
We are experimenting with living mulches. We are looking at a mix of white and red clover on one bed, weed grass (which isn't a grass) on another and pineapple weed on another and possibly a vetch or two (I have to identify them first as some can swamp the crops). All of which are relatively low growing and can be cropped and dropped if they too much for the veggies.

As for Bishop's Weed I don't know, is this it? Wiki - Aegopodium podagraria If so I personally wouldn't use it in the veggie garden because of the way it spreads. Just my thoughts, I could be wrong, I have been before.
7 years ago