Category: Pests & Diseases

Previously I’ve always tended to ignore whiteflies as they never seem to eat much from my garden. However this year I seem to have had a huge number of the flies and a lot of plant leaves are showing signs of damage. I have heard, through various readings, that whiteflies love the colour yellow and one way to help overcome the infestation is to make up yellow sticky cards. Seemed simple enough and I thought it was worth a go.

 card 1

card 7 card 6

I cut up some cheap yellow cardboard and placed them into snap lock bags to help protect from rain. After tying them around various places in the garden I sprayed olive oil over the cards to make them sticky. All that was left was to wait. It really didn’t take long – within seconds of putting the oil on, I was catching flies. After 24 hours the cards were full and needed to be cleaned and have the oil re-applied. I’ll have to wait and see for now if long term use helps cull my whitefly population, but it may be worth a try if you’re having similar problems.

 bug 2 bug 1 bug 3

Why I hate snails

I haven’t always been out to get snails – but I did start out naive and inexperienced… When I first grew seedlings (a few years ago) I was delighted as they germinated and grew before my eyes in the safety of the indoors. Once large enough, excited with the thought of future vegetables to harvest – I planted out some zucchini, bean and sunflower seedlings, picturing the start of what was to come. The next morning I passed through the garden on my way to work and smiled down at my seedlings, – only to find…. nothing. They were gone. All of them. At first I thought I’d simply forgotten where I’d planted them (foolish hope), but then the realisation sunk in and I began to understand all the stories I’d heard about the “gardening war”. A short search revealed all that was left was the stems/roots of the seedling under the ground. All my weeks of work and care had been destroyed in one night.

A collection after an afternoon shower (not even night yet) – what chance do my seedlings have?!

At first I tried relocating the snails onto the nature strip and further down the street. They all came back though, and brought my neighbours’ snails with them (I probably deserved that). I tried egg shells, coffee grounds, beer and orange juice traps – all which seemed useless. I then got ruthless. Frustration and desire to have a vegetable garden set in – the number of snails that have ended up under my shoe or in our numerous skips as the renovations progress would amaze you. Spotlighting at night would find 20-40 snails every dry night and 100-150 on wet nights. Every night. The saying should be changed to “breeding like snails” rather than rabbits.

Copper tape has given me a bit of relief, and I do feel I can leave the garden alone at night now. But I still lose seedlings from time to time as snails have managed to find their way under a container, or over the top with the help of nearby plants and grass. They never seem to give me a break – I have even seen snails start moving towards seedlings while I’m still planting them!

Comparison of copper tape protecting a seedling vs one without

So you tell me, what is the point of snails? What good are they to me and my garden? I actually searched for this online and the main answer I found was “food for frogs”. I have no frogs, but I am now thinking about acquiring some. The second most common answer was to consume dead plant material – however the snails never seem to do this, preferring my seedlings over anything else.  Another reason I found was “to keep gardeners humble”. Well you can see how well that went down!

Unfortunately for now the war will continue, which means I will continue to be a snail killer purely as my love for gardening is obviously much higher than my humanity for snails. But when people think I’m mean, insensitive and ask why I’m cruel to snails – I offer to help them start a vegetable garden…

The winter veggie seedlings I planted a couple of weeks ago are growing strong & looking great! The copper tape has kept them safe from snails and some have almost outgrown their containers.

So pleased with the progress I was taking these photos and went to check the seedlings a little more closely… only to find almost all of them were covered with cabbage white butterfly eggs underneath the leaves! Argh! Lucky I found them before they hatched, but a great reminder that it’s not just snails I have to watch out for….. the war continues….

Seedling protected by copper tape

For gardeners it is pure joy watching something grow. Something initially tiny, nurtured by you, starts developing into something full of promise of the harvest yet to come. Most gardeners probably also know the utter heartbreak of losing all your hard work in one night…. one rainy night. From discussions with other gardeners I feel my battle with snails seems to be significantly larger than most encounter. Without a doubt it has been the hardest part about gardening. On a rainy week I will easily catch 100 snails every night. On a dry night it would still be ~20-50.

Comparison of a seedling protected by copper tape and one without

Beer and orange juice traps simply don’t work – apparently my vegetables taste better. I have tried a number of different traps and with two pets, putting snail bait around is simply not an option. This was really drilled into me when I thought keeping a little in the closed greenhouse would be a safe option, but after an almost $300 trip to the vet, snail pellets are not appropriate… anywhere…

My greenhouse is now protected from unwanted guests

I had almost given up hope that I would ever be able to spend a night without having to make the choice of go snail hunting or lose everything – until I discovered copper tape!  

Apparently snails get an electric shock when they touch copper, so they won’t cross the tape. So far it seems to be working fantastically! Having lined plastic bottles with the copper tape, I finally feel safe to leave my seedlings out over night (even on rainy nights) knowing they will still be there to greet me in the morning. Plants in pots lined with the tape have also been safe and continue to grow strong.

Potatoes growing healthily with no damage from snail attacks

Copper tape is available from selected nurseries and also can be found on eBay. While it is probably more expensive than other pest control methods it is by far the safest method, doesn’t add any chemicals to your plants or soil and, best of all, will keep protecting your plants year after year.