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What's eating my garden, &how do I stop it?

Mount Joy, PA(Zone 6a)

Last year I started an organic strawbale garden using tips from these forums, and grew tomatoes, squash, parsley, and peppers.

This year, I planned ahead better, and started peas and spinach inside. But when I transplanted them outside, something kept eating the spinach leaves. Some of them look chewed off by an animal, others have holes.

I had read that marigolds deter bunnies, and I had started marigolds and zinnias inside, so last week I transplanted the flower seedlings, hoping to deter the bunnies. I also rigged up a twine that runs around the edge of the bales, about 4 inches from the top edge of the bale, and tied strips of shiny mylar wrapping paper to the twine, the mylar makes a crinkling sound in the wind, ansd reflects any ambient light, even at night.

But the next day, something had eaten the marigolds down to the base, and some of the zinnias were missing most of their leaves.

I can't afford an expensive solution right now (no fencing or motion-detection security lights!). I don't own a gun, and I don't want to spray pesticides (in case the holes are made by bugs). Is there anything cheap or free that can deter whatever is eating my garden? Last year I lost some tomatoes and parsley to critters, but they didn't take much, so it wasn't a problem. This year I have put much more time and money into the garden, and I don't want to lose all of it to the neighborhood pests.

Thumbnail by Dilettante
Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Birds will eat pea vines. I have to keep chasing them away to get any peas!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

If it's slugs, you can "diagnose" that and decrease their numbers with either slug bait or beer in saucers. Slugs are really attracted to the smell of beer, crawl in and drown. I cut a few inches off the bottom of soda bottles (small or large) to make disposable saucers. Some "bury" the sauces so they are flush with the soil, but I find that slugs can climb in just fine.

You know you have slugs if the saucers collect dead slugs.

Maybe fermenting sugar with with a little yeast would be a cheap substitute for beer.

Slug biat is the next-cheapest. there is an extra-green option made with iron phosphate, as non-toxic as fertilizer, but I found that the chemical slugicide metaldhyde is more effective. When I sprinkle any of that, I find slime trails and dead slugs the next morning. Maybe the iron phosphate slug bait has a delayed effect, I only know that I neever see dead slugs with it.

If you do invest in a box of slug bait, use it sparingly but fairly often until you reduce their numbers. But you can never get rid of them: they can crawl in from neighbor's yards. It will last longer if you can keep rain off it, for example setting a cut-up plastic margarine tub over it (c ut slots so slugs can get in).

You can also "diagnose" slugs by setting out a board or paver that will hold moisture under it. They need and love damp surroundings. In the morning, turn the board or paver over and look for slugs.

Foxboro, MA

I've found the best defense against bunnies is either fencing or providing them with a food source that they like better. In my garden if I have clover planted they tend to leave the ornamentals alone.

Lexington, KY(Zone 6b)

Great idea about the clover! We use chicken wire and it seems to do the trick with the bunnies. Doesn't look great, but sure saves time & money. It's heartbreaking to invest all that time & money just to provide lunch for bunnies and slugs! BTW, Microbiology, you saved my tomatoes!!! After potting-up to more soil, they grew like weeds. They're hardening off and going into the garden this weekend! Thanks again!!

Foxboro, MA

awesome! I'm so excited for you. Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods. I'm practically foaming at the mouth thinking of all the varieties I'm going to have this summer, so I understand the stress when one isn't thriving!

Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)

I Use poultry fencing (Chicken wire) around my 3x8 raised bed with deer fencing over top.

Alcoa, TN

I diagnosed slugs around my place last year and the beer in lids/saucers worked great. I hated how they would get dumped by my nosey Westie's or me though and if it rained, they were no good then. THIS year, I have a better tip to share. I take an empty beer bottle, or water bottle and pour just enough beer in it so that it doesn't run out when it's on it's side. And then I snuggle it in under my flowers... I have them anywhere a slug can hide. This keeps the beer good even if it rains and the slugs still crawl in but do not leave. I can either dump out the dead ones or pitch the whole bottle if it's too nasty. My daughter is a bartender so I get all the stale beer I want for free. I am also having trouble with the earwig (?) bugs that I just read about but it looks like BOTH are attacking my petunias. Dead give away is that if there is slime around the holes they leave;That would be slugs. I'm trying the upside down pot trick tonight for those other bugs.. hope that works!

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