Country Matters with The Hodge October 2019
‘A fox might change his skin, but not his manners.’
Last month, we looked at some of the unwelcome invasive species now occupying our fair land. Many, and indeed I must confess, quite a few native species as well, can be a downright nuisance to property owners, especially gardeners. So, for October, I’ve researched some of the suggested, and sometimes less practical, antidotes to these pests recommended. Let me say straight away that none of these come with any form of guarantee by your scribe.
We shall start with rabbits. Delightful, furry little creatures that can dig for Britain and eat a huge variety and quantity of produce from the garden. Many a countryman will advise that only lethal means of control are effective, but my research indicates that they are put off by the presence of human hair. So why not visit a local barber shop with a sack and beg to relieve them of their trimmings. Incidentally, where does all that hair go otherwise? Landfill? Recycling? Just one of life’s many mysteries. The alternative is bindweed and I can attest to this one. My garden is riddled with convolvulus and I haven’t had a rabbit competing with the slugs for my vegetables for a long time.
Slugs and snails and maggots are perennial pests. We’ve tried keeping domestic ducks, but they were far too superior to chuck a snail or a slug, preferring instead very expensive bagged food from the country stores. Toads work well against these menaces but persuading them to remain within the confines of your borders can be tricky and I’d hate to meet the toad big enough to consume some of the mega-slugs that thrive in these parts. Incidentally, I was once told that the snails hereabouts are descended from the edible ones brought to Corinium by the Romans and thus should make good eating but, somehow, I’ve never plucked up the nerve to put it to the test.
Of course, if you keep ducks or any other domestic fowl, you attract foxes. So, to avoid this becoming an ever-increasing cycle of deterrence, you don’t really want to discover that to protect your birds, you need another beastie to frighten the foxes although llamas are said to be good at that. Instead, you could try the old trick of scattering elephant or tiger dung liberally around your estate. The easy solution to obtaining same is to acquire your own exotic animal but this then starts to get like the little old lady who swallowed a fly so perhaps instead, you need to visit a zoo armed with a bucket.
Grey squirrels will dig up and eat bulbs at times when they’re not otherwise busy emptying your bird feeders. Those who prefer non-lethal shooting have commended paintball or softball guns. These may appeal to the inner-boy within you but do squirrels understand the rules of paintballing? You could try buying some toy snakes and spreading them strategically around your land providing no-one in your family has an aversion to finding a lifelike cobra when weeding in the rockery. It is said that squirrels will be deterred by strings of tin cans suspended above them but the noise on a windy day may upset neighbours almost as effectively. If all else fails, squirrels have an aversion to strong spices such as cinnamon or cayenne pepper, (when did you last meet one in your local curry house?), so sprinkle these liberally around your grounds and reapply after wind, rain or snow.
We haven’t tackled a lot of pests yet so there will be more for another day but in the meantime, these may be sufficient initiatives to deter many of the worst!