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Weed & Pest Control


First Garden - our new gardening blog
Hazel lives in a new build half an hour from Edinburgh. The promise of a garden tempted her from the city, only she's never had a garden before and isn’t sure where to start. She does have a book called ‘Garden plants of Scotland’, a kitchen spoon and a pair of rubber gloves though. In the First Garden blog we’ll follow Hazel as she attempts to grow her first garden with the help of the team at Pentland Plants...


Slugs, ugh.

You’ve planted your veg, potted your containers, remembered to water them and are beginning to admire the results when the slugs slither in.

The horror of discovering a wee beastie has munched your hostas or devoured the kale you were planning to eat for dinner can push even the kindest gardener to google slug killer.

Slugs, snails, caterpillars and larvae are as inevitable in your garden as rain. You just need to figure out what to do about them. There are so many options. Some a bit full-on chemical, others more in balance with your surroundings.

This summer I’ve tried impaling slugs on circles of crushed egg shells, sacrificing smaller veg plants to a ‘eat me instead’ distraction technique, a bowl filled with beer, picking out slugs by hand and then the long-term game, letting loose baby frogs for a feast. We nurtured frog spawn in a bucket on a diet of fish food and now they are scooping up slugs. 


The slug squad ready to eat. 


Slug trap and egg shells added after the munching began – don’t forget to make the lip of the trap level with the soil. 


After the slugs a march of snails, weevils, caterpillars, weeds and grubs follows. I have three young multi-stem silver birch in the garden that cost a small fortune. When I discovered reams of caterpillars tearing up their leaves I thought of the butterflies they’d soon become and left them be. Then I met my neighbour scooping them off his tree to put on the bird table. It turns out I need to work on my insect ID skills. They were lacewing fly larvae, not caterpillars, and they’ll eat the whole entire tree if you let them.

What have I learnt here? Get advice and stop dreaming about butterflies. If you have bugs in the garden and aren’t sure what to do about them Pentland Plants is a good source of advice. I spoke in-house expert Susie and her top tip was simply ask. Bug problems plague every gardener and there are lots of effective solutions, the staff at Pentland Plants can help you figure out how to tackle yours.

Everyone has different requirements, depending on the size of plot, whether your garden has beds or containers, fruit and veg or perennial and bedding plants. The type of beasties causing the problem, the natural habitat of the space and the other wildlife that lives there are all factors to consider in finding your bug solution.

If you aren’t sure where to start, take a picture of the bug and the damage it’s done then show it to a member of the team.

My Mum used to pay my youngest sister 2p for every slug she put in a plant pot and tipped out in a field. She always had the most pocket money and used to try to sub-contract the job to us older sisters for 1p a slug. She was loaded until we hosted a French exchange student who actually cried with laughter and called her the Dame des Limaces, Queen of the Slugs. There may have been slugs thrown. I told my five-year-old the story and he talked me up to 10p a slug before deciding he didn’t actually want to touch them. 


Boy v slug. The slug won. 


In a way you have to admire how athletic they are to reach the highest leaves. There’s a primal determination in their ability to get everywhere but that doesn’t mean they have to stay in your garden.

Bugs and how to beat them


Wool pellets: organic and with no nasties they feed the plants at the same time.

Slug traps: add juice or a splash of beer and wait for the slugs to plop over the edge.

Copper tape: Slugs steer clear as it gives them a mild electric shock.

Chemical option: Susie recommends Bayer Slug & Snail Killer. 


Snails live under foliage so check leaves in the daytime to find out where they’re hiding. Or potter around the garden in the evening, with a cup of tea or glass of wine, pick them off and relocate. Do run your fingers under the lips of pots as they like to snuggle in and hide, just watch out for spiders.

Chemical Option: Bayer comes out top again.


When you see the holes in leaves the damage is already done, the caterpillar has had his fill and moved onto another plant so the trick here is to check neighbouring plants and under leaves. The most effective method is to just pick them off but Carolyn says Bayer’s Bug Free Spray or Bug Clear work well too.

Vine weevil

Loves ornamental plants or fruit plants grown in containers. Between July and October vine weevil larvae live in the soil and gorge on plant roots then the bug emerges to the surface and finishes the plant off by eating the leaves.

Bug Clear Ultra is a chemical option that should do the trick though you can’t use it on anything you plan to eat.


Ripping them out by hand always works but there are chemical options too. Susie suggests popping in to chat to a member of staff to find the best option for your plot.

Greenfly and blackfly

Susie mentioned Rose Clear as a good go-to product. It kills pests and also tackles issues like black spot, powdery mildew and rust. She says you should always test it on a small area of the plant first. Liquid Seaweed is another option to help beat bugs and has the added bonus of nurturing plants too.

Susie’s chemical do’s and don’ts

If you decide to use a spray, wait until the weather is dry and calm. Wind spreads the spray and bright sunshine can make product scorch leaves.

Spray when the plants have leaves so it can absorb the product down to its roots. Be aware it can take two to three weeks to see a result.

Always read the label, wear gloves and use it exactly as directed to keep yourself, children, dogs and other wildlife safe.

If you use a product on fruit and veg you plan to eat check the label to be sure it’s safe.

The Royal Horticultural Society is a reliable source of advice too.

And finally…

Bugs and beasties are all part of the balance in a healthy garden. If you don’t kill them chances are a bigger bug or one with more legs will eat them instead. Though there’s one final garden bug I’ve yet to tackle. It did this to the mint – stripped all the leaves out the middle. He did then use them to make me a mojito so I’ve forgiven him. 


Mint plant rocking a skinny in the middle look

RNIB Fashion Event: BYOB Evening Menu
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