My neighbours might find me a bit strange, when they peek through their curtains on a Saturday morning. If they peer close and shift their glasses they will see me, some times still in my pyjamas, walking in the garden with a cardboard egg holder filled with egg shells, a coffee plunger recently used with the coffee grounds still in and a bucket of soapy water.
They will see me peer and poke at plants, I’ll coo at some, and tut at others and every now and then I’ll put my odd items down and use them. I’ll crush an egg shell here, toss some (still warm) coffee grinds there and occasional give a plant a bubble bath. You might ask what am I doing? Well the answer is simple: I’m clearing my garden of bugs.
On the weekend, I have some poached eggs and a cup of filter coffee, not because I like filter coffee (I don’t) but because there is one other thing that doesn’t like filter coffee more than me. Ants. Ants can’t stand filter coffee. If you are not a coffee drinker, cinnamon works as well.
Why the poached eggs? The shells are great for the garden. Don’t just chuck the whole thing though; crunch it up in your hands (careful though, the shells can be a bit sharp!). Shells that have dried for a few days crunch the best. Sprinkle the crushed shells around plants that are being attacked by snails. The snails don’t like sliding over the shells. Neither do the cutworms. I can imagine it is like us walking bare feet over sharp gravel or glass.
And finally the soapy bath? Aphids and ants. When I first saw ants climbing on my lemon tree, I didn’t know what on earth they were doing. Then they brought their chubby pals along and it confused me more. I had heard of aphids, but never realised that the two had paired up for their master plan.
Some of my soil outside isn’t rich and brown yet, but still maintains a bit of the sandy feel of the area. Changing soil takes time and love and while I’m working each section, the ants are creating armies where the soil is still dry and sandy, perfect for their nests. So for the first time, I have an ant problem. Using coffee as above is slowly making the ants realise that my neighbours are far more ant friendly than I am and they are packing their bags, but there is still one or two spots where they like to hang out, bringing their sucking friends and have a party.
Because aphids aren’t the most flexible, quick-relax types, and I can just imagine they are probably lazy as well, they can’t be bothered climbing all the way up that plant to get to good seats. But the ants, well the ants don’t mind at all and since they can carry up to 10X they weight, an aphid is no trouble. They hoist their large friends up the plant and drop them where the going is good, right under the flower bulb. The aphids get going and to repay their hard working to their ant friends, they let them in on the sweet nectar profits.
Another one of the ant’s friends is the mealy bug, which is white. The bugs have terrible defence systems and can’t look after themselves, while they produce white mildew on the underside of the leaves and destroy your plants. The ants act as their bodyguard and once again are paid for with sweet sugar. The solution once again here is to give the tree/branch/leaves a good wash. The stink bug is also not a fan of soapy water and will hang out elsewhere in the process.
These solutions are not as quick possible as poison might be or a spray of pesticide, but they are the more organic option and are perfect for gardeners. It might take you a few weeks before the unwanted guests realise they have overstayed their welcome and move on, but your plants will appreciate the fact that they don’t have to endure a coat of poison. Not to mention that plants needing a bit of calcium boost will love the decomposing eggs shells.