Safely control pests in the vegie patch | Growing fruit and vegies | Gardening Australia

Safely control pests in the vegie patch | Growing fruit and vegies | Gardening Australia

Insects are always part of the garden and it’s only natural they’ll want to share your produce! A few holes here and there aren’t a problem, but if you end up with more hole than leaf, then it’s time to take action!


A good approach is to treat one problem at a time, as one solution is unlikely to fix everything. So, the first step is to investigate the garden and identify what visitors you have.

If you find snail and slug trails check under the leaves, at the bottom of the plant and in nooks around rocks, where they might be sheltering during the day. While you’re there, keep an eye out for caterpillars or the poo they leave behind which can help you find them.


Whilst gardeners have relied on coffee grounds and broken eggshells for years to prevent slugs and snails, they are not that effective as physical barriers. Alternatively, try applying copper tape around wooden or plastic beds and pots – when the snails and slugs try to cross the tape, they’ll get a mild electric shock. It is not suitable for corrugated iron beds though, as it can cause corrosion. Copper tape can be found in hardware stores and it has an adhesive backing, but a few thumb tacks will make it extra secure on wooden beds.

If young seedlings are being ringbarked, that’s an indicator of slaters. Cut the bottom out of old plastic pots or bottles and simply place over the plant and push into the ground at least 2 centimetres deep. Slaters are only interested in young pants so you can remove the plastic barrier once the plants’ stems have hardened up after a few weeks. You can even put copper tape around these to deter slugs and snails as well.


A shallow container filled with a few centimetres of beer will attract and trap slugs and snails. Dig the container into the soil slightly so it’s easier for them to fall in.


Even homemade, natural pesticides can be deadlier than you want them to be, indiscriminately killing any insect they come into contact with, such as ladybirds, bees and hoverflies. Alternatively, make a spray that is a deterrent rather than a killer, used in conjunction with traps and barriers. Mix up a spray of coffee and spray it on the leaves of your plants – snails will hate it!

Whitefly can be difficult to control, so Sophie suggests learning to live with them in the garden and dealing with them in kitchen instead. To ensure leafy greens and vegetables are clean and ready to eat, Sophie soaks them in a sink of water with a few glugs of apple cider vinegar, for 10 minutes.

No single strategy is going to work for every garden, so it’s best to experiment and find out what works best in yours. Aiming to minimise pest damage rather than eliminating them is a much easier and safer strategy.

Sophie Thomson

Filmed on Peramangk Country

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  1. Evie170 on November 26, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    Love the army of ducks on a mission! 🦆🦆🦆🦆

  2. Vijaya Laxmi on November 26, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    Coffee… Good idea

  3. martin barter on November 26, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    Any advice for earwigs?

  4. Rob Jacobs on November 26, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks very much for the video . Something has been eating our Broccoli, placed pots around them but still got eaten, no signs of insect droppings so we think rats have been around as my neighbour had one of his plots stripped to the ground. Keep up the hints Sophie as they are very helpful

  5. Alison Borchers on November 26, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    I dont mind a bit of chemical, myself…

  6. Arah Panah on November 26, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    Natural strategi

  7. catey62 on November 26, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    where can you buy the copper tape from? would love to give that a try on my little raised beds on legs.

  8. Elisa Silvy on November 26, 2021 at 12:38 pm

    I only have instant coffee. How much do I use to make a spray. Something is eating my lettuce and things are flying around. Usually I use nothing and have beautiful lettuce, tomatoes etc but this year they are invading everywhere and I only like natural spray ,no chemicals. I’ve put some sticky tabs to catch bugs.

  9. Daniel Maya on November 26, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    Use diatomaceous earth around plants and snails will lose half of their guts when going over it

  10. Candy crush addict on November 26, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    I tried copper tape just the other day and I picked up two snails and two slugs and they crawled straight over the tape and headed into my raised bed, well I then squished them. I don’t think it works personally.

  11. Rachel Makeup Tyler on November 26, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    Copper tape is ineffective and beer traps are very expensive to keep up to.

  12. Cards by Maaike on November 26, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    i’ve had my veg patch for 15 years the snails, slugs, rabbits, birds , voles ahve eaten more veg than me 😉 and pretty flowers. copper tape won’t work with big slugs, they can actually raise their body and curve over it. the rings won’t work as there’s snail and slug eggs in the earth, 95% of your slugs you never see. also when plants get bigger and grow over the edge, snails and slugs will just use another plant hanging over. the only thing that works is picking them up and feed them to the chickens or ducks if you have them, i usually take them home and pop them in the underground green waste container for the street, enough food and i didn’t kill them. snails actually eat slug eggs, so removing one predator/pest might just release a bunch of other nasties. it all sounds good in theory, but save your money don’t buy copper tape it will oxides really quickly too, copper pans turned pot might work better, but is kinda poisonous so don’t do that either

  13. leslie devlin on November 26, 2021 at 12:49 pm

    Great show grow your own and eat it Les😛

  14. Chris Jay on November 26, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    I prefer to “do nothing” about these so called pests. If there are prey then there will be predators to control them. Kookaburras help with my snails, and apparently frogs eat them too. Birds often go around my plants, doing a good job with grasshoppers and caterpillars. Ladybirds quickly arrive to munch on aphids, assassin bugs attack leafeating beetles, and there are lots of parasitic wasps too. On the odd occasion that a plant succumbs then I take it as Nature telling me to try another plant. It is said that a pest can not live on a healthy plant (Trophobiosis theory).

  15. PHX 875 LTG on November 26, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    If you except nature’s checks, balances, pro’s & con’s then you’ll find that birds do an excellent job in controlling these critters that feed on your veggies. I find that the Eurasian blackbird in particular does a fantastic job cleanings your garden from snails, bugs, spiders & unfortunately earthworms.

  16. vksz on November 26, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    I hunt for snails every couple of weeks in the early morning I then pop em into a bag and Chuck em in the freezer.

  17. Love Australia on November 26, 2021 at 12:54 pm


  18. Roger Buoy on November 26, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    What’s "out of date beer"? I’ve never seen it.

  19. Mostyn Gale on November 26, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    Beer gets out of date?

  20. F Dickson on November 26, 2021 at 1:00 pm

    I looove your soothing voice, Sophie!

  21. Trina G on November 26, 2021 at 1:00 pm


  22. Tezzasbigbuz on November 26, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    I used flour and pepper 50/50 for white fly

  23. Nine Point3 on November 26, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    I can manage all pests except earwigs, diatomaceous earth does work but gets expensive reapplying all the time given water deactivates it. Any suggestions?

  24. Jordan Barnett on November 26, 2021 at 1:09 pm

    These idiots never suggest neem oil!! It kills selectively. Only the things that eat the plant. No lady bugs or bees harmed

  25. New Mind Garden on November 26, 2021 at 1:11 pm


  26. Daniel 4774 on November 26, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    Here in Denver we use lots of coffee grounds from Starbucks. It works well. Don’t over water the plants. Peace.

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