Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

How to rid your garden of woodlice

I was so impressed by what I learnt at Balmain’s community garden last weekend that I had to share the following tip on how to rid your garden of woodlice.

Woodlice are actually quite helpful in compost bins (they break down decaying vegetable matter and speed up production) but in vegetable beds they’re a pest.

I'm guessing woodlice were responsible

I’m guessing woodlice were responsible for this

My compost bin in Broken Hill was always full of woodlice. Lifting the lid revealed a carpet of tiny creatures crawling over each other in their eagerness to get to work on the pile of decaying food scraps and plant material; the problem was what to do with them when it was time to use the compost.

Sieving the compost only encouraged the woodlice to tuck their scaly bodies into balls the exact size of the holes in the sieve, so I picked as many out as I could, dug the compost into the soil and crossed my fingers – a well-known gardening technique when all else fails. The woodlice found plenty of hiding places and half the strawberry crop had to be discarded when legions of them attacked. The same thing happened year after year.

I dug up a meagre crop of ruined beetroot in Sydney last week, its growth stunted by lack of sunlight and the beets chewed by what I can only assume were woodlice, and I  stomped off to the community garden in disgust clutching a trowel and a pair of gardening gloves.

Quite apart from the therapeutic value of standing quietly in the sunshine, harvesting  individual leaves from a bed of rocket until it was picked clean, and the quiet companionship of others as I meditated on the restorative power of growing edible plants, I discovered how to ‘relocate’ woodlice.

Here’s what I learnt:

Find an old empty plant pot (a container from seedlings will be plenty big enough).


Fill it with dry mulch.


Find a blob of the smelliest bit of compost you’ve got (worryingly the smelliest thing I could find turned out to be at the bottom of my fridge) then stuff it in the centre of the mulch.


Invert the pot onto the soil in your vegetable patch.


And there you have it. Two weeks later, lift the pot, throw the contents back into the compost bin and start again. The woodlice will be back where they belong, doing their bit to create new compost, and your garden will be free of pests.

I called into the community garden earlier today and I peeked under one of the pots we made on Saturday. Sure enough it was crawling with creatures that would otherwise be eating the kohlrabi. For a bed approximately two metres long by a metre wide, Frank suggested four pots.

A woodlice trap among the Kohlrabi and

Woodlice trap among the kolrabi and marigolds at Mort Bay

So thank you to the patient teachers and garden lovers at Mort Bay Community Garden, whose gentle companionship was so soothing and who welcomed a scratchy would-be vegetable gardener into their midst.

I may not have any vegetables in my back garden but I’m making damn sure I won’t have any woodlice either!




4 comments on “How to rid your garden of woodlice

  1. bkpyett
    June 20, 2014

    Thanks Deb for this advice. It sounds really sensible. It should attract snails as well, who also like old pots.


  2. debhuntinbrokenhill
    June 20, 2014

    And if it attracts slugs I’ll be very happy!


  3. Jennifer Reed
    January 9, 2020

    Thanks for that useful info. I use the empty half coconut shells (after the birds have eaten the fat inside) and put them in my veggie patch. Every day or so I turn them over and find woodlice and small slugs in them. After and hour or so the Robins have cleared the slugs and I tip the woodlice on the compost heap. I shall try your method as well as ‘something’ has just eaten most of my autumn sown pea seedlings (under plastic). They are becoming a real nuisance. I’m in Hertfordshire, UK and thinking of Australia a lot at present with your troubles.


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      January 11, 2020

      Hello Jennifer, good to hear there are non-toxic methods that work! We lost all our pea seedlings to the chickens, it was their favourite treat. Terrible situation in Australia right now, but this too will pass. Nature will recover if only we give her a chance and stop polluting the planet. Best wishes, Deb


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I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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