15 Jul 2012

Guess who's coming to dinner?*

The (uninvited) dinner guest
I have the copper trowel, I have the raised beds.  I fondly imagined that, in the veg patch, this would minimise the impact of the plague of slugs being visited on the rest of the nation's gardeners. Not so, as this recent discovery bears witness. I cut a cabbage the other day for my lunch and found this beastie (actually only about 3 cm long) had taken up residence in the not-quite-outer leaves.  I discarded the leaf he inhabited and momentarily mulled over the benefits of pesticides.  The creature was contained in an empty butter tub until he could be safely despatched outside.  I couldn't bring myself to use my best kitchen knife for that purpose, the memory would have lingered long.  I still don't think I'm suffering as badly as others but have noticed that sunflower and cabbage leaves several feet off the ground have been decimated (probably snails) and the strawberries are more like Swiss cheese unless I get the ones high on the stem.

So, what can be done?  I've grown all my peas, beans, courgettes and squash in modules and planted them out as small plants.  They were given the added protection of a litre-sized plastic bottle as a collar and I've also heard that a good smear of Vaseline around the collar is a barrier that slugs won't cross.  The collars were sunk several inches into the ground and seem to have worked although the plants are woefully behind schedule.  I've also recently witnessed a friend stomping on a colony of slugs found under a plank in the veg patch; she was venting her rage at the loss of all her beans and seedlings to the slug buffet but the sludge left by their burst bodies was so revolting as to make me feel a bit ill. (And very glad it wasn't on the soles of my shoes.) There's no denying that this is effective.  Ultimately though I decided to make a Sluginator - it's a wide-necked bottle of very salty water into which I've been dropping slugs as I come across them. I'm not proud of myself but it works. Luckily for me, I live next to a handy railway line where I can dispose of the corpses.

Normally I see two or three slugs in a year.  This year they're out in force, slithering across the paths and pavements in groups and in broad daylight.  I don't care if they do eat rotting veg, I'd like to see less of them.  Not all are harmful to the garden, Defra has a rogues gallery of slugs with info.  On the other hand, anyone who feels kindly enough to know more about them should head over to the Higgledy Garden, or Wellywoman's blog, for a good sluggy read.

Bugs and slugs are accepted as part and parcel of growing your own veg but, yesterday, as I sat through torrential downpour and with rain forecast for the rest of the week, I'm wondering if anyone else is finding this summer a touch apocryphal?  Floods, slugs, snails, blackfly, weeds, no fruit and rotting and/or bolting veg - and, here in London, I've also had fox cubs digging up newly transplanted seedlings and pooing wherever they can get access.  I hope the proper summer comes soon because, frankly, I'm finding it hard to muster my usual delight in the garden.

(*With apologies to Sidney Poitier for using the title of his excellent 1967 film for this post. I've always considered him to be rather gorgeous and in no way does he resemble a slug.)

19 comments:

  1. Two or three slugs a year, gosh i wish i lived next to you. The salty water is a great trick, for the past few nights we have only found small slugs not the huge size we had been. I do feel a twinge of regret when dropping the slugs in the salty water but then i only need to look at some of the shredded leaves on my borlotti beans. I do belive that the black slugs can be dropped in the compost bins as they only eat decaying matter. But on the other hand i dont want to add any slug eggs to the veg beds.

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    1. I suspect there are already plenty of slugs in my compost bin - I've seen telltale slime trails across the top layer. I'm usually able to just turn away but have had enough this year! I much prefer the salted water to the knife or boot - and thanks for the reminder about slug eggs. I found a nest of them yesterday when digging out horseradish runners from my herb bed - the eggs were right under the oregano roots, about 3 inches down!

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    2. I should also have said that the gardens here at York Rise are not a magical slug free zone - the allotment gardens at the back have seen their fair share of slug action this year. The patch where I garden is an oasis in the middle of a paved sprawl and other beds are in 3 foot high brick - both quite a challenge for slugs to reach. The snails, however, get everywhere.

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  2. I have had enough I used to use as a planting guide 4 for me, 1 for the slug, 1 for the snail. this year 0 to me 5 to the slugs, 1 to the snail. so my Nemaslug is now on order to water in as soon as I get it.

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    1. I'm with you on that one, David. When my winter veg goes out, I've got cabbage collars at the ready and will also order nematodes. Belt and braces.

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  3. Oh dear a post of woe! I'm not surprised, and yes it seems that everyone else is finding this summer very much apocryphal.
    My allotment site is not only still waterlogged but some plots are partly under water. Some people have given up for this year. I was there yesterday to pick some raspberries and take a few photos but really found it a touch dispiriting.
    Never mind it will pass, and it will get better. Flighty xx

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    1. A tale of woe, indeed! I almost didn't post about this, Flighty - I like the blog to be nice, pretty and cheerful on the whole but then that's not reflecting reality, is it? I feel so sorry for your plot neighbours, all their hard work rotting under a pool of muddy water. I'm thankful that it's really not too bad here, but I have very little to show for it. I'm thinking of pretending that it's still April/May time and resowing!! Yesterday's day of respite restored the balance somewhat, lots of tidying got done - and a few raspberries got eaten!

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  4. Back to normal today after yesterday's sunshine, pouring with rain. I try to use copper tape round cut down lemonade bottles to protect some of my veg. Was too late for the sweetcorn though, that is certainly suffering from slug damage, will have to see if I can rescue them. So disheartening for everyone that have put so much effort into raising their seeds, the rain must stop one day musn't it?!

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    1. Pauline, who knows what the weather is doing? The forecast says rain, but people are trying to convince themselves that it will get hot soon! Today is overcast but DRY - and, yes, I'm working so can't get into the garden until the evening. Like you, I have to believe that summer will come...

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  5. The slugs have had a field day on my allotment this year, hardly anything is untouched. Even my garden, which doesn't usually suffer too badly with slugs, is being attacked this year. The weather has a lot to answer for.

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    1. It's all very disheartening, Jo - especially when we look forward to tasty veg for the family. I remember a couple of summers ago I was camping in this sort of weather and very unpleasant it was too! Next year I think we'll all have sorted out new ways of growing veg - I'm thinking of getting a small polytunnel!!

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  6. Thanks for the mention, Caro. I know what you mean, it does feel a little difficult to feel quite so excited about 'growing your own' with the never-ending rain, slugs, lack of light and warmth. But I spent an hour or so on the plot yesterday picking veg and fruit and it reminded me why I love it. I've heard a rumour that the jet stream may be on the move finally and we may, just may start to get something that resembles a summer. Fingers crossed!

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    1. You're very welcome, Welly - I always enjoy your posts even if they're dealing with this sort of subject! I managed an afternoon outside in the garden, just tidying up, on Sunday and it felt good at the end of the day to be coming in with herbs and broad beans, calendula and lavender. I do hope you're right about the weather perking up, I have to go back and dig up a few potatoes, if only to find out if they've rotted or not!

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  7. Like you I would normally say that I am not too bothered by slugs in a normal year on my veg plot - at the weekend I put out some new runner bean plants as my original ones are suffering. I sprinkled slug pellets around them knowing they were going to get sluggified - the next morning on the ground around the container there were about a dozen dead large slugs. Phew! that was a narrow escape - imagine the feast all twelve of them would have had on my beans.

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    1. I think you've got the right idea, Elaine - death to slugs! Twelve? Oh, gross. I'm not even going to bother growing salad leaves in the veg patch this year, they've got no hope of survival! I'm still growing spinach and a few leaves on my balcony but it's certainly not the feast I had in mind when ordering seeds in January!

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  8. Not to bad here in Arigna for Slugs despite the rain. Lots of veg bolting though, especially Lettuces and Broccoli, my faves.

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    1. Your eco-system must be more finely balanced than elsewhere in the country , Bridget. It's the same here with my spinach, no sooner putting on a bit of leaf and then I find it's bolted within the week. I'm now sowing in very small lines so that I can eat it up quickly!

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  9. Thank you so much for that link to the rogues gallery of slugs. I think I have all of those in one square metre at the moment. I've never seen huge slugs like I have this year!

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    1. You're very welcome, Matron - no-one seems to have the perfect solution so it probably helps to be able to identify which slugs are the worst enemy and which help keep the eco-balance in the garden. I've read elsewhere of encounters of 10 inch slugs - sounds like a horror movie!!

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Caro x

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