Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Gardening on the edge has gone completely bung

As has this blog. If you are a regular reader, I am very sorry I haven't been about. All my writing efforts have been directed at my pony book book, which I really, really need to find a title for. The only things I can think of are the really corny, taking a swipe sort like Galloping Hooves - The Pony Book Obsession, or things like It's Awfully Bad Luck on Diana, which my editor tells me means nothing to most people. Well, I say, most people who are going to buy this book will know that poem. Did they not read their Pony Club Annual, for goodness' sake? But I expect she is right, as she certainly has been so far as she has dissuaded me from my besetting sin, which is assuming what I know, everyone else does too. And my second besetting writing sin, which is digressing. Which I am doing now.

So, hauling myself back to the point, which is gardening, or actually not gardening. Slugs.

Slugs are one of those things that continue regardless of what you do in the garden, which is fair enough, as they are after all living creatures and the general point of a species is to survive. Do not fight the slugs - you will not win. Not unless you have unlimited time and funds anyway, in my experience. The wool stuff works, but it costs a bomb, and I can't afford it. Slug pellets my slugs eat as a first course, and then move on to devour my plants. I don't like putting pellets of any sort down anyway, even organic ones, as I like to preserve my hedgehogs and thrushes, and I'm just not consistent enough. I bought some organic slug pellets last year, but only managed to put them down once. I guess you have to be a bit more persistent than this for it to work, and persistence is not in the armoury of the gardener on the edge.

Coffee grounds don't appear to stop slugs in their tracks either. I am simply not going to go out at night with a torch and pick up slugs, or cut them up, or bung them in salt water or whatever else people do. By the time night comes, I have had enough and just want to sit for a bit. I also have a sneaking admiration for a species that's so successful despite all that humanity can throw at it. Attempting to live in harmony with the slugs suits the mixture of laziness and opportunism that is me and the garden.  I therefore let seed stuff I don't have to fight the slugs and snails for, and in the winter salad department, that's rocket (preferably wild); american land cress; chervil, and lamb's lettuce. The one thing I do try in an effort to preserve from slugs is ash from the fire, but this only works as long as the weather's not too wet. Here is a chard plant, which, rather to my surprise, came up in a flower bed. This I think could go either way but the slugs have the edge at the moment.


I did one year grow some other sort of mustard, but that was a complete disaster. Not because the slugs didn't like it - they didn't, but it was so hot, we couldn't get it down either.  I have just remembered my one other anti-snail technique - I sling them over the wall into the graveyard next door. I'm quite sure they all just come back again but it makes me feel better temporarily.

14 comments:

susannaforrest said...

How about a beer trap? They die, but they die happy.

Jane Badger said...

Tried that, and the beer went down but no slugs died. So, either someone who shall remain nameless went out and drank it, or other local wildlife (I suspect squirrels) got there first, thanking me for my endless generosity in providing them with a light aperitif before they resumed their assault on the hazel tree.

Goldielover said...

When I was a kid Mum used to send us out with salt shakers to salt the slugs. Probably wouldn't be politically correct today. I grew up on the west coast of Canada, and we were dealing with banana slugs. Google them if you're not familiar with them. I was always a bit scared of the really big ones. Still don't like them.

Jane Badger said...

People still salt today. Well, people I know, anyway! Googled the banana slug - now there's a beast. There is apparently a yearly recipe contest, "though, even when fed corn meal to purge them or soaked in vinegar to remove slime, the slugs' flavor is not always well regarded, and the most successful entries are often those in which the flavor is unnoticeable."

Goldielover said...

As kids we ran barefoot all summer (again, probably wouldn't happen today) and the slug slime used to be awful if it got on the feet. Mum usually had to take the pumice stone to our feet each evening, as that is about the only thing that would get it off.

The banana slugs are climbers, too. I still remember vividly bombing down a path a bit fast, and almost hitting a tree as I came around a corner. Of course, right at face level was a truly enormous banana slug - one of the ones pretty near a foot long. I back pedaled pretty quickly, I can tell you.

Christina Wilsdon said...

Banana slugs are pretty cool--especially as they generally are quite happy to live in the forests of the Pacific NW and don't appear in city backyard veggie gardens :) It's the European leopard slugs that ravish our plants. Ugh! I remember stepping on them on hot summer nights back East on Long Island. We mistakenly thought water was a good thing for trying to scrub it off--it actually makes it worse. Only learned upon moving West that paper towels, dry, do the trick.

I use diatomaceous earth (spelling?) sprinkled around a few of the plants, like chard, that are most susceptible to slug feasting--keeps the slugs at bay long enough to let the poor plants grow up. It's spendy, but goes a long way. Have you given that a whirl?

Tried beer traps once, but they were ill constructed, and I felt terrible checking them and seeing the carnage of ground beetles etc., but no slugs.

Goldielover said...

Actually, the banana slugs were all over the flower gardens. Probably liked the mulch. Plenty of the slightly smaller fat black slugs, too, which, for their size, do worse damage. They only run about three inches. Worst of all in my opinion were the ones which would crawl under the basement door, and end up dead on the concrete floor. At least where I live now I don't see much other than the very small greyish slugs, although those used to love my cabbages. I'd have to cut the cabbages up and inspect them very carefully before storing them, otherwise I risked finding live slugs in my fridge. Nothing like finding a live slug in the fridge first thing in the morning.

Jane Badger said...

Cannot imagine a slug a foot long - the ones we think of as monsters here are field slugs and they're a maximum of 6 inches. And they stay firmly on the ground (though I lived in a damp university house once and my flatmate put on her wellington to discover a slug inside).

Thanks for the tip about Diatom Christina. I have some for the hens (sprinkle in nesting boxes and on the floor of the hen house). I'll definitely try that.

Goldielover I can see that finding a slug in the fridge would colour your day. Good story though.

Skiffle.cat said...

Not nice - stroking your fluffy cat and finding a slug umbedded in its fur.

Ick.

Christina Wilsdon said...

ugh, Goldielover, I have indeed had the privilege of finding slugs in the refrigerator...yuk! (My brother found one once at the bottom of his coffee mug...) And I guess I forgot to note that our back yard is far away from the primeval forest, otherwise I am quite sure the banana slugs would've made mincemeat of our flowers too! They just can't get to it! (They're cool to watch in the forest, faaaaaar away from my chard...)

Jane Badger said...

Ugh Skiffle.... ugh. Poor cat!

I would love to see the banana slugs, in their native habitat, she adds hastily.

Goldielover said...

Well, if you ever get out to the west coast of Canada, try to visit the west coast of Vancouver Island. That portion of the Island is temperate rainforest, and that's where I've seen the biggest banana slugs. It was near Tofino, in what is now the Pacific Rim National Park where I had that face to face confrontation with that giant slug in the tree. The ones in slightly dryer areas run a bit smaller.

Christina, yes, our back yard did abut onto a forested area, which was why we had the banana slugs. Haven't seen a leopard slug yet, even although they have apparently moved into Southern Ontario. I think I'd prefer not to.

Sue Howes said...

My garden is surrounded by a dry stone wall. It's a lovely wall, with ferns and lichen etc. and I'm very fond of it. But so are the SLUGS! We have a lot of slugs. I have tried growing things like campanulas and lupins but it's too disheartening.
Somebody gave me a book called 50 ways to kill a slug and I am ashamed to say there was only one method in there which I hadn't already tried (and failed with). The one I hadn't tried was so silly (and would have slimed up my washing line) that I refused to try it.
We have invented several new games involving slugs - you do have to make your own entertainment out in the sticks - but I'm not sure they will ever be Olympic sports ha ha!

Jane Badger said...

OK. I need to know. WHAT were you doing with the washing line? And what slug sports have you come up with?