The Cottage Smallholder

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Slug challenge 2010 and seedlings


Photo: Slugs are not allowed in this garden

Photo: Slugs are not allowed in this garden

Our basic electric propagator has been brought into service again as I’m really keen to get my tomatoes and peppers started early this year. Also I wanted to sow the Florian strawberry seeds to get a May/June crop. The propagator hasn’t got a thermostat but it is a real little cracker. Germinating seeds very quickly. This year they seem to have germinated even more rapidly – perhaps using rainwater to water them is helping? I’m also using biodynamic techniques and sowing, planting and tending by the moon this year – which is supposed to produce bigger, stronger plants and increase yields.

Each morning we lift the propagator lid and marvel.
“We have seven strawberry seedlings and look the thyme has germinated in just three days.”
The biodynamic tomato seeds that I bought from LunarOrganics are amazing. They germinated fast and are really strong little seedlings. I love this time of year – nurturing my baby plants and planning future harvests.

Yesterday morning I lingered in the kitchen garden and had a peep under the giant cloches. The germination of the carrots – sowed in October has been minimal. The broad beans are doing well but the peas that had been my pride and joy were looking very thin on the ground. I assumed that they’d been guzzled by slugs. There are still a few plants left so I shot back to the barn to find out of date beer and set two traps in the cloche. Thank you Joe!

This morning I woke early and hurried eagerly down to see how many slugs had enjoyed the final party of a lifetime. I discovered that either we have teetotal slugs or they were chomping elsewhere last night. I’m going to place traps all over the kitchen garden today to lure those pesky molluscs. I’ve had great results with sour milk in the past so I might try that as well. The problem with the milk is that it attracts the Min Pins so it has to be put down when they are safely tucked up in bed and removed before they step into the garden in the morning.

It’s great to have a new challenge for 2010. Those slugs won’t know what has hit them.

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  1. Slugs eating landcress, amazing! In my garden it grows, and grows, and self-seeds, and grows. The slugs eat the celery leaf, carrots, and most other things. Last autumn I finally pulled out the 4 or 5 year old landcress since it had self seeded so effectively. I kept the landcress going by cutting it back regularly–well, often, not really regularly! Does anyone know if you can use it like watercress in soup? Or ways of using it other than in salad? I do use the flowers in salad as well as leaves.
    As for slugs, I try to remember to have a bucket with some very salty water with me when I am weeding so any slugs and snails go in it. Next day it goes on the compost heap. Later I see snails where I have spread compost and then discover they are empty shells.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Cath

    Oh thank you for that tip. We don’t watch telly so I miss lots of hints and tips. I’ve discovered that I can watch the River Cottage series on my laptop so I’ll check this one out.

    I unearthed a really old enclosed slug trap in the green house yesterday and set it up immediately. It was empty this morning so I reckon that Jo is right it is mice.

    Hi Jo

    Happy New Year!

    I did wonder about mice. We have several colonies in the garden. So I’ve taken your advice and set traps. This morning the cheese had gone from one trap. These mice are clever!

    Thanks for all your slug tips. I must check out that book. Have just checked your photo stream. It looks so pretty but must have been a nightmare coping alone.

    Hi Barbara

    I use my eggshells as a rose fertiliser! I must get on top of the slug problem this year as we are planning to sell some of the crops. Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Denise

    I might resort to using nematodes this year but it would be expensive as we have such a large plot. Thanks for the nudge. I’m also looking into companion anti slug planting.

    Hi Mandi

    That’s a brilliant idea. I love going through skips!

    Hi Paula

    Copper roof flashing – great idea. I’m going to check out the reclaimed builder’s merchants.

    Hello Audrey

    Fantastic idea – I’ll have a look in the market today!

    Hi Bobquail

    Good idea using the copper ribbon on drinks bottle cloches. Lunar Organics point out in the little book that goes with their calendar that caterpillars hate the smell of tomato plants so you try planting some in amongst the land cress – that’s what I’m going to do this year.

    All my broad bean seeds germinated. 50% is disappointing, what a shame. Like you I’m going to try some spring sown broad beans too – another first for me!

  3. bobquail

    Last year we bought some copper tape to put around plant pots. It seemed to help. For plants in the garden rather than pots, I cut short tubes from plastic drinks bottles and wrapped tape around those. I put them over seedlings so the slugs couldn’t get to them.

    We have lots of spare roof slates so I’ll probably put those down with a jam jar of beer underneath as a slug trap.

    Now I just need something to stop caterpillars from eating the land cress – in 2 years of planting it, I rarely end up with enough to eat myself 🙁

    On the subject of germinating, just under half of my november-planted broad beans have germinated. I’ll plant a few more in the spring so I’ll see what kind of difference I get from the 2 crops.

  4. You could try one of those brass coloured metal scouring pads. Make a hole in the middle and pull it out into a circle to put round the plants. Can be re-used again and again.

  5. Hi Fiona-

    Copper is indeed the best way to deter slugs. You put it in once, and they won’t cross it. Then you don’t have to deal with nasty containers of fermenting slug carcasses. I like the copper pipe idea- expensive initially if you have to buy it, but really pretty permanent. I used copper roof flashing around the top of my one raised bed last year, and it worked the charm here in Oregon. Maybe this year I’ll be able to plant some Tagetes with my tomatoes. I did last year before I read that slugs LOVE tagetes. And yes, they ate them all.

  6. We don’t have many slugs or snails in the garden as we have a fish pond with quite a few frogs which I suppose scamper round in the night and scoff them all, ( I just have to stop the cats scoffing the frogs)
    But when I built my 2 raised vegetable beds I screwed lengths of old copper pipe that we had ripped out of the house when doing the central heating to the top edge of each bed. I’ve never had a single slug or snail in the veggies since the day they were built!
    You could always go on a midnight skip hunt looking for skips outside houses that are being ripped apart and gather enough old copper pipe to surround your veggy gardens … snails hate copper

  7. When it comes to slugs, my garden must be the UK’s slug central. After trying all the usual simple measures for keeping the blighters off my produce I finally resorted to nematode treatments. This isn’t a cheap option unless you are losing large amounts of produce each year to slugs, and find yourself having to buy lots of extra veg to make up. It does have the bonus of being considered an organic option. You probably know all about it already, but I thought I’d mention it. I found it to be a godsend last year.

  8. I have had some success with eggshells. I stack them in a pot by the sink, and when that gets full they are dry so I put them in a bag and crush them. Then I keep them in a box till I plant out lettuce and put them in a wide ring around each plant. I have had no luck trying to put them around a bed or a group of plants, probably because so many slugs live under the ground and come up inside the eggshell ring. Protecting each plant with eggshells in a ring that starts at the stem and is as wide as needed, at least 2 or 3 inches works better. But a year’s supply of eggshell doesn’t go very far, so Organic Slug Death is also necessary, and slug hunts when I have the energy.

  9. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    Hi there Fiona – Happy New Year! (And thanks for the lovely e-card, as I wasn’t able to get out to post anything for either Christmas or New Year, Tony has bought us an e-card account – but I digress…!).

    Have you considered that it might be mice & not slugs at all, that are doing the damage? I lost the majority of my peas to mice the other year & very frustrating it was too, as they’d been going ‘great guns’ up to that point. Might be worth putting in a mouse trap alongside the slug traps!

    Mind you we often get a sluggy plague here; & have various means of attack. We’ve got a great little book called “Fifty Ways to Kill a Slug” by Sarah Ford (ISBN 0 600 60858) – as it’s under a fiver it might make a great little prize for one of your competitions – I’m sure many a gardener would thank you..!!).

    I did try saving all my eggshells one winter, drying them in the simmering oven in the Rayburn & crunching them up then painstakingly sprinkling the shells around the border of each plot; but all that happened was the birds scattered the pieces everywhere.

    Soot mixed with ashes & lime is pretty good – it clogs gastropods’ mucous membranes – but needs to be reapplied after rain. Sawdust, grit, sand & even hair are reasonably effective barriers too.

    Or feed them, instead: oat bran swells inside them & kills them. Or if you have grapefuit for breakfast leave the shells around the garden – they love it; & can be disposed of while feasting. It’s a shame about the Minpins or you could leave them cat food – not only do slugs love it, it also encourages hedgehogs – which of course also eat slugs. Not quite my idea of a gourmet meal, though!

    Whilst I don’t currently have any sluggish tips on my Blog I have added a Flickr Photostream so that people can see just what a challenge it was here managing the ffarm alone, snowed in for almost a month….I could certainly do with a bit of pampering now Tony’s back home from his business trip.

  10. Hi…i’m delurking but for a just cause. it was only last night we watched good old hugh, from river cottage, and his show about slugs. he made a point of saying that the slug traps worked better when they put an old pitched tile over the top. for some reason the slugs loved the beery hidey hole, where they didn’t like the open traps at all. i just thought maybe this may be of help to you. fingers crossed!

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