Sunday, 3 July 2011

2011 - The Year of the Slug & Snail

It's about ten years since I've seen such a plague of slugs and snails. Generally we keep on top of the population by leaving beds uncovered during the winter and turning them so the frost kills the eggs, plus using raised beds and where possible using varieties which are slug resistant. In my first year growing potatoes I was horrified to discover my Charlotte potatoes (the leaves) literally covered in a carpet of slugs, so since then I've been more careful. But the two months of wet weather recently has allowed them to thrive so today I bought some nuclear strength slug pellets rather than the more environmentally friendly ones I normally use. Don't like it, but as this point it's a choice between growing food solely for the slugs or food for me. I choose me.

Above is a good example of what the slugs or snails (don't know which) have done to the lettuces. Every leaf gone, the centre cored out. This lettuce may or may not survive, but you can see above that the beasties have targeted only the green lettuces, apparently the red ones are not as tasty.
They've eaten things they don't normally bother with, such as parsnips. Fortunately I did a second sowing a couple of weeks ago and they are now coming through, so with additional protection I should still get some parsnips this year. The roll of honour of the plants fallen in battle includes 2 runner beans, some leeks, spring onions, radishes, all the parsley, all the coriander, most of the cabbage, all but 3 of the broccoli, 4 courgettes, and 2 pumpkins.

Still, I am an optimist by preference and the gaps in my beds have given me the opportunity to try a few new things. Above are two pepper plants, which I will grow under a cloche. Next door to these are two mini cucumbers - I'm determined to crack the cucumber problem and with a gap in the bed I bought two little plants to try out.
I was left with only 12 summer cabbage plants and 3 purple sprouting broccoli, so I also took the opportunity to buy more brassicas. I've got winter cabbage, red cabbage and some cauliflower. Again, cauliflower is something I've never tried, it does have a reputation for being difficult and I'm not sure if our soil will be right, but I've nothing to lose (except £1.75 for 8 plants). All the brassicas are now in, watered, surrounded by a pallisade of slug pellets and under a net to protect against the cabbage butterflies, which are already fluttering by.
The second sowing of peas have germinated but in the process I discovered once again that I really can't sow in a straight line. So Other Half had to build a support frame with a bend in the middle (note the bent willow on the left hand side) to deal with my inadequacies.
But every cloud has a silver lining. Last year our broad beans failed completely as we had a drought at exactly the wrong time for them. This year the rain came at the perfect time and we have a bumper crop - this is the first picking, lots more to come. Tomorrow all the first early potatoes will come up and I will finish the currant picking (I hope!).

It's very frustrating to spend time nurturing plants only to see them destroyed in a matter of hours. This year it has been literally a case of "here today, gone tomorrow", but I think that half the interest of gardening (fun might be too strong a word right now!) is doing battle with whatever the weather throws at you.
But the rewards of all this work are plain to see. At this time of year there's nothing better than tucking into a bowl of home grown strawberries and cream.
And following on from my last post about the mole I met a few days ago, I went back a couple of days later and found a mole-shaped hole by the path. So it looks like my mole has taken up residence; a good choice, with a field on one side and the high grass bank of the road on the other. I hope it enjoys its new home.
Post a Comment