Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Desperate times need desperate measures

My inability to grow asparagus has been one of the most thoroughly depressing things about gardening here.  In the early "potager' days I planted asparagus in one bed, but after a particularly wet and disgusting winter the whole lot rotted in its first year.  Subsequent plantings in the big net house yielded a tantalising few tasty spears in year two (2016) which were treasured and savoured but nothing last year, and nothing this.

A third attempt was planted in the small cage by the greenhouse and appeared to grow very little last year when it should have been getting established and has done b*gger all this season.  All very depressing - a significant amount of time and money invested and nothing to eat.  Clearly I cannot grow asparagus, despite being told repeatedly that it is easy, and bomb proof and "a tough do-er".

But all is not completely lost - a well-timed inspection one morning revealed a whole ONE INCH tall juicy spear putting in an appearance - so the plants are not completely dead.  A few hours later I went back to check and there was nothing - nadda, zero, zilch.  Given that there's nothing in horticulture known to have a Cloak of Invisibility I pulled back some soil and found the sad remains of my juicy, succulent plant - with the unmistakable marks of slug teeth.   S'cuse the language:  f*ckin' little sods.

Clearly I can grow asparagus, just not as fast as the bloody slugs can eat it.  And eat they will - this year has been awful.  Two trays of leeks completely vanished yesterday.  A new Clematis montana stripped of every scrap of green, and much more devastation besides.  Last season every single runner bean and pea plant was destroyed, and the damage they did to our strawberry crop had me sitting in tears, wondering why the heck I bothered . . . Three years running I have lost every single Globe Artichoke plant . . .

I've tried nematodes - that was an expensive waste of money which appeared to do nothing.  I've tried the night-time prowl with torch and bucket of salty water, but in a garden this size it's an impossible task. We don't want chickens - they would eat slugs, and everything else that's small and juicy (salad leaves, asparagus spears . . . )  I've tried "safe and organic" slug pellets but they are clearly "safe" for slugs because I've not found anything which works, and beer traps are fine in principle but in practice this garden is too big for them to be maintained effectively.   The traditional blue pellets (which do work) have been banned from my garden for as long as I can remember - far too risky with Ollie and Daisy around, and far too lethal for the wildlife we share our space with.  This year a Mistle Thrush has raised two chicks in the laurel hedge and they're clearing through snails at a remarkable rate if the empty shells are anything to go by - I absolutely cannot put poison into that food chain.

But I had a small epiphany and thanks to Mr Amazon, yesterday a much needed weapon arrived:



Yes, lethal blue slug pellets which I refused to use.  Because it has finally dawned on my small brain that whilst I cannot and never would spread these where dogs and birds could be affected, in the confines of the fruit cage and net-house from which winged creatures are banned I can poison the blasted gastropod molluscs which are intent on ravaging my crops.

Fingers crossed this makes a difference;  there will be no eating of asparagus for me this year, even if the pellets do work the plants are not strong enough to have any growth removed.  Guess that's my organic credentials completely shot to hell.  First Roundup to try and control the Ground Elder, and now Metaldehyde, but sadly, I can't think of any other way I'm going to beat the slugs . . .

It is disappointing to be going down this path, and whilst I'm never going to produce like Charles Dowding, I would like a few salad crops in the summer, and a couple of delicious luxuries.


Damage on a struggling asparagus stalk:




This morning you don't want to see photos.  Heck, I don't want to see photos . . . the scene of slaughter in the net-house is not suitable for pre-9.00pm watershed.  The size of some of the dead slugs is both foul and wonderful:  foul because, however much I try to appreciate all creatures, slugs are disgusting things, and wonderful because some of the dead are really big buggers.  When I get back from shopping this morning I plan to plant out lettuce and runner beans, and want to sow peas directly into the soil.  Having seen what's living in these beds waiting to eat soft and juicy leaves, there is absolutely no way any of these plants would survive without help









17 comments:

  1. Ugh, your slugs are gigantic in UK, unlike our dainty little ones, but I do believe that crushed up eggshells help & saucers of beer, so they can get sloshed & drown happy.(lol) Hope your new system keeps on working and you've lots of asparagus to eat. We are lucky, as Koo Wee Rup just south of here, is the asparagus capital of Australia, so is local & fresh in Spring. Take care.

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    1. Hi Susan, I won't describe some of the 'casulaties' I found this morning - Eunice would find it far too horrible!

      Crushed eggshells work, as do beer traps, but I being fortunate to have so much space, neither option is sustainable large scale.

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  2. I totally know how you feel, slugs have ate so much in my side garden this year, I too had banned the blue slug pellets, but had to relent to ensure I grow bedding plants. We built a frame for the whole bed to keep all the wildlife out, and those horrible blue pellets do work, I now have healthy plants in the bed. Now to sort the blasted Pigeons, they are nibbling on loads of lovely new shoots at the bottom of our garden, I did put up nets but the blighters get through it, it's a difficult area are birds and bees visit for food. As for all the naughty words you have used, I think I have said the same!! Hope you get your asparagus this year.

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    1. Thanks Marlene. I am also considering some removable frames for the [currently] unprotected areas - I hope I'm not conning myself but I reckon if we can keep birds away from the dead bodies then any risk from the blue pellets is much reduced.

      As for pigeons - more naughty words . . .

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    2. I had small frames made years ago for my beds, they work but did not look good, I might have to revisit that idea.

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  3. I'm so glad you didn't post any photos - I really really cannot stand slugs, they literally make my skin crawl, one reason why I never do any gardening as such. I saw two in a corner of the garden the other day when I was cutting the grass, I had to go away and do something else until I was sure they'd gone :( I'm sure they must have been spawned by the devil as only he could invent such nasty horrible creatures :( I hope your slug pellets work and you finally get the decent fruit and veg you want :)

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    1. And people wonder why I will not garden with bare hands . . . I know slugs are useful in that they help eat decomposing material but like you, I think they are ghastly creatures.

      A while ago I saw something online about some ridiculous expensive skin cream that contained slug slime ... holy cr*p on a cracker, that made me feel quite sick :-(

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  4. They really are the nadir of creatures. Snails are sort of cute and travel in family herds (which makes them cuter I think) but slugs are just a pain in the @rse. I did fine nematodes worked but as I'm using raised beds it may be they work better in a confined growing area. Good luck with your slug pellets and asparagus growing.

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    1. Hi K. Glad you had better luck with nematodes. We tried them in the vegetable raised beds but I think that the TONS of organic matter we've added over the years is now biting us on the bottom - we have probably created the ultimate in luxury slug habitat :-(

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  5. I had one monster slug in my food waste recycling bin even though the food waste is in bags, how it got in I have no idea. You have to do what you have to do Jayne and I hope you get a good crop of veg very soon.

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    1. Oh yuk, it probably got in as a small slug and became a monster eating all your food scraps! Thanks for the good wishes Eileen.

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  6. I have just spent a rather depressing hour going through the survivors in my greenhouse. Despite slug picking daily and sprinkling coffee grounds and garlic water - the b*******s still devoured my seedlings. SO ... instead of taking 28 each of the following - Scarlet kale, rainbow chard, spinach beet to the walled garden - I am taking the combined survivors of 18 veg plantlets. Sigh.

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    1. Oh sweetie, I feel your pain, I really really do. If my sums are right you have gone from 84 potential plants to 18 . . . sounds like the sort of level of carnage I have been experiencing.

      I haven't mentioned it yet but I've also put pellets in the greenhouse - there are screens on the door and windows to keep birds out.

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  7. It’s definitely slugmaggedon this year desire being so dry. Any hit if moisture and coolness and their armies emerge, WE found nematodes to be useless too. No good at all for large areas, Some remarked the other day that a pond is the answer to no slugs. We have a pond in the garden in which frogs greens and blackbirds galore, The allotment is surround by areas if water and we have lots of frogs, toads and newts. We also have a zillion, zillion slugs and snails.

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    1. Thanks Sue, Slug-Maggedon indeed. Like you we have plenty of water (three ponds should be enough!) and numerous frogs, roads, newts and birds to eat the slugs . . . I would have thought the extreme cold we had followed by so much dry weather should have killed lots of slugs & eggs, clearly nature thinks otherwise.

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  8. Sorry about the slugs. I seem to be over run by either voles or moles. Something digging holes into my bank and eating hosta roots. Saw a woodchuck the other day in the yard and he was munching on a plant in my flower bed. Was just out there and EVERY new shoot has been chomped. Now to try to figure out what to do. Doesn't seem to bother any of the other plants.

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    1. Hi Sue, so depressing to come out and find every new shoot on a plant has been eaten away. Hope you can work out how to protect your plants.

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