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Slug Strategies

February 6, 2012

I missed Seedy Saturday in Qualicum last weekend, holding down the couch and nursing a persistent cold.  Instead, my gardening inspiration today is coming from the book One Magic Square, by Lolo Houbein (a kind of Aussie Carolyn Herriot).  Lolo’s book, among others, has me thinking of how I’m going to arrange the garden this spring.  We have four raised beds, but one is completely devoted to strawberries that produce June – September.  That leaves three raised beds for rotation, plus a selection of containers (for carrots) and a border for perennials and edible flowers (borage, calendula, pansies, and nasturtiums). 

I’m thinking of planting the beds like this:

  1. garlic and green onions, bush beans and beets, plus salad greens (lettuce, spinach, fennel, dill, parsley, arugula). When it gets too hot for salad greens the squash will go in here.
  2. peas (Last year we grew these in Sea Soil, and ate them fresh from the vine by the handful, plus shared with friends and had them in salads and stir-fries May – August. Well worth devoting a whole bed to.)
  3. broccoli and radishes now, then tomatoes are going to get a fair amount of space, since they taste amazing home-grown and are a favourite of the Big Guy.

Lolo’s book is worth checking out for the unconventional planting designs she suggests.  So much more interesting than straight rows!  I’ll post pictures as our beds develop.

The last few years we have had cool, wet Springs, so I’m interested in building a cold frame.  Either plastic sheeting draped over plastic tubes bent into a U shape at either end of the bed, or wood supporting an old window, will help keep seedlings warm and encourage them to grow if the weather stays cool.  Another idea I’m going to try is starting seedlings in toilet paper tubes so they will be a bit more robust when set out.  I have a problem with slugs, little grey monsters that devour everything!  Last year I planted rows of broccoli and beans which sprouted, then were eaten down to stalks at soil level by these voracious, slimy creatures.  I am fine with a bit of sharing in the garden, allowing a little foraging by wee beasties, but they can’t decimate everything before it even has a chance to get past its first leaves!

Another option for discouraging slugs, apparently, is coffee grounds, which luckily we have in abundance (being sleep-deprived by shift work and child-rearing makes coffee a necessity for surviving these days).  Sprinkling coffee grounds on top of the soil after planting the seedling-containing toilet paper tubes will hopefully deter the slime brigade. (Before you mention it, I did try dishes of beer last summer, but the slugs seemed to belly up to the bar after enjoying my germinated beans, then stumbled (?) home un-entrapped.)

Finally, one day the chickens will be let out to gobble early slug hatchlings and dig in the garden beds at the same time.  While we tease the chickens about not being very bright, they have been slowly digging around the perimeter of their run, trying to find a way into the untested space beyond.  We joke when we come home that they hiss, “Act normal!” to each other, and resume their scratching and pecking in the centre of the run, when moments before they’d been digging frantically near the gate to the outside…  Hopefully the chickens and a little help before the seedlings get set out will help us realize a bumper crop of broccoli, radishes and lettuces in the next couple of months, and beans in the summer.

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