Killing slugs with kindness

The one where I turn to drink to solve my sluggish problems.

My vegan friend Gabriel realised how I deploy my effective slug and snail ‘meet and great’ campaign in early evening each year, and he wasn’t that impressed.

I tried to point out that it meant that I would be able to have fresh homegrown vegetables and a bee-friendly flower garden, but still, his mock-upset at my slug and snail social calendar made me wonder whether those squishy pests could be persuaded to stop their destructive deeds by some other means.

I admit that I’ve also used pellets in the past, but with the increase of birds, cats, and that hedgehog in my garden, I decided that I needed to try to find an alternative solution.

I’d often thought of beer traps, but as a non-drinker, buying beer felt sickening, but the idea of pouring it into the garden felt like justice, so I thought that I would give it a go. Would it work?

Then came a timely email offer from Suttons..

Beer Traps

I snapped up four green plastic beer traps from Suttons Seeds, and reluctantly bought some Carlsberg from a supermarket, and then set out to plant the traps in my garden.

They’re pretty simple in construction – a tube, with an inner sleeve. The inner sleeve has a small hole in the bottom, and a little tilting top flap connected to it.

Green plastic beer trap for slugs
The plastic beer trap

The hole allows you to lift out the inner sleeve and drain the beer into the bottom tube, so that you can tip out your drunken slug and snail victims. You can then place the inner sleeve back in, and the beer re-enters it.

The little plastic flap, which looks like some kind of parasol, is actually to stop the rain getting in a diluting the beer, but might also stop birds and slow down evaporation a little.

I used a dibber to make the holes for each trap, setting them in areas of the garden where I’d seen the most brazen slugs, or where I’d planted things that were at risk of slug damage.

Slug beer trap set in garden
The beer traps were easy to insert into the ground with a dibber.

With the traps in position, I poured the Carlsberg in up to about half-way level, and clicked the flap/lid back into position.

beer trap with carlsberg inside.
The slug beer trap with Carlsberg added. I’ll never make a barman.

I then tweeted that the new Slug Bar was open, with free beer for slugs and snails (so that word was out!).

The traps were set…

I returned a few days later.

After draining out the four traps, and tipping the contents out onto the sunny path, I think there must have been about 120 slugs of all colours and sizes. They were dead. Their brief alcohol addiction and caused them to get drunk and fall into the beer – drowning them with kindness.

This also taught me that snails were not susceptible to the beer traps, so the joy of the ‘meet and greet’ can resume (in secret obvs), in a bid to actually have any plants in the garden.

As for the slug corpses, the birds didn’t seem that excited by them, and i eventually swept them into the border, ironically to feed the plants they would have otherwise eaten.

I’ve only ever seen/heard the hedgehog in the garden once, long after I’d stopped using pellets, so hopefully it’ll return and help to keep the slug population down.

How do you combat slugs and snails in your garden? Surely we’re not all throwing them over our neighbours’ fences?

Thanks for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew

Slug photo by David Short via CreativeCommons

Sowing Courgette, Squash, and Nasturtium seeds

With Spring in full force, it’s time to get the courgette and squash seeds sown.

The weather has been much more spring-like these last few days, with a few days of sunshine, and nature is bounding ahead with lush green foliage. I’m even potentially going to need to cut my lawn again.

Apparently there’s a ‘heat wave’ (by UK standards) next week. Although it’s chilly today, I headed to the shed with some more seeds, to get a few more sown.

Sowing Squash

First up was my Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ – I grew this for the first time last year, and whilst it completely invaded my garden – grabbing every plant, twig, and blade of grass in the garden as it spread 20 feet, it gave me about a dozen big yellow squashes to eat. In fact, I’ve still got two in storage, and they seem fine.

The largest Squash 'Spaghetti Stripetti' a few weeks ago.
The first Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ early July 2017.

My initial sowing last year saw me grow two, but after one being snapped by wind within hours of putting it out, and a second one being re-sown, it was really only the one surviving original plant that I needed – and it took over.

This year, I’ve sown just one seed on its edge (apparently helping to avoid it rotting off when being watered from above) in some multipurpose compost. I expect this to germinate in just a couple of days.

Sowing Courgettes

This is joined by 3 Courgette ‘Zucchini F1 Hybrid’ seeds. This is the first time I have grown this variety, as I’d always stuck to growing the ‘Black Beauty’ type, but let’s see how this one gets on.

a courgette and flower growing
Some sunshine and rain are all it needs to swell the fruit and open that Courgette flower.

Last year, I sowed 6 plants, and had a total glut of 45 courgettes weighing in at more than 15.5kg.

Whilst I’d like some courgettes, I don’t think i’ve eaten a single one since the end of last year!

Sowing Nasturtiums

I like nasturtiums, but have had trouble growing them in the past. Their bright yellows, oranges, and red flowers, with their greeny-blue waxy leaves attract a lot of useful insects into the garden – namely the hoverflies – which can then help address any aphid issues.

Sadly, they also attract the Cabbage White Butterfly, and their caterpillars can demolish a soft and tender nasturtium plant in a few hours.

A caterpillar eating a Nasturtium leaf
Caterpillars soon much their way through Nasturtiums.

I’ve found an older packet of Nasturtium ‘Whirlybird Mix’ seeds, so I’ve planted a dozen of these, hoping that at least a few will make it up out of the compost and eventually into the garden where they can climb and flower, bringing in those important hoverflies, without getting gobbled up too quickly by caterpillars.

Thanks again for reading, and I hope that you’ve had a happy weekend of gardening.

Andrew.

The Minibel Tomatoes begin to ring in the harvest but the Squash comes under attack

The Minibel Tomatoes begin to crop, but the Squash and Courgettes are under attack from white mildew that threatens to kill them.

My Tomato ‘Minibel’ plants are beginning to regularly provide me with some juicy red cherry tomatoes, a little over 4 months after I sowed them.

They’ve been a tough grow as usual, because they are desperate to fall over 10 times a day, particularly when there’s no breeze, and they’re always fried. I go through this each year, but this year seems to be the first one where I’ve got quite a few tomatoes on the plant.

These were the first batch of red 'Minibel' tomatoes of 2017.
These were the first batch of red ‘Minibel’ tomatoes of 2017.

I’ve already enjoyed eating my first batch of red tomatoes, but there’s plenty of green ones yet to ripen.  When I look back to 2013 at my previous house, it wasn’t until the middle of September that this variety would finally yield a crop. However, that was a shadier garden, and these are in the south-facing garden for most of the day, being roasted by the sunshine.

The tomatoes have overcome blackfly, which I only gave one treatment of the old washing-up liquid wash too.

Blackfly on Tomato 'Minibel' plants
Spot the Blackfly marching up and down the Tomato ‘Minibel’ plant. Their sap sucking holiday came to an end.

I eat a lot of salads, so it’s been great to get to now pick tomatoes, that go alongside my home grown lettuce leaves. I’ve learnt that the slugs in my garden don’t seem to like red leaf lettuce, or a crinkly variety that were both in the old ‘sow by 2012’ Erin seed kit that I almost threw away, but gave a chance and grew a forest.

A red leaf lettuce planted out.
The slugs don’t seem to like these red-leafed lettuces that I planted in my new veg garden back in May 2017. I’ll grow some more.

So, now that a few of these plants have bolted, and it feels like the plants are getting a bit old, I’m aiming at sowing some more of these this week so that I can extend my season.

Victor: Mildew

Sadly, on the other side of the garden, the Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’ plant is under attack, and as it is now covering about 15 feet radius, it’s looking a bit sad. The outer edges are still roaring across my lawn, with wide open flowers, and more little squashes forming (i’m up to about 10 now, from one plant). The culprit this time is the frosty white powery layer called Mildew.

Mildew coats each leaf and blots out the sunshine, therefore slowing down the plants ability to photosynthesise, and therefore it dies. I’ve seen this before, when it killed off some of my courgettes at my old house, but this time it really has taken hold, and fast.

When the Squash and the Courgettes began to rapidly grow, I did realise that they were too close together, but as they were so desperate to go outside (having been waiting for my house move), I decided to let them go out whilst I followed up with creating the rest of the garden around them.

The downside to this close planting is that the compact space in which their leaves have grown, means that the cool breeze has not been able to get amongst the leaves and dry them – resulting in this damp environment where this mildew mold (it’s a fungi) can thrive.

Mildew on Squash and Courgette plant leaves.
The white powdery Mildew has taken hold of my Squash and Courgette plants. Left, it’ll starve the plant of sunshine and kill it.

I’ve bought some spray (coincidentally the one recommended by the RHS), and I’ve sprayed most of the infected leaves, and the nearby Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants, and hope that the plant stays alive long enough to finish ripening its many squashes. I’ve also previously given it a spray with watered down milk – I read online somewhere that this introduces a protein that kills the mildew… but I don’t think my skimmed milk is really going to help much.

My garden looks a bit like a winter wonderland… but hopefully it’ll live long enough to reward me with my first ever crop of squashes.

Any ideas to deal with the mildew is gladly received, but in the meantime, thanks for reading, and happy gardening.

Andrew

Dealing with Blackfly and Rosemary Beetles

The Courgettes are thriving but they’ve come under attack from blackfly, and the Rosemary has a beetle infestation.

The sun has absolutely been blazing over the last couple of weeks, so this has meant a lot of running around with watering cans desperately trying to save the plants that are waiting to be planted out; the plants that can’t be planted out because the ground is like concrete; and the plants that are planted out and roasted.

Blackfly on the Courgette plants

Today, whilst on my watering can round (i need a hosepipe, don’t i?), I spotted some familiar friends have arrived to celebrate what looks like a bumper crop from my Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants.

courgette flower buds with blackfly
The Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ flower buds are covered in Blackfly.

On the flower buds were the little black things, with the occasional ant running around. Yes, it’s the blackfly!

I’ve already had these visiting my Tomato ‘Minibel’ plants, but they’ve now migrated to the four courgette plants in my raised bed (the other two are a few metres away, but have a companion plant by luck).

Blackfly on Tomato 'Minibel' plants
Spot the Blackfly on the Tomato ‘Minibel’. Their sap sucking holiday will come to an end.

I’ve not suffered with slugs and snails in this raised bed, and I’m wondering whether this is because i put some copper tape around most of it, or whether it’s because the wood of the bed is pretty rough. Either way, this doesn’t stop blackfly, but it would mean it’s a good place to plant the protective Marigold French ‘Orange’ plants – cheap and cheery – and something the blackfly don’t like. This seems to have helped the tomatoes, otherwise, i’ll be getting the soapy mister out again to spray them with.

The beetles: live at the Rosemary

Whilst watering my patio, where several plants sit waiting to be potted up, I then noticed some elaborately black and gold-y looking beetles in the replacement Rosemary plant that I had to buy when the big old one didn’t survive the house move ;(.

rosemary plant with rosemary beetles infesting it
My new Rosemary plant is being invaded by these pearlescent Rosemary Beetles. Pretty, but they’ll seriously damage it.

It needed a good soak, but curious of what these beetles were, I googled them and discovered that they are specifically Rosemary Beetles (or Chrysolina americana) and have only been known in the UK since the 1990s. The RHS knew all about them, and also have a survey (which i’ve just filled in).
Despite their name, apparently they’re also not restricted to rosemary, and may well spread to Lavender, Sage, and other aromatic plants. I really don’t need that, as I have plenty of those plants, and last weekend was establishing a herb garden area (i’ll show this off soon).

Whilst they spoke of insecticides, I’ve opted at this point for a thorough shake and flick method, and a meet and greet with my shoe, which is still very successful with the slugs and snails. It feels like such a shame to kill them, as they’re quite pretty, but this new rosemary plant is suffering before it’s even been planted out.

Anyway, elsewhere in the garden there are lots of things growing, and I’ll be sharing a few of these – including the first harvest photos, in my next post.

Happy gardening, and if you have to go out in the sun, make sure you wear suncream and/or a hat out there!

Thanks for reading – Andrew.

 

The first Rose blooms in the new garden

The first Rose is flowering in the garden.

A couple of months ago, I planted out three Roses that I’d bought from a local market. I’d carefully picked out ones classed as ‘fragrant’ or ‘very fragrant’.

This week, after weeks of watching them grow and develop buds, one of them decided to flower.

Here’s the Rose Just Joey budding up on 29th May.

Rose 'Just Joey' budding up.
Rose ‘Just Joey’ on bud.

Aphid attack

As you might be able to spot, the aphids found that rose bud, so armed with a plant mister, some water and a little washing-up liquid, I up-sprayed it to the underside of the leaves and lightly over the buds.

This seemed to get rid of the aphids, who disappeared overnight, and I was pleased to find a ladybird on a different rose bush in the front garden (fingers crossed it’s texted it’s friends to the party). Hopefully they’ll munch their way through any more aphids now that they’ve found a few.

Yesterday, the large, delicate, pinky-peach petals opened and although the rose is quite short in its first year, and the flower isn’t at nose height, the flower is wonderfully fragrant.

Here’s the same bud on 8th June.

A Rose 'Just Joey' fragrant flower.
The fragrant bloom of Rose ‘Just Joey’ is the first rose to flower in the garden.

It looks and smells wonderful, and hopefully some more of the roses are going to open very soon.

As ever, thanks for reading and have a happy gardening weekend,

Andrew

The Courgettes are coming!

I’m beginning to drool as the Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants are beginning to flower and form baby courgettes, but the garden pests are queuing up.

Great news! The Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants are busy flowering and they’re beginning to show signs of growing actual courgettes. All plants are doing well, after desperately needing to be planted out and getting into a tangled mess on my windowsills.

This was one of the courgettes in the raised bed on Monday.

Courgette 'Black Beauty' forming courgettes
I can’t wait for these plants to start yielding courgettes.

..and by Wednesday (today), after some sunshine and rain, it’s up to this:

a courgette and flower growing
Some sunshine and rain are all it needs to swell the fruit and open that Courgette flower.

It’s still only about 3cm long, but hopefully this will soon become the first of the courgettes for me to harvest. The first thing to take from my garden and eat. I’m really looking forward to it.

Courgettes have male and female flowers. It’s somewhat of a delicacy to eat these flowers – stuffed or deep fried amongst other ways. However, I like to let them get on with their job, and make me lots of courgettes. Today i bought what is hopefully my final courgettes for the kitchen.

Note the ant on the second courgette plant photo. One of the other courgette plants (straight in the ground, rather than the raised bed) has ands on it, and when I looked closer, I saw that there is also some blackfly. Apparently ants like to feed on blackfly, and will often ‘protect’ the blackfly from other predators like ladybirds in a bid to guarantee their own food source. A quick wash with the watering can removes all, but they’ll come back soon enough to suck the sap of the plant and therefore put it under stress.

I don’t want this, so i’ve looked for a deterrent, and I’ve found two companion plants – Marigolds and Chives. So, on my way home, I popped into my local Tesco to discover their bedding plants in various stages of being killed off – drowned vs baked vs snapped vs shoved in a trolley with too many shelves. I plucked out 12 abused Marigold French (Orange) plants reduced down to a total of £2. I tried growing Marigolds from seed before, but the germination was poor, and they’re so cheap to buy.

Marigold French Orange plants from Tesco.
These abused Tesco Marigold ‘French’ (Orange) plants will soon bounce back.

I came home and planted some of them out near the courgettes, but also near the Tomato Minibel plants, which have begun attracting blackfly too.

 

Tulips in the wind

The Tulips are in bloom, the seeds are sown, and the snails are marauding.

I’ve been delayed this year as I’ve been busy doing a ton of other things instead, but I’ve set some seeds and they now start their merry crusade.

I’ve just set the seeds for a few of the plants I want to grow this year. There’s no ‘new faces’ this time.

Before I go into detail, I’ve had a quick look around my garden to see what’s going on this week. The Tulip ‘Negrita’ bulbs are all flowering, and the Broom ‘Cytisus Scoparius’ and Forsythia are all teetering on the edge of opening their yellow flowers.  This is a welcome blast of colour in the garden, where the only other colours are green, silver (the latter from the Cineraria that’s still going strong from 2 years ago!).

Tulip 'Negrita'
Tulip ‘Negrita’
Broom 'Cytisus Scoparius' is on the verge of blooming.
Broom ‘Cytisus Scoparius’ is on the verge of blooming.

I’ve sown some more French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ as they have never failed to provide me with a nice regular crop of green beans.

Joining them are Sweet Pea ‘Floral Tribute Mixed’. Sweet Peas have been struggling in my garden – partly at the wrath of slugs, snails, and aphids, but mainly at the wrath of wind and sun – those that survive being nibbled through, go on to be blown to bits or fried before they get very far up the canes to flower.

Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mix’ return – the hover fly’s (and sadly caterpillar’s) favourite. I lure the hoverflies in because they eat a vast amount of aphids that attack the roses and the sweet peas.

The final sowing today has been more of the wonderful flat-leaf Parsley ‘Laura’ – which aside from being very good for you, is also wonderful with scrambled egg (and i eat a lot of eggs).

Parsley 'Laura' - just 20 days old.
Parsley ‘Laura’ – it will be ready in about 20 days.

It took me just a few minutes to sow these into pots, plop them into the propagator on my spare room windowsill, and give them that all important first watering in.

The next bit, is up to fate.

Last year’s Aubrieta ‘Cheeky Mix’ are ready to be planted out, having survived wind, constant rain, and a marauding wheelie bin.

I’ve decided that the slug and snail ‘meet and greet’ sessions need to begin now, as the Hollyhock ‘Single Mixed’ that I bought the other week, has already sustained heavy damage, and I haven’t planted it out yet. I thought it’s hairy stems might exclude it from the slug and snails’ menu… but it seems they found a way to get to the leaves by scaling nearby pots. I’ve moved it away from them, as I don’t think they’d jump or parachute in.

Hollyhock Single Mixed - snail battered
Hollyhock ‘Single Mixed’ – snail attacked

In other news, my neighbour has cut back a big piece of a large tree in her garden, and this has really let a lot of light in. I wonder how this will affect the garden? More light, yes, but more wind too?

Plants vs Snails – the endless war

Snails.
Yes, SNAILS. Where the hell do they all keep coming from?

This week has been hot and sunny. This weekend is going to have to be one of planting out and potting up.

I came home the other day to discover that the plants on one of my windowsills had all wilted, but they’ve all seemingly recovered again after a quick soak. Phew! These plants are going to have to be planted out, or they’ll become too lanky or stressed to do anything.

In my last post I noted that I’d planted out my new Lupin ‘The Governor’ plant. Prior to this, there were no snails to be seen. However, knowing what they’ve been like previously, I decided to circle the new lush green plant with some special ‘fizzy sweets’. It worked a treat. The next morning I checked the plant and it was relatively unscathed, but surrounded with abandoned shells.

That evening, I checked again, to find 15 snails within 1 foot of the plant. I swiftly aided them on their way, but it begs me to ask where the hell do all these snails come from?

Despite this, and through the desperation they’ve show to escape my windowsill, I have planted out some of the Sweet Pea ‘Candy Cane’, and the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ plants. This fills one of the cane structures nicely, and again i have circled each plant with those special treats for the snails. I’m hoping that the plants will soon become established, forcing the snails to leave them alone in favour of more tender juicy plants (ie weeds, or something in my neighbour’s garden).

Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrids Mixed'
One of the Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ plants.

I came home a littler earlier today, to find that some of my Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ plants that I had sowed back in June 2011, and had flowered in 2012, are flowering again. These are welcome in my garden. Not just because of their flower-coated spires that reach upwards, but because they are quite happy in the shade – something my garden gets a lot of.

Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant'
Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ – its stems reach up, with flowery bits every so often

Not far from the foxgloves, is my Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ plant with its soft blue flowers. I’ve checked back to see when the Foxgloves and Nepeta flowered last year – given that we’ve had some pretty rough weather in the first 4 months of the year, and it seems that they’re only about 10 days behind 2012.

This weekend should see the planting out of the rest of the Sweet Peas, the potting up of the Courgettes and Tomatoes, and perhaps the planting out of the Nasturtiums too. Fingers crossed for sunshine, please!

Sowing – Tomato, Courgette and Sweet Peas

The propagator has been filled with freshly sown seeds – ready to bring the garden to life in 2013.

Tonight I’ve continued the sowing of seeds for this year’s garden. Fuelled by another sunny drive home from work, I’m pretty satisfied that Spring has finally arrived.

Seeds in compost sitting inside a propagator
Tomato, Sweet Pea, Parsley and Courgette are ready to spring into life.

First up is something that I’ve not grown from seed before… a tomato. I’ve never been a massive fan of tomatoes but I was given some seed last year for Tomato ‘Minibel’ which grows happily in pots and produces cherry tomatoes. This ideal as I have little space to put them, and a few small fresh tomatoes will work well in the myriad of salads that my life consumes. Tomatoes are hungry things – so I’ll need to make sure that I use my fertiliser on them regularly in order to get the best out of them.

Tomatoes that never were
Spot the spider! 2010’s tomatoes looked good, but the wind soon flattened their hopes of producing any more than this.

My mother gave me some tomato plants back in 2010, and they did reasonably well, so this year I’ll put them in the same spot (gets the afternoon sunshine) and see what happens. Hopefully, like 2010, the wind won’t suddenly arrive and decimate them again.

Tomato 'Minibel' and Courgette 'Black Beauty'
Tomato ‘Minibel’ and Courgette ‘Black Beauty’

Speaking of which, I’ve also sown some more Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ seeds – just two – in a vain attempt to actually have courgettes as good as I had them back in 2010 when I was getting a bit of a backlog. For the last two years they have been disastrous – with mildew killing them off in 2011 after only about 2 fruits, and last year’s two dying – one from mildew again, and the other from a nice big healthy plant being chomped through the main stem by slugs and snails.

Hopefully these two harsh winters will have slowed the snails and slugs down even further, but I’ll have to keep an eye on them.

Compared to last year, it seems that I’m behind schedule. But with such cold weather, and now what seems to be full Spring ahead, I’m hoping that things will catch up. Besides, some of my plants (in hindsight) had gotten a bit ‘leggy’ because they’d been waiting too long indoors for the all-clear to go outside.

Caterpillars attack and the 2013 garden begins

Caterpillars begin their assault on the Nasturtiums, whilst I look towards bulbs for colour in Spring 2013.

I’ve just spotted a load of caterpillars clinging to my Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mixed’ plants. These plants have grown very vigorously this year, and although they haven’t (yet) had a vast number of flowers, the lush green leaves has obviously attracted the attention of butterflies – the Cabbage White by the looks of it. There’s nothing for it but to pick them off.

Cabbage White caterpillar on a Nasturtium leaf
Just one of many Cabbage White caterpillars on the Nasturtiums.

Looking forward to Spring 2013

The garden centres are now filling up with bulbs with many colourful blooms for your spring garden – so I’ve picked three new types for my garden – joining the Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ that triumphantly flowered for the first time this spring.

Crocus 'Giant Ruby' in bloom, Spring 2012
The Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs in Spring 2012.

First up are more crocuses. This time, rather than purple, I’ve gone for a striking yellow with Crocus ‘Golden Bunch’, which will reach up to 8cm with their yellow blooms in about February or March. These will be valuable to the bees, some of which will be emerging and desperate for food at that time of year.

Next up were tulips. There are no tulips in the garden, so it will be interesting to see how they fare – but these crimson coloured Tulip ‘Negrita’ should provide a blast of colour in April/May.

Joining them will be another variety of tulip – Tulip ‘Madonna’ – which flowers in May with white petals and a slight tinge of green.

Three packets of bulbs
These Crocuses and Tulips will brighten the garden in the spring.

All three will add much needed colour to the garden at that time of year. I’ll be planting them out in the next few days.