October 2

Giving up slug pellets

As I sit here writing, it is wild and windy outside and I have had my first day of not being able to go out for quite some time.  it has, however, given me time to reflect on the past 8 months and what I want to do differently next year.

In 2020 I decided to stop using slug pellets, even the organic ones. Taking on the wildlife plot forced me to think a bit more about what I do on my own plots for wildlife and the pellets were one thing that I could stop using. I didn’t think about it at all during 2020 because it was a hot, dry year and so slugs and snails were not a problem but this year has been a completely different experience.

I have two main areas that are a problem. One is the space between the fruit trees and fruit cage where I have not been able to plant out any veg and keep it (everything is eaten) apart from one lot of onions, and the other was the bed below the polytunnel with a row of lavender. No matter how often I cleared the slugs or snails from the lavender, the veg below the hedge was constantly eaten. I have solved one of these problems and am working on the other.

Reluctantly, I removed the lavender hedge. It stretched the width of the plot and often self-seeded so I had a ready supply of new lavenders.  When I dug them up, each plant had at least 20 slugs and snails in it, many with more so I wasn’t clearing them out anywhere near enough. To be honest, hunting for slugs and snails seems like a waste of time when you could be harvesting and enjoying what you have grown so the problem in this bed has been solved. These slugs and snails meant that I didn’t get any beans at all this year and have 5 chicories to last me all winter! The five that did last had copper rings put round them when I realised that I was going to lose them all so that is at least one positive and proof that in some circumstances they do work.

The other area is trickier to solve. I can’t see where the critters are coming from – is it the black plastic path alongside the raspberries or is it from under the fruit trees? One side is eaten first so I think they must be coming from the tree side.  This needs more investigation. I’m still struggling with the permaculture saying “The problem is the solution.” and “It isn’t an over abundance of slugs, it is an undersupply of ducks!” So, what to do bearing in mind that I don’t want to keep animals on the plots – difficult to have holidays and we have been overrun with rats this year. Today I came up with a list of things to do in this area:

  1. Keep looking for the source and deal with it when I find it!
  2. Reduce the black plastic in the area and use more shreddings/chippings. They don’t really like crawling over rough shreddings and so I need to use these on the paths around the beds.
  3. Change what I grow in this area. My rhubarb needs moving because it is a slug hotel itself particularly as I grow them at the end of beds with other vegetables in them. I might was well make the most of the sluggy area and  move the rhubarb to it and then the beds they have come out of can be kept slug free and provide a bit more growing space.
  4. Think more carefully about when I plant out the delicate, little veg transplants.  The onions that did survive in the bed went out in a dry spell in April where there was no rain for about 3 weeks and so they established quickly and were much bigger. The other beds I planted out before the rain in May and they disappeared over night.
  5. Consider borrowing a duck or two for a morning or afternoon, fencing off the area temporarily and letting them loose. There are some ducks not to far from me and the owners might be willing to do a deal.

So, learnings from this year about not using slug pellets:

  • Copper rings will work when you only have a few plants left that you want to save
  • Use weather forecasts to decide when to plant out
  • Reduce the slug and snail happy places which includes removing the lower, damaged or brown leaves on plants and inspecting under netting regularly

Accept the loss of some crops but not too many! I have grown some carrots at home where the slug/snail population is much more in balance (in favour of me!) although Foxy having a snooze on them might not help

  • If you lose a crop, sow it again but I do draw the line at a third time.

The next thing I want to improve upon in 2022 is harvesting and prepping what I have grown. I love the harvesting but hate prepping/cooking/preserving the crops – or even spending time generally in the kitchen. I recently read Steve’s Kitchen Garden and Seaside Allotment Harvest chapter in his ebook about how he harvests and think I might try it next year.

What do you do on days that you can’t get outside to garden?