Saturday, June 21, 2014

Welcome to Gardening By Hand

I told my husband I was going to write a gardening blog, not because I'm so good at gardening, but because I'm so BAD at it! He said, "I don't understand." I told him that I've made so many gardening mistakes that I want to tell other new gardeners about them, and save them from making the same mistakes I've made!!

I use no machines in gardening: only hand tools and my own power. I'm not counting the lawnmower or the weed whacker as I consider those as belonging to my husband, and more pertaining to yard maintenance than to gardening. If I was doing the job he does now, I would get another Neuton lawnmower, as they are light, electric and quiet, none of which my husband's lawnmower of choice is, and I would forget the weed whacker. I hate them for the same reason I hate SkiDoos--they're noisy and they ruin the serenity of the neighborhood.

I am a fairly successful berry grower: I have thornless blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.  However, I've not had a whole lot of success growing other things. I live in the Pacific Northwest and we have quite a bit of rain where I live in southwest Washington state. Slugs have been a HUGE problem for me, and I'm not willing to use baits and poisons in my yard. We have resident sparrows, not to mention neighborhood cats and our own dogs, all of whom share our fenced backyard. I know they say that animals won't eat the slug bait, but I just don't want to use it. I saw a dog in convulsions once--he had eaten slug bait. You only need to see a scene like that once to be turned against products like that FORever!!

So this year, to try and win the slug battle, I began early--in March--killing every slug I saw and making inviting little traps for them--boards on the damp grass for them to sleep under during the day. Then, I hunted them relentlessly. It is too wet here in March to do much in a garden, so I pulled weeds and ambushed slugs during semi-rainless days. That means, when the rain let up a little, I went out with a jug filled with about 2 inches of water and two inches of ammonia (unlike salt, ammonia is actually GOOD for your lawn and other plants), and scooped up slugs right and left and dropped them into the jug. When I was done, I'd screw the lid back on the jug. You can use the same bottle for a week or so, and when it gets too gross, you can actually pour the whole disgusting mess into your compost!! At first, I'd pop the whole mess into the garbage can, jug and all, because I didn't even want to SEE it. Later, I became more stoic and put the nasty stuff in my small composter that has a lid. I'd replace the lid VERY quickly, too. My friend Becky keeps a bucket with the ammonia-water and I tried that first, but I just hated SEEING the mess, so I like my jug method better. You can also spray slugs with the ammonia water--I did this first but I got tired of spray bottles that didn't work well, and I used up a LOT of ammonia--besides, I didn't like the slugs lying around--I wanted them to DISAPPEAR or at least be where I couldn't see them!!.

In April I began counting how many slugs I dispatched each day--I'm curious, you know? I wanted to know if I was killing as many as it SEEMED like I was killing. And you know what? I WAS!! I killed over a thousand slugs during the month of April. They say for every slug you kill in the spring, you save yourself 35 slugs in the summer. Man!! They must have been convening for a World Convention or something!!!

I continued killing slugs in May, too, but there weren't as many then and I was also distracted by other gardening tasks by then, so even when I tried to keep count, I'd get interrupted and forget how many I'd killed. But I did notice in May that the slug population had diminished pretty drastically--either that or they were getting better at hiding, but I think there were actually less of them by then. One thing I noticed was that most of the slugs I had been killing were small ones, recently hatched. Very infrequently, I'd get a larger one, but even those were fairly small.

We've had a pretty dry June and some days I could only find 6 slugs, even when I looked in all their favorite places. I don't know where they go, deep down somewhere I guess. But it rained a couple days ago, and they were back with a vengeance: once it started to rain (in the evening), I went out at dusk and killed about 33, and in the morning I went out again, early, and killed 124 before breakfast!!One thing that I noticed after three weeks of dry weather, was that about half the slugs were large ones. I think those came from outside my yard, but I guess they COULD have grown from babies to big in three weeks--I'm not sure about that. But I definitely wanted to get them before they could lay more eggs in my yard, if at all possible. And so the hunt goes on. I know that there will always be some of them around and that I'm not going to get every slug in the vicinity, but I'm hoping to get most of them in my backyard, anyway. So far, I've only found two on my rhubarb in the three months I've been after them so that is a good sign, I think.

Well, I've probably already told you more about killing slugs than you EVER wanted to know, and so I will stop here for now, and next I will tell you why you should never, EVER, even THINK of trying straw bale gardening. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Loved your slug comments, Barb. We fight that battle too! Russ makes little houses out of boards with cleats on the bottom and puts animal safe slug bait underneath. Works well!! We have had an incredibly bad slug year this year!! Thank you for the book!!