In Search of New Hobbies

I feel like I have this entirely unsatisfactory hobby where I spend hours each weekend, weeding and tilling and planting, just in order for an army of soft, squishy critters to gorge themselves silly on our lush organic produce.

Next year I may try out a new hobby of browsing the veg aisles in the local Lidl so that I too, can gorge on some vegetables.

Broad beans have been the only success this year, in fact they were so successful that I can barely close the freeze door without bursting an over stuffed sack of beans.

20120721-175743.jpgEverything else?

Absolutely everything else is a complete flop.

Here’s the pitiful reward for digging an entire row of spuds in heavy and claggy clay.

The second row was no better, in fact I unearthed more slugs than potatoes.

The runner beans are nothing short of an embarrassment.

20120721-175756.jpgThe mountain goat species of snail has been up and down each wigwam, decimating each and every plant.

I’ve jumped from foot to foot squishing them in a furious war dance, done to the tune of much swearing but I am still a little unimpressed with this gardening hobby.

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Sacrificial Caullis

My squashes have not done at all well this year and if I don’t find myself buried under a glut of courgettes by mid Summer then I will have to declare myself an allotmenting failure.

I didn’t help myself very much by sowing 7 year old seed as the germination rate has been exceptionally poor. The fresh gherkin seed didn’t do too badly but my little plants were swallowed whole by the slugs and I’ve been forced to start again.

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Last week I planted my single successful courgette plant in amongst the sweetcorn, inter planted with climbing french bean “Blue Lake” in the classic Three Sisters arrangement. Since then it has done nothing but rain so I arrived at the plot this morning, convinced that a silvery trail would be all that was left of my gardening pride.

Thankfully the squash survived the week. I seemed to have provided an unintended decoy when I planted out my cauliflower seedlings on the same day. Every single one of them has been gnawed down to their flimsy little stumps. I had a few more left in the seed bed so these have gone out, along with a scattering of almost the entire packet of blue pellets. Slugs make me very angry.

I removed the earliest row of broad beans today, they were just about finished and I needed the space to plant out my purple sprouting broccoli and other assorted brassicas. I left the roots of the bean in for the nitrogen but the stalks have filled all 3 of my compost bins. I hope they compost down quickly as I’ll be removing the second row in a few weeks time.

Garlic

The garlic next to the beans are looking very sorry for themselves. All the foliage is badly covered in rust and although I must be a couple of months too early I have started to lift some of the bulbs.

They are drying off in the greenhouse now.

Lunch was an al-fresco delight today. I boiled up peas and broad beans on the trangia and tossed them in garlic and olive oil before adding a selection of the plot leaves – rocket, mustard, beetroot, spinach and mixed lettuce.

Finished off with a tonne of strawberries. These particular strawberries are so delicious I’m even prepared to share half with a slug, non will go to waste.

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Slugs Bite Back

Parsley Anyone?

I knew those darn slugs would mount some kind of retaliatory assault. This little clump of useless stalks is all that remains of a healthy French Parsley specimen I planted last weekend.

They’ve also been along the line of brassica seedlings under the environmesh and eaten every last one of them. All that is left standing is a row of weak stalks, looking like frail white flags of submission.

Snow Capped Spuds

I wasn’t able to do much on the plot this weekend as the snow fell and left the ground too wet for tramping around. I turned up to check on my broad beans though. They were weighed down by the snow so I shook them clear and stood guard for a while willing the snow to stop falling. I think they will survive the cold but I have not staked them up well enough and they are more or else crawling across the floor instead of standing proud and tall. I’ll do a better job next year but its too late now as I can’t straighten the limbs without snapping them off. The site secretary was round to check on the beans before I left and to point out that he hadn’t planted his out yet – they were still sitting cosy in his greenhouse.

Table Top Potting

As I couldn’t sow anything on the plot I retreated to Shakti’s front room nursery to pot on some chillis and dahlias and to start with the tender beans. Shakti is hosting a toddlers birthday party in her house at the beginning of May, so my seedlings have been served an eviction notice, hopefully everything will be timed to perfection and the weather will be kind enough to allow hardening off to commence very soon.

It’s going to be a very busy start to May, there are a lot of plants to get rid of now.

Front Room

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Murder Most Horrid

Today it was time to face facts. The local frog population have obviously snubbed my pond and the slugs that I have been saving as amphibian delicacies have been having a whale of a time in my compost bin, procreating merrily and sniggering behind my back. Something clearly needs to be done if I ever hope to grow intact lettuces.

So, today marked the first assault on the slug flotilla.

There appear to be a number of options for dispatching slugs. You can squish them, a simple option but slug slime is stickier than melted chewing gum and its not the sort of thing you want lingering on the bottom of your shoe. Slug pellets are another obvious choice but are pretty damaging to the rest of the wildlife and would probably ensure I never see a frog or hedgehog on my plot again, plus I wouldn’t want them near my food. You can also purchase special slug hating nematodes which are apparently approved of by the soil association and other organic gardening watchdogs but although I can accept that nematodes already exist in my soil I am just not going to enjoy eating my cabbage when I know I’ve just watered it with a solution of parasitic worms. That leaves me with a painless option that I read about in my magazine yesterday – death by drowning.

I wiped about 30 beasties from the side of my compost bin into an inch of water in bucket. Almost immediately the slime factories puffed up a little and seemed to turn pale. Happy with a job well done, I turned away and carried on with my mammoth digging task.

10 minutes later I happened to be passing the bucket and saw at least 28 slugs fighting for pole position at the rim of the bucket. I sloshed more water in from a height and knocked them back into the drink. 10 mins later the process had to be repeated, this time I added a dash of my beer dregs that I have been saving for months, thinking this would encourage them to linger for a bit longer.

I must have been a bit tight with the beer because, you guessed it, 10 mins later they are back at the rim. Now I’m scraping them off with my spade and stirring vigorously. Its turning into quite a frenzied killing session and I’m not feeling too good about it. Who said drowning was painless? The darn creatures just won’t play dead. Perhaps I have cultivated a specific variety of deep sea diving slugs.

After 6 hrs on the plot it was time to go but the slugs were still not finished, I sliced a couple of particularly feisty specimens with my secateurs and left the others to their own devices.

I would say the slugs won the first battle. I need to go back armed with a more humane and effective form of execution. If only the frogs would turn up, then I wouldn’t have deal with all this unpleasantness.

Pictures omitted for obvious reasons.

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