Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the internet: Zombie slugs

I could lie and say I’ve been busy since my last post, but I’ve actually just been sitting around in my pyjamas playing Candy Crush. Sometimes I need a break. So, meh.

Anyway, I thought I’d get my shit together this week and get some jobs done. I was up early, all perky and annoying and heavily caffeinated when I came across this news article about zombie slugs taking over the country.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you’ll know that due to my heavy clay soil and mild climate, I am constantly up to the eyeballs in the slimy fuckers and have basically given up trying to grow many of the things they love to eat. This news article is not really news to me; we haven’t had a cold winter for a couple of years and it’s been very wet. Ideal conditions for slugs to thrive.

I have tried various things over the years; slug traps, grit, eggshells, coffee grounds, copper tape, organic slug pellets, nematodes, napalm (OK, that one is a lie); NOTHING WORKS. The only thing that you can do if you are truly overrun is to go out every night with a torch and a bucket of boiling hot soapy water and pick them all up by hand. This way you can also leave the good guys, like leopard slugs which are cannibals.

The best of British luck to you if you’re trying to grow any lupins or hostas this year. I’m not going to bother!

More cheerful update on my allotment tomorrow.

Slugs and snails are no longer the worst thing ever

snails

I grew an impressive crop of snails last year.

The RHS list of top ten worst garden bastards is in and this year there is a new winner! Slug and snails have been knocked into second place and this year’s crown has been handed to Diaphania perspectalis AKA the Box tree caterpillar. If you live in London or the home counties and you’ve got a box hedge then you’re probably nodding along but for those of us that live further afield or don’t grow box then here’s a run down of what the hairy little buggers do: They eat box (no sniggering at the back) and they get through it pretty quick. They arrived from Asia and are spreading outwards from the capital where they have been wrecking hedges for the last 5 years.

After the box caterpillar and slugs/snails, the rest of the list includes the usual suspects; aphids, cabbage whites, vine weevil, cushion scale, and lily beetle amongst others.

The RHS has also published a list of the top ten plant diseases and box blight is in at number 2. So all-round bad news if you have box or are thinking of getting some.

For the full list of bastards have a look here.

 

Organic gardeners are brutal killers

death1

A lot of people associate organic gardening with hippies. We care about wildlife and the environment. We are sandal-wearing vegetarians who don’t shave and go to CND protests when we’re not growing our own free-range quinoa and avoiding showers. (I am a sandal-wearing vegetarian but I have definitely showered this morning).

Well, here is the truth. If you want to control pests organically then you need to be prepared to kill things. Sometimes with your bare hands, and sometimes by unleashing hordes of predators onto your plot.

This morning I got another catalogue through the post. No need for sunglasses this time as it was not full of garish bedding plants. This one was from Gardening Naturally and it is packed full of cool stuff for your veg patch.

death2

Death, death, death, death and death.

The biological control section is fantastically written, using words like ‘kill’, ‘attack’, ‘gruesome’ and ‘suck prey empty’. AMAZING. This makes organic gardening sound like a Michael Bay movie starring Nicolas Cage (OK, maybe not quite so many explosions). I don’t know who wrote the blurb on their website but I would love to buy them a pint.

BRB, just going to order one of everything from the biological control section so I can unleash destruction and death onto all the pests in my garden and allotment plot.

I’ll prob need a veggie burger after that.

What are scale insects and more importantly how do I get rid of them?

 

scale2

One of these branches is not like the others…

I noticed the other day that one of my hazel trees had a lot of scale insects on some of the branches. You can see that this was inhibiting the growth of the leaves.

Scale insects are tiny little bugs. If you’re saying ‘awwww! Tiny bugs!’ at this point then stop- they look like some kind of hideous fungal growth. Not cute.

There are a lot of different species of scale insect and so many plants are at risk.

I’m sure there’s some kind of chemical spray that will kill them, but I’m doing this the organic way. Picking them off by hand and squishing them is an effective and satisfying way to get rid.

scale1

Stop ruining my tree, you little bastards.

 

Oh, great

pg-10-slug-1-getty

I didn’t take this photo. The slugs in my garden all get squashed.

 

The slug invasion is coming! So say the experts.

Thanks to the super-mild winter, this year is predicted to be one of the worst ever for slugs and snails. Well, the best ever from their point of view.

So; order your nematodes, build your hedgehog dens, dig your wildlife ponds, and put up your bird nesting boxes. This is war!!

 

 

What I did on my holidays

autumngrapevine

I can’t wait to have to clear up all these leaves

OK, I haven’t technically been on holiday (unless you count the one night that we stayed at my dad and step-mum’s house in Reading), but I have been away. Our new floor was being put in so my computer was all packed away. Since my last attempt at updating from my phone went so completely tits up, I decided to just take a break.

So, here’s a general update of what I’ve been doing. Not an awful lot of gardening really, since I’ve had to be out of the house a lot of the time while the floor was being done. I will spare you the millions of photos of all the educational field trips I took the girls on, but needless to say I felt pretty smug about my parenting by the end of the week (ignoring all the takeaway pizza we’d consumed due to temporary lack of kitchen).

The old carpet was taken up and happily for me it was hessian backed, so it now has a new home up at plot 12b. I know it’ll be a pain in the arse to haul down to the tip in the spring, but it is in pieces and the cardboard is not containing the massive docks/triffids that are bursting through.

12b-october

I’m finding it difficult to envisage this not looking like a rubbish tip

 

I’ve also been doing Autumnal things like seed collecting:

autumnbeanseeds

If this works, I am going to have ALL the French beans next year

And planting Spring bulbs. I’ve gone for containers because bulbs hate my soggy clay soil. In these I’ve got Ballerina tulips and Chionodoxa forbesii. If these look good, I’ll put them on the front doorstep. If they look rubbish then I’ll hide them down the side of the shed and pretend they never existed.

springbulbs

I had to evict my tomato plants from these troughs

 

I’ve also had a few unexpected non-Autumnal things. This cowslip has been flowering since August. I’m beginning to suspect that it’s not even real. Maybe it’s got a hidden camera in there.

autumncowslip

Possible alien spy

And just when I thought it was safe to stop obsessively checking for butterfly eggs on my sprouts, these feckers appeared. It is nearly November! Will you just DIE.

autumncabbagewhites

I spent ages picking these buggers off and now I smell like I’m on the cabbage soup diet

I have to admire its optimism, but I don’t think it’s going to ripen.

autumnstrawbs

10/10 for effort

Also I found this massive lump of worms in my compost bin. Is it a mating ball? Do worms do mating balls? It would explain why I have such wormy compost. I think there’s more actual worms than compost in there.

autumncompostworms

Possible worm porn

It’s great to be back!

Invasion and killing spree

rickygarden

This is about as active and alert as he ever gets

Last night, my fat, lazy, fairly elderly cat got in an ill-advised fight. I ran out to rescue him (and to avoid a hefty vet bill for injuries) and was faced with a horrific sight. It had been raining. I was being INVADED.

invasion1

Garlic butter, anyone?

For those of you that don’t know, I prefer not to use chemical warfare. In an ideal world, there would be a natural balance and slugs and snails would be dealt with by a plethora of birds, frogs, hedgehogs and badgers. In reality, I live on a 1980s housing estate with no trees, surrounded by people who jauntily sprinkle non-organic slug pellets over every horizontal surface in their garden. So, there’s no hope of balance here. I do try to encourage predators by having a pond and a space for hedgehogs to get under the fence, but there is still imbalance. I’m overrun with slugs and snails.

Organic gardening is often seen as the preserve of hippies and do-gooders. But the truth is, if you want to garden organically then you have to be prepared to kill things with your bare hands (or you can wear gloves, because slugs are slimy). Pointy Stick Patrol is a tried and trusted way for reducing the number of plants that are lost to slugs. My mother-in-law is a big fan of this method; her neighbours think she’s mad but her garden looks beautiful, so ner.

You will need:

  • A bucket of hot water
  • A pointy stick (optional- bamboo barbecue skewers work well)
  • A torch
  • An insatiable thirst for blood
pointystick

Instruments of death

If you’re not following me, all you have to do is get out there in the dark and catch the slimy buggers. Don’t leave the water hanging around because dead slugs and snails smell really, really bad. Like the last time your dog rolled in fox poo x 10 bad.