Sunday, 29 July 2012

Showers and slugs coming our way?

With rain forecast to return this week the slugs and snails will probably come out of hiding and start chomping again. It's been relatively quiet on the mollusc front with minimum damage to my vegetables and even the marigolds offered up as a sacrifice are starting to bloom. I sow marigolds in pots over the spring and summer so that I always have some that I can immediately deploy to any area of my vegetable plot that is under attack. The effect on the marigolds is usually devastating - see below!

Sacrificial marigolds

Another approach is to use a garlic wash. I have not tried this yet so cannot vouch for its efficacy but many people say that it does deter snails, slugs and some other insect pests.

A recipe that is doing the rounds again is one that was mentioned on Gardeners' World and has been repeated many times elsewhere. I originally found it on the Bowden hostas site at There are two other versions of the wash, one of which includes hot peppers, at "Get Rid of Pests with Garlic"

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Pollen to go, please

Hoverfly with Cranesbill pollenAs well as vegetables and cultivated flowers I have many wild flowers growing in my garden. I am always taking photos and inevitably some of them turn out to be rubbish! The above is a heavily cropped image from one of my reject photos. The camera was focussed on something else but as I was about to delete the image I spotted the hoverfly loaded with pollen on a cranesbill flower. A friend has suggested that the hoverfly is probably Platycheirus albimanus. As insects are not my strong point I am open to alternative suggestions.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Rain, rain and more rain!

Garden Harvest - potatoes and peas

After a good start to the gardening year we have had nothing but rain, rain and yet more rain here in Caversham. Despite that - or maybe because of it - parts of the vegetable garden are flourishing. Potatoes and peas are doing well as are the herbs and lettuces, but there is only so much salad and lettuce soup I can eat and I am running out of ideas for consuming the abundant greenery!

Tomatoes are slow this year as are the cucumbers. I made the mistake of planting out my cucumber seedlings too early and they were quickly battered to the ground by heavy rainfall. The second batch seem to be doing well now but it will be a late crop this year, if any at all. Surprisingly, the aubergines seem to be surviving and the chilli peppers are racing ahead.

Monsoon conditions of course bring out the slugs and snails but I haven't noticed any appreciable difference in the damage caused compared with previous, drier years. I did spray part of of my vegetable plot with Nemaslug as an experiment, but there doesn't seem to be any difference between the two areas in terms of plant destruction, which has been minimal. It could be that the slugs from the untreated area moved into the treated ground once the nematodes had done their stuff and died or the nematodes infiltrated the unsprayed ground. I also use a number of barrier methods which possibly helped (see 20 Ways to control slugs in the permaculture garden or on the allotment | Permaculture Magazine or maybe the slug and snail predators have been out in force banqueting on the blighters! Whatever the reason, I certainly have not seen the scale of devastation reported in the Transition Culture blog (The Four Slugs of the Apocalypse I'd be interested in hearing what other UK gardeners are experiencing re mollusc infestations.

As an aside, if you have a particular interest in slugs and snails (apart from wanting them off the face of the planet altogether) the Field Studies Council has a number of identification guides including Land snails in the British Isles (2nd edition) - FSC : and the much older (1983)  A field guide to the slugs of the British Isles