My Alternative Island Life…Down at the Slug & Lettuce with the Beetles
Back to the Land
I will return to my explaining earth energies blogs later, but I named this series of blogs “Alternatively” because I wanted to blog about my lifestyle. If you have read the “About Me” page, you will know that I state;
” I moved to the Isle of Wight to enjoy an alternative lifestyle.”
Inevitably during the spring and summer that means gardening! Today is Litha, so time for an update.
Slugs and snails and…
I seemed to have been plagued by a huge amount of slugs and snails this year, and speaking to other gardeners, mostly at the St Helens car boot sale, they have too.
I garden organically so slug pellets are absolutely out of the question, plus I have hedgehogs using the garden, not to mention the many birds, mostly blackbirds.
A poisoned slug or snail will kill birds and hedgehogs, and they are our friends because they will eat these things.
Perhaps nature’s ‘bounty’ of slugs and snails was to compensate these creatures for the beast from the east!
So my defences are gravel, netting and what I call slug wine!
Every year I reserve some of my organic bean seed stock to plant in the following year. This year I decided against runner beans and planted only French beans. I prefer them and they freeze better. They are more tender.
20 seeds planted, all germinated and one by one they were all eaten.
I also live by the druid idea of embodiment, although I’m not a druid!
Instead of greedily keeping all to myself, I expect the creatures around me to take some, but this is ridiculous!
I put my ‘butterfly net’ over the 28 french bean plants I had to go out and buy. This is a special net I bought to fit my raised bed to keep cabbage white butterflies away from my kale, and it also has a copper strip all around the base. Then I made some slug wine!
Slugs and snails prefer yeast and sugar to your plants. You can put out beer but this can prove expensive especially if it rains and you have to keep filling it up!
Fortunately I had some out of date wine yeast. Here is my slug wine recipe:
1 cup of warm (blood heat) water, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of yeast.
Fill shallow containers virtually to the top, your aim is to get slugs and snails to reach over and fall in and then drown. Too little doesn’t work, too much and they just drink and zig zag (presumably) all the way home! Range is about 8 feet, so you’ll need plenty, and you need to empty out the casualties frequently.
At the beginning my trays were full of casualties every morning plus I augmented this by going into terminator mode following two late shifts at work when I returned home around 21.30. Vegetarians your food does harm creatures!
When I was a little girl planting my Virginian stock seeds my dad taught me the old country seed sowing rhyme
One for the rook
One for the crow
One to rot
and one to grow
I guess in my garden it’s:
One for the slug
one for the snail
one for Billy no Mates
and one to do well
*Billy no mates is the name I gave my resident pigeon ~ see earlier blog.
Of the 28 plants I began with I’ve kept about 20. I don’t mind that, I practice embodiment, the birds and hedgehogs need some slugs and snails! Once plants have gone beyond the tender stage, the slugs and snails lose interest, they tend to move onto my strawberries but I have a large bed and don’t mind sharing a few.
With the Beetles
My strawberries have also suffered this year, something was making holes in their leaves, majorly making holes in their leaves, I discovered this was flea beetle.
The organic remedy is to spread honey on cardboard, in theory the flea beetles jump on and stick!
My beetles didn’t seem to have read about this.
Fortunately the fruit had already set, and was netted over because Billy No Mates the pigeon and the blackbirds also like strawberries.
I have had a large crop, now all eaten by me. I usually run my strawberries until the end of June, but the devastation on the leaves meant no photosythesis and therefore no new flowers.
I decided to clear my last crop on Sunday and then, as recommended by RHS cut off all leaves and stalks to 4″ (8cm) above ground. Apparently new leaves come through unmolested, and they seem to be. Mr blackbird is enjoying the few remaining strawberries. I was watching him yesterday whilst painting the shed. I have also had a wren nesting just over the fence next door and have been watching them flit across the garden to feed their young. All have fledged now.
I’ve foiled the slugs on the lettuce, I’ve put them in a tub in the dry garden, usually reserved for flowers. Slugs don’t like travelling over shingle, and I’ve edged the tub with lobellia so it looks quite pretty.
I’ve had a good crop of asparagus, picked the last 2 days ago, you have to leave the plant after Litha (mid-summer day) so that the ferns grow and store goodness in the plant roots for next year.
The St John’s Wort bush is traditionally supposed to flower on Litha, but it began to flower about a week ago, but I’ll still make my flower essence this morning.(similar to Bach remedies but home made.)
I’ve frozen a huge amount of rhubarb, and the first of my redcurrants were picked and frozen yesterday. The second freezer is officially switched on!
The blossom on the apple tree was rather scarce this year, so not too many apples, plus we’ve not had any rain for 2 months now. We really need it to swell the fruit.
I was hoping to make some apple wine this year. It’s very popular, people are always asking for it and I only have a couple of bottles left. Wine takes 2 years to mature so you have to plan ahead!
I have loads of pears as a consolation and hoped to experiment with bottling this year, but unless we get some rain…
I have noticed that the first couple of weeks in July have been monsoon like in recent years, fingers crossed, but gentle rain is needed to start with or the water just runs off the hard ground.
Herbie Rides Again!
My herb garden is going great guns, cut back some comfrey to make liquid plant feeder, leaving most of the flowers for the bees, I’ve cut back the first of the lemon balm (sweet melissa), the lovage at 6′ tall is about to bloom, and I’ve also cut back the marjoram, that has done surprisingly well considering how poorly it looked after the winter. Still struggling with thyme though slowly winning.
I saved the seeds from my parsley last year, when parsley flowers you know it is going to die! First lot popped up and were promptly eaten by slugs, second lot now netted and growing in a pot on top of my wheelie bin, slugs don’t seem to get up there!
The borage, from which star flower oil comes, is only just growing but I’ll have a good crop. Star flower oil is good for the brain, said to help combat dementia, it’s also good in Pims! The flowers are a beautiful blue. I have pot marigolds (officinalis) everywhere. Dried petals are a good saffron substitute. I’ve just harvested some nigella seeds for their magical properties. See here . Nigella seeds are great in blessings, or to see the truth in a situation.
Why Organic is more Expensive
If you’ve ever wondered why organic is more expensive, now you know!
I’ve spent hours out in my garden, lugging cans of water and fending off pest attacks, plus it’s the year to repaint the fence, shed and summer house, so more hours.
I don’t grow all my veg, just some. You can buy organic carrots and onions for £1.00 a net so why bother! I select the expensive stuff like soft fruit, organic kale for winter which will grow even through beasts from east, and usually some cougettes or squash. It is far, far cheaper to grow these than buy.
However when considering the ‘expense’ of organic, consider this. If we keep putting chemicals on our land we have less than 100 harvests left. Chemicals don’t put humus in the soil, they deplete it and will eventually turn our soil into a dust bowl. Insects increasingly become resistant to more and more potent insecticides which also damage humans. So is organic really expensive? Or is it the true cost of vegetables?