Saturday, July 23, 2016

Slugs and resilient gardening

Someone ate my pumpkin...
The bane of my garden is not the incessant rain or lack of meaningful sun.  It's slugs.  Add in snails, woodlice, aphids, and the occasional earwig, and things start to get ugly.

But really, slugs are the one pest that I have an overwhelming amount of, and only a few less than perfect strategies to cope with. 

In 2014 there was an apocalypse of slugs.  It was epic.  They ate Everything I planted or sowed in the ground.  They ate most of the things I planted or sowed in my planters and raised beds.  It was annihilation.  I tried eggshells, coffee grounds, beer traps, wheat bran.  I even went out at night with a flashlight and pair of scissors.  Nothing stopped them or even slowed them.  It was then I realized how I had put all my eggs in one basket, figuratively speaking.  Most of my food production was annual vegetables, and most of it can and will be munched by slugs.

It was then I began rethinking food gardening--how to be resilient in the face of this kind of widespread destruction.  I made a list of the things slugs left alone: fruits like apples and cherries;  rhubarb;  tulips;  grass;  you get the picture.  Slugs also didn't affect chickens or egg production, except positively (unfortunately chickens did not make a noticeable dent in slug populations).

So I planted more perennial foods, including fruit trees, and added more egg layers to the flock.  I'm encouraging slug predators like frogs and toads.  I'm beefing up numbers of vegetables which are less attractive to slugs, like runner beans and chard, and concentrating what protection I can to the slug-candy vegetables like cucumbers and cabbage.  And overplanting, to counter inevitable losses.

That year, in the end--after replacing plant after plant--I had to accept I wasn't going to get vegetables.  Believe me, it was a bitter pill to swallow.  But I did.  And in doing so, I learned a valuable lesson:  what it means to be resilient, and how much I was lacking.  I've been working towards it every since.

I have to accept there will be slugs, and other major setbacks.  But with good design, there will still be food in spite of it. 

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