Judith Proctor (watervole) wrote in allotments_anon,
Judith Proctor

Plot update and thoughts on slugs

We've just about caught up on all the major tasks.  Phew!

The strawberries now have pigeon netting (just in time as the fruits are forming nicely).  I've put straw under them, but probably need to add a little more.

I've weeded all round the onions (we've a lot of onions and they're too close, so I spread this job over a week or two).

Richard has planted out the courgettes and some of the squashes (under fleece at present to help them get a good start).  Last year, our squashes never really got going.  We worked out eventually that this was because it was too cold when they were first put out.  This year, we'll probably keep them under fleece for quite a while until we're really certain that they're comfortable.  This applies doubly as they're in the most shaded corner of the plot (the crop rotation has them in bed three, and the strawberries have the sunniest spot in that bed).

The beetroot are all coming up pretty well.  We're getting a lot better at making seed beds, and it's improving the germination rate.  We haven't got it licked totally yet, but small seeds really do need fine crumbly soil and a really level surface.  It makes a lot more difference than you might think.

Big seeds like runner beans don't need nearly so much TLC - apart from getting the soil right, of course.

When we grew runner beans at home, we ended up with spindly little plants that mostly got eaten by slugs.  Those that did survive were likely to get blackfly and generally only produced enough beans for a few meals.  Last year on the plot, we harvested enough beans to be giving them away all summer.

So what did we do different?

We fed the poor things.  Instead of just sticking the seeds in the ground, we read a book (horror of horrors) and followed the instructions...
Runner beans are greedy.  They like  a LOT of organic matter in the soil.  They like a trench full of compost and anything else you can lay your hands on and soil on top of that.  Once they get their greedy little roots down into that lot, they'll grow faster than the slugs can eat them, and even the blackfly won't make much of an impact.  We've lost a couple to the slugs this year, but most of the plants are several inches tall already and look as though they're going to make a successful break for it.  (and it's noticeable that the slugs mostly got the ones in the part of the row that I hadn't got around to weeding.)

In short, when growing veg, don't just read what it says on the seed packet (which is brief and misses out lots of good tips), get a really good book like this one.  It could do with a bit more on pests and diseases, but it's very good on how to prepare the ground and what conditions different plants like and what you should do as they grow.

We were amazed how little we lost to the slugs so far this year.  We didn't feel rich enough to buy nematodes as we did last year, so we've been using beer traps.  As far as slugs are concerned, we'll back the advert, "Carlsberg, probably the best lager in the world"!

Make sure plants are hardened off well before you plant them out.  Remove weeds and rotten wood and anything that will give slugs cover.  Make sure the soil has lots of manure/compost so that the plants are tougher.  Put out beer traps (but DON'T empty them on the soil afterwards as alcohol is bad for plants).  If you do all of these things, you won't eliminate the slugs, but you'll certainly make a non-trivial dent in the damage they do.  (Of course, now I've written this, they'll probably hoover the entire plot just to prove me wrong...)
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