May VII: Drowning slugs in beer to save young plants…

Each May I wonder how well my plants will survive the return of slugs to the garden. I keep my plot clean and tidy, but I cannot force neighbours to do likewise. As a result, the north and eastern boundaries are jungles with trees and hedges, ivy and creepers. A ditch dug to create a space between the vegetable patch and the jungles does not always suffice.

However, this spring, trouble appears limited to the boundary beds near the hedges and two small beds closest to the jungles. The four main beds have seen no pest atacks in May, suggesting that the composting is creating better soil, my skills in creating healthy young plants are improving and the use of biodynamic calendars may also help.

Still, this May I started to see both ends of my 3 metre rows of early carrots being nibbled, starting in mid May. Half my peas were also decimated in what is called a gardening cock up: seeds failing to germinate in March meaning the second sowing was shaded out by rapidly growing broad beans in May. It is a stunning example of pests attacking shaded plants but not those in sunlight.

I therefore set up 5 beer traps last week, one in the pea bed and two each in the small beds (one at each end of the carrots, one near cabbage and one near broad beans.

In a week, I have murdered 40-50 slugs and the carrot munching has subsided and no further pea damage has occurred.

However, happily established cabbages suddenly fell foul to slugs as soon as the beer trap was set.

It is not therefore a guarantee of safety, rather one string to the bow in fighting slugs.

Author: Rhys

Rhys trained as a research biologist, working for a decade in the cancer research charity sector, before completing an MBA and working in management consultancy, technology transfer and early technology investment spaces, mostly working with UK academics to turn their scientific discoveries into value for society. AS a younger man, he was fascinated with mountains, both climbing them and ski-ing down them. Whilst living in Scotland, he completed a round of (then) all 277 Munros, the independent mountains over 3000ft originally complied as a list by Munro. He also spent his holidays representing the Ski Club of GB, as a Representative and Party Leader between 1990 and 1997. During that time, he found to his bemusement that he was able to predict, without understanding fully why, to a remarkable degree of accuracy, when good snow conditions would occur in the Alps, gaining an unworthy reputation for predictive genius in 1990 when predicting the evolution of the 1989/90 winter in Wengen, Switzerland for his CEO boss. He used this skill for the next seven years to ensure that he enjoyed powder snow pretty much every time he went ski-ing. An MD student he was training in Oxford also impressed his wife by taking Rhys' advice about when to take her to Italy in the mid 1990s! In recent years, Rhys has turned his mind toward how to grow prize tomatoes, winning several prizes in local and London shows and has, in the past 3 years, moved toward taking over a 50 square metre urban vegetable patch, which he has turned into a no-dig area since autumn 2014.

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