Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Slugs in the Kitchen Garden

Sense of Home Kitchen

With all the rain we have had this summer we have an unusually high number of slugs.  Thanks to our cold winters our slugs are small, nothing like they grow them in the Northwest, but they do a tremendous amount of damage to the produce.  They have eaten 1/3 of a good sized cucumber, the green bean leaves look more like lace than leaves, and it is a race to see who can get to the tomatoes first, which means I pick tomatoes before they are completely ripe, cheating us out of that extra flavor they get ripening on the vine.   To make sure we have enough produce to preserve for winter use I have had to become more aggressive in my efforts to rid the garden of slugs.  

I was recently at a local community harvest festival where there were booths set up for everything from gardening to canning to making cheese to dying wool.  I settled in at the gardening booth for a while asking various questions, but what I was really anxious to learn was how to control my growing slug population.  The horticulturist I spoke with said that slugs do not like to crawl across sand or gravel, this jogged my memory all the way back to a conversation I had with the man we hired to till our garden this spring.  He suggested we add a few bags of sand to the garden to make the soil more friable (we have lots of clay).  I had intended to wait until we tilled again to add the sand, but I figured now might be a better time if it discourages the slugs.  So off to Tractor Supply Company I headed and came home with two good sized bags of sand.  We just sprinkled it over the garden like we were sprinkling powdered sugar on a a cake.  Some fell on the tomato vines, the tomatoes, the beans, potatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and some on the soil itself.

This trick has worked amazingly well.  The slugs are now avoiding the areas of sand and when I do find them they are not looking as plump and healthy as they were before.  My next move was to use beer traps, I say let them die happy.  The beer traps also work very well, the slugs crawl into the beer and, some say, dry out from the beer.  Or perhaps they are just attracted to the smell and end up drowning in the beer.  Either way we have reduced the population considerably.

Tonight when picking tomatoes I noticed that there are a few frogs in the garden helping us reduce our slug population as well.  With the combination of these methods to reduce or discourage slugs, I have seen much larger fruit and vegetable yields.  I now have 25 quarts of whole tomatoes canned and enough tomatoes to make and can salsa for the winter, I would not want to go all winter without my homemade salsa.  I also hope to make and can several jars of tomato soup this fall.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / In the Garden