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July 2002 Blether:
2002 Patrick Vickery

'A Slug Blether'

'Blether' is a Scottish word meaning a good chat (a good blether), often a long and lazy relaxed chat at that, and sometimes over a dram or two of whisky!

e-mail Patrick at: aldieburnplants@aol.com

Patrick Vickery lives in the Scottish Highlands with his wife, three children, two dogs, two goats and an assortment of smaller animals. They live in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world.

Patrick runs a small Garden Nursery (part-time), is a Garden Writer (part-time) with a particular interest in the humourous side of things (especially the things that go wrong!), and works part-time as a Special Needs Teacher.

Patrick's first gardening book  In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden. ISBN: 186163148 has recently been published. A 'how-to' book - a book that shows how to make your garden productive in a variety of ways, for both expert and gardening novice alike, at minimum cost and in an innovative and self-financing way, using a raised bed system of propagation, and concentrating primarily on hardy perennial plants that can be raised and grown outdoors without the aid of a polytunnel or greenhouse.

Available direct from the Publisher at: Capall Bann Publishing, UK; from bookshops; or from Amazon.co.uk via the Internet.

     Got a slug problem? Haven't we all. Hostas, Geums, Oriental Poppies, Lupins,
Nasturtiums, you name it, they eat it. Big black ones, little grey ones, they
do the same damage, nibble, nibble, nibble, and the plant is destroyed.
Better nip down to the Garden Centre to buy a chemical to kill them with,
slug pellets, something like that, to further enrich the chemical arsenal
that's already stashed in the garden shed. Just hope the teenagers of the
house don't take up smoking in there, eh, in the garden shed? Chemical
concoctions, cigarettes, matches, could be a mighty explosion in the offing.
     Of course I never use chemicals myself.  Far too expensive.  And do they
always work? 

     If you have a slug problem then get a hedgehog. That's the answer. 
Hedgehogs eat slugs - the slugs that would otherwise eat your plants. 
Problem solved. But where do you get hold of a hedgehog? Not from the Garden
Centre, that's for sure.
     "I want a hedgehog, please," you say, "a slug-eating hedgehog." 
     "We don't do slug-eating hedgehogs, just slug pellets." 
     "Oh," I say, "and what happens if a passing hedgehog eats the slug pellets?"
     "It dies of course."
     And therein lies the problem. Catch 22. Use slug pellets and you have to
keep using them. And a very costly business it is too, for you simply kill
off the natural predators that would otherwise keep the slug population down
to an acceptable level. Dead hedgehogs in the garden are useless, whereas
live ones are like gold dust.
     Now you can't buy hedgehogs in the Garden Centre of course, but what you can buy is hedging plants hedging plants that will grow into fine hedges and
provide just the right sort of environment for passing hedgehogs.
     Now if all this sounds too complicated, too time consuming, then a patch of
scrub land in the garden, a small over-grown area with weeds and a bit of
long grass (a miniature 'wildlife' garden really) will attract them as well.
     While you're waiting for passing hedgehogs to turn up and populate your
garden, of course, you'll have to tolerate a bit of slug damage now and
again, that's inevitable. But if you have a particular plant in the garden
that's a cherished one, then sprinkle a handful of salt or some grit around
it as a slug barrier. Slugs don't like this. Slugs like to glide over smooth surfaces, not sharp or salty ones.

    But the best method of all, the guaranteed 'one hundred per cent' method of
eradicating slugs, is to buy a torch, go slug hunting at night and then pick
them off by hand. Simple as that. A fun activity, and an activity that will surely enrich your personal life.
    What is it tonight, then? The pub, the cinema, early to bed for a bit of
'this and that', or a spot of slug hunting by torchlight?  It's got to be slug hunting, hasn't it?  Slug hunting by torchlight. Great fun.
    Now if all this sounds too complicated, too wishy-washy, a load of
horticultural mumbo-jumbo pure hogwash then there's nothing to prevent
you from buying an assortment of chemical applications from the Garden Centre
to kill them with. But be careful, because one man's chemical solution to the
problem is another man's time bomb. So there we are.

(copy write Patrick Vickery 2002)