Preparing For Battle – Slugs Beware!

Last year when I planted pepper plants on the side of our house, it took just a few days for the slugs to set their sights on the full, luscious foliage.  After some research and a little preparation, I was able to remedy the situation fairly quickly by setting slug traps before nightfall.  This thwarted the Attack Of The Killer Slugs.

This year I decided not to let the slugs get the jump on me and began preparing my slug traps early.  Even though my pepper plants are still small and not much of a temptation for the constantly present slugs, being that there are more than 40 plants this year, a far cry from the 4 I planted last year, a bit of preparation time is definitely called for.

Here are the first 18 slug traps ready and raring to go.

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All I need now is some beer to bait them with and we’re good to go.

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Last year with just four pepper plants I was able to can enough jalapeno and green chilis for the year.  This year I hope to harvest enough Romanian, Szegedi, and White Cloud peppers to pickle for the coming year, about two bushels.  Any more than that will be great roasted with a bit of garlic, any less and it’s off to the farmer’s market to make up the difference.

The slugs took me by surprise last year and nearly destroyed the few plants I had.  This time I’m ready for them, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Garden Critters

Spring has sprung! Even if the weather doesn’t necessarily agree.

Yesterday while turning over one of my gardens, lo and behold I found two of the biggest, juiciest slugs you ever could find.

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My dilemma was whether I should kill them right then and there or face the possibility of having to drown them later with beer as I did last year when they infested my pepper plants (see my post Attack Of The Killer Slugs.)

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Trouble was there were no plants around for them to munch on, so killing them just couldn’t be justified. So, I did the next best thing, I relocated them to an area on the opposite end of the house where they won’t be near a single garden plant.  Of course, if they choose to crawl back to the fertile ground of the garden, they just might not be so lucky again.

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For now, they are happily burrowed deep under some mulch where it’s warm and cozy, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

GallBladder Gardening via a Sheeny Man (or woman in this case)

I am currently on Day 5 of  a gallbladder attack and can say that I am quite tired of it. Not being able to stand up for more than a couple of hours after a full nights sleep and then only in about half hour increments three or four times a day has put quite a damper on everything. Aside from worrying whether or not my gallbladder is going to perforate, spread infection, or just explode (I don’t know that this is possible, but I sure feel like it might at times) I can tolerate the pain. It’s the nauseousness, bloating, and inability to eat that is truly bothering me. My one reprieve is to lie down completely flat and the pain subsides almost immediately. The nausea and other symptoms are an almost constant.

I have had gallbladder problems for about 15 years. A bout with the flu triggered an attack that many years ago and ever since every year or so I’d get that over-full feeling after eating, pain on the right side, and feel sick to my stomach. This is the worst case since that first time when I did go to the doctor and aside from removing my gallbladder, he had no suggestions. I have not been to a doctor in more than 10 years and have no intention of going unless absolutely necessary — too many bad experiences. So I have been trying every “home remedy” on the Internet, to no avail. I think the pain is at least getting better, now I just need to get past the other symptoms and once again I’ll be back to wreaking havoc around the house.

Still, I am not about to just sit around. Every hour or so I get up to do something like make dinner, throw a load of wash in, hang a load of wash outside, fold some clothes — anything that will keep me busy. At least two or three times a day I do mosey out to the garden to see how things are going, water a little, prune, and weed. What would normally take me just an hour or two, has taken me the past five days to complete.

Three days ago I started a project to help with the slug problem on my pepper plants. Although my slug catchers continue to catch anywhere from one to three slugs a night, I’m running out of beer and the population just seems to be multiplying. Figuring that the mulch around the plants is giving the slugs the protection they require and enabling them to feast on my peppers at night, I came up with an idea that I hope will do something.

First though I have to tell you, my father is a sheeny man at heart and this has rubbed off on me. For those not privy to what a sheeny man is, it is an over-glorified name for a garbage picker. Yes, come garbage night, hubby and I pile into the car right around dusk and drive through the neighborhood in search of hidden treasures among our neighbors trash. You might think we’re crazy, but we have found some awesome stuff.

We have gotten three perfecting good leather office chairs. One that was brand new that the man said his wife didn’t like. The box was still on the driveway. I’m not sure why he didn’t just return it, but I’m not complaining, we were grateful. I’ve found full bolts of drapery/upholstery fabric, plastic storage bins, cabinets to put in our garage, a 100-foot hose that had a four inch section that had burst and hubby fixed for $3 that is now hanging on the side of our house, black diamond to outline a small portion of our landscaping, and even a leather recliner that my neighbor said he paid $700 for but his mother didn’t like so he went out and got her a different one. He just put it on the curb. What a find that was! This is in my bedroom and one of my favorite places to sit and journal, and it came with a matching ottoman.

While we were out cruising the neighborhood one garbage night, I happened to notice a stack of plastic gardening pots sitting by the curb. These were not the pots that stores put plants in when they sell them, they were the more expensive ones that people actually buy to plant flowers or garden plants in for their patios. My mind began to race. If I brought those pots home, I’d be able to have pots of tomatoes, beans and whatever else I could think of on the patio and it wouldn’t cost me anything but the cost of the plant. Hubby stopped, I jumped out, and the rest is history.

For the past month I have been collecting pots, filling some with dirt and planting in them, and storing the rest for future projects. It has become an almost obsession. Just this past weekend, as terrible as I felt, I had to go out in search of pots and came home with more than a dozen. They range from 10“ to 18“ and are all in perfect condition. I can’t imagine why someone would get rid of them, but I am not going to look this gift horse in the mouth.

With all the pots I have stored in the garage and the continuing infestation of slugs, inspiration hit. What if I were to cut the bottom off a few of the pots, slip them around my pepper plants (after removing the mulch from the base of the plant), and then bury it half way in the ground. This would form a barrier between the mulch which gives the slugs their protection and my plants. I know that the slugs can crawl up the sides of the pots and still reach my plants, but that’s where my slug traps come in. Hopefully they will be so parched from the long crawl from the base of the mulch to the top of the pot that they’ll smell the beer and forget all about gnawing on my pepper plants.

I have no idea if this is going to work, but it sure sounds good on paper. Of course, the way I’ve been feeling, this project took me three days to complete. One day to cut the pots, one day to remove the mulch and dig the holes around the plants, and today I finally set the pots around the plants, filled them with a little more dirt, replaced the slug traps, and pushed the mulch around the base of the pots. If nothing else, this does make watering the plants much easier. All I have to do is fill the pot with water and I’m done. No guessing how long I have to hold the hose on the plant to make sure it gets enough water through the thick layer of mulch.

Here is the pepper plant before I added the pot.

Here is the pepper plant before I added the pot.

First I cut the bottoms off four pots.

First I cut the bottoms off four pots.

The mulch pulled away and the pot slid around the pepper plant.

The mulch pulled away and the pot slid around the pepper plant.

Under the mulch there was lots of slugs.

Under the mulch there was lots of slugs.

More slugs.

More slugs.

The pot sunk into the ground, more dirt added, and the slug trap buried.

The pot sunk into the ground, more dirt added, and the slug trap buried.

Watering is much easier.  All I do is fill the pot and go.

Watering is much easier. All I do is fill the pot and go.

It amazes me what people get rid of. Every week there are televisions with signs on them saying “Works Perfect – Remote Attached,” furniture that is worn but certainly has a few good years left in it, toilets that have been ripped out during bathroom remodeling, lawn furniture, office furniture, and a ton of other things that I don’t see because it’s not what I’m looking for. All these things are perfectly good but are no longer needed or wanted because people have upgraded, outgrown, or tired of them. I’d say that it is such a waste, but obviously it isn’t. Hubby and I have certainly found some great treasures among the trash, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A Gardener’s Work Is Never Done

Your diamonds are not in far distant mountains or in yonder seas; they are in your own backyard, if you but dig for them. ~ Russel H. Conwell

The past couple of days have been full and busy. So much so that taking even a moment to sit down and write was impossible. Thankfully, it is Monday morning, the sky is cloudy and promising a much-needed rain and I am anxious to get back into the swing of blogging.

The garden is done! Actually, a garden is never truly “done” I’ve discovered, but at least I can say that it is planted. The new extension portion has three rows of beets, one row of carrots, and a third of it full of sweet potato plants.

Completed garden extension

Completed garden extension

I probably should have read on sweet potato plants before I planted them because in reading a bit I’ve found that they spread. Didn’t know that. I thought they would be like growing a russet or white potato and the main growth would be underground. Apparently they get vines and wherever the vines touch down, you can get more sweet potatoes. Hopefully things won’t get too out of control.

I’ve also learned that from one sweet potato plant, the main one, you can expect about 5 to 7 potatoes. With 18 plants, this would be a great yield. I could be set with sweet potatoes for a good portion of the winter. I’d like to try drying them and seeing how they are reconstituted, but when I’ve kept store-bought sweet potatoes in the basement, they’ve kept for more than three months without issue, so drying isn’t a necessity.

With some of the overflow top soil that was delivered for the garden extension, I filled six pots and planted beans, one long flower box and planted scallions, and six additional pots that will be used for tomato suckers.

Pots with beans planted in them.

Pots with beans planted in them.

Scallion planter

Scallion planter

I read that if you snap off the stems that form in the V’s of the tomato plant branches — called ‘suckers’ — and plant them, you will get another plant. There are several different ways to get them to grow and I am trying two of them. I stuck two of them directly in a pot with very moist soil and so far they are doing well and I have three suckers sitting a jar full of water until they form roots. I’ll see which method is more effective and then snap some suckers later in the season so I can have tomatoes possibly through October.

Tomato suckers in pot of top soil.

Tomato suckers in pot of top soil.

Tomato suckers in jar of water.

Tomato suckers in jar of water.

My slug traps are doing their job! The body count as of this morning is 11. I’m going to make one more trap for my last pepper plant even though it hasn’t been attacked yet. I figure it’s better to have it and not need it, than not have it and need it.

While spreading the last of the mulch around the old section of garden, I noticed that my Brussel sprouts had tiny holes all over the leaves. Great, another infestation. I was sort of hoping it was slugs, but upon further investigation it turns out that it’s cabbage worms. Back in the spring, when the grass was just beginning to get some color and the birds were frolicking once again in the trees, I remember being excited when I caught sight of the first cabbage butterfly of the season. Little did I know that they love to lay their eggs on Brussel sprouts, kale and broccoli, and guess what I planted this year in the garden? You guess it, Brussel sprouts, kale and broccoli. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any cabbage worm trap ideas on the Internet, so settled on an organic spray that should take care of the problem.

Cabbage worm damage on my brussle sprouts.

Cabbage worm damage on my brussel sprouts.

Gardening is far more complicated than I thought. I guess that’s probably why I’ve never been successful in the past. I never paid attention to the details. Just plant, water, and harvest was my understanding of gardening and when that didn’t work, I assumed it was just bad luck. Now that I’m paying more attention to the details, or at least a lot more than before, perhaps gardening success will be within my reach.

The weather all last week was perfect for working outside. Although I miss being in the kitchen and planning my next canning adventure, I am truly enjoying the fresh air and closeness I feel with the earth when in the garden. I did however take a few minutes in the kitchen to whip up a batch of one of the kids favorite summer beverages — 5-4-3-2-1 Citrusade. With the help of Zeb we whipped it out in less than 15 minutes then were able to enjoy tall glasses of it in between tasks.

5-4-3-2-1 Citrusade

5 Cups of water
4 Limes
3 Lemons
2 Oranges
1 Cup of sugar (you might want to use only 3/4 Cup depending on how sweet you like it)

Juice limes, lemons and oranges. Measure 1 cups of mixed citrus juice and add to 5 cups of water. Add sugar and stir or shake until dissolved. Serve over tall glasses of ice.

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With the garden planted, the waiting begins. Weeding, nurturing, watering, and feeding the garden will be a summer-long endeavor, but for now I think the heavy work is done. Now I can get back to all the wonderful tasks of being a wife, mother, and housewife and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Attack Of The Killer Slugs!

Yesterday, as hubby and I were moving the yard of dirt I’d had delivered for the new section of garden, I noticed that my freshly topped pepper plants had holes all over the leaves. Great! I thought, Just what I need. As if I know anything about gardening other than plant, water, pick.  There are so many things that can go wrong with a garden, so much I don’t know, so many threats — and gardening season has barely begun.

In years past, had anything like this happened, I would have ignored it, leaving it to the will of the gardening gods. This year, however, I am determined. I am hell-bent on this garden surviving, flourishing, and eventually producing. For once in my lifetime I want to be able to say “I can garden!”

Walking back and forth, wheelbarrow-full and after wheelbarrow-full, I contemplated what to do.

  • I could go up to the gardening store and ask someone there, hoping that they hadn’t just been hired as a seasonal worker, trying to make extra money before heading back to school.
  • I could check with my neighbor whose garden has always been quite fertile and successful, although since I began planting and expanding, he has been a bit competitive with me. It’s almost as if he were taking it personally that I wanted to finally have as successful a garden as he.
  • I could wait and see if perhaps the leaves were eaten by some insect, but deciding that they were not what they really wanted, had moved on.

None of these solutions placated me. I wanted a solution that was somewhat dependable, could be found without leaving the house, was economical, and would solve the problem immediately. Now, is that too much to ask? I didn’t think so.

So, off to the Internet I went. Typing in: My pepper plants have holes in their leaves — I was met with page after page of promised solutions. The first one I went to told me the problem, or supposed problem. It told me that based on the fact that I keep mulch around the plants, the culprit was more than likely a slug. I suppose this is to be expected. For every one thing I do to try to minimize the amount of work I have in the garden, there will no doubt be a new problem to deal with. I put in the mulch to keep the weeds to a minimum, now I had slugs to contend with.

Reading on various other sites, the slug suggestion was confirmed again and again. Slugs it was. Now the problem was how to get rid of them, again I wanted something dependable, something I could find without leaving the house, was economical, and would solve the problem before my plants were eaten to mere sticks.

Typing in: How to get rid of slugs — brought up ads for slug traps I could buy but that was not what I wanted, remember: economical and immediate. Further down the page I found a link that took me to a You Tube video advertising a homemade slug trap that was sure to work. When I clicked on that, I found a whole page of videos with slug trap ideas. Thank God for the Internet!

I watched three or four videos and found that they were all pretty much the same. Research was over, it was time for action. I gathered the supplies I would need and got to work.

Supplies:

  • Small plastic pop or water bottle
  • Twist ties
  • Scissors
  • Beer (yep, beer!) and not for me, for the slugs!

First I cut the bottom 3 inches off the plastic bottle. Then I cut the top 2 inches off the top. Placing the top in the bottom upside down, I punched two holes in the sides, through both the top and bottom portions. Using the twist ties, I secured the top section to the bottom section.

I made three traps, although I have four pepper plants. I don’t have a lot of bottles at the moment so I figured if it didn’t work, I didn’t want to have to throw four bottles out. Anyway, one of the plants had only a couple of holes on the leaves, so I’d try to save the other three first.

With traps in hand, I took the can of beer hubby reluctantly sacrificed in the name of peppers, my gardening gloves, and a hand trowel to the side of the house where the pepper plants basked in the sun. Digging a small hole among the mulch, very close to the pepper plant stem, I buried the trap even with the mulch and then poured in enough beer to make a small pool in the bottom of the trap.

A close-up of the slug trap.

A close-up of the slug trap.

 

You can see where something has been eating my pepper leaves.

You can see where something has been eating my pepper leaves.

That’s it! It took all of 20 minutes to gather the supplies, make the traps, and set them. The hardest part was going to be waiting until morning to see if they worked. Apparently the slugs like it dark, so the chances of them coming out while the sun was blasting for a little beer were not high.

This morning, without waiting for my morning coffee to finish brewing, I slipped on some shoes, pulled a robe around my pajamas, and headed out to the side of the house. Starting at the closest plant, I looked in the trap. Yep, nothing — unless of course you want to count the dead ants floating in the beer. On to the next plant. This one was even less promising, it didn’t even have a dead ant in it. Okay, so I wasted 20 minutes and lost $0.30 on the deposits of the bottles I used, I could chalk this up to experience. Disheartened I moved on to the third plant. Removing the trap, I noticed something big sloshing in the beer. Peering through the top into the bottom, like looking through the eyepiece of a telescope, there floating in the beer was a big, fat slug!

See him floating down there.

See him floating down there.

You're not going to be bothering any more pepper plants you old slug!

You’re not going to be bothering any more pepper plants you old slug!

Success! The rush was unbelievable. I’d done it. Not without lots of guidance from the Internet, but I actually solved this problem without spending a lot of money, without leaving the house, and before my pepper plants were eaten away to nothing.

I have to admit I felt a little bad for the slug. When I thought about it more though I realized he had a good death, he died drunk and no doubt happy, and for this I am — Simply Grateful — okay, that just sounds wrong, but I am sure glad it worked! (I hope I don’t get letters from the Bug Rights Activists about this.)