Sunday, 12 June 2011

Seedlings (12 JUN 2011)

There are engineers who get their hands dirty and those who don't. People have different opinions on which group should be respected as the real engineers. I suppose the same is true of gardeners, except that I am in a third category, the gloved gardener. I would love to skip out into the garden and rummage around in the soil without a care in the world, getting dirt under my nails, letting it run through my fingers, lifting it up high so I can smell the earthiness, but I can't ....

This miniature rose bush and strawberry patch in bloom today at the bottom of my mother's garden was planted by my schoolfriend and I when we were eleven years old. This should have been the beginning of my gardening adventure but it was aborted abruptly after countless creepy crawlies manifested themselves as I dug about in the soil which had laid undisturbed for several years. Slugs, snails & worms were enough to put me off. I gave up gardening, preferring to indulge in teenage hobbies which didn't involve confronting nature. 


The only effect of growing much older is that instead of being afraid of little things, I am now afraid of big (and little) things. The realisation that my life has been inhibited by fears of all kinds didn't occur to me until I kept discovering slugs under stones and pots in my own garden, taking me back to my initial attempt at gardening as a child. I decided enough was enough and bought a thick pair of gloves, promising myself that I wouldn't allow my fears, of garden creatures at least, to get in the way of my life any more.

Fellow garden bloggers have suggested various ways of dealing with slugs and snails. I haven't taken action yet, maybe out of laziness: Do I really want to be emptying out slops of beer with drowned slugs floating on top?  Perhaps the hide-and-seek games that I have been playing with them (I plant seedlings when they're not around, they eat them when I'm not around) have endeared them to me in a way. I do find myself searching out slugs and snails these days instead of being shocked when I find them.

                     

The fact that the photos below of a slug and snail found in my plastic greenhouse are in focus are testimony to how far I've come in managing my fear. I got the idea of taking photos to cure myself from One@Onenezz .  The advantage with digital photos is that you can magnify until you can't see the form anymore, then when you reduce back down, what you found so repulsive before is much easier to look at. I've also been trying to learn more about them.  Apparently, due to the mucus that they secrete, they can creep along the edge of a razor blade without harming themselves. Their tentacles mainly sense by feeling but they contain eye spots too. This approach means that I can now handle slugs, snails and worms at arms length (with gloves on and a twig), which is progress considering where I was a year ago.

 

The advantage of growing my seedlings in the plastic greenhouse is that it holds moisture and protects the seedlings from the direct heat of the sun. These conditions are also ideal for rearing colonies of slugs and snails. After my mixture of annual, biennial & perennial seedlings, carefully chosen for short to long term plant life, were decimated over a weekend, I made a rescue effort to save at least one of each variety by planting them in two pots outside and protecting them with netting. This has been surprisingly successful so far, though the seedlings still look rather immature, considering that summer has started already.



My lesson learnt is that I should have persevered with growing seedlings in the kitchen. Last week I bought a packet of mixed annual seeds and sowed them indoors. They have started germinating already. This is plan b to fill out the flower beds for the summer season, in case the older seedlings in the pots outside don't survive.
Plan c is to plant all the foxglove seedlings that have germinated because the garden friends don't eat those, but they wont flower till next year.
Plan d is to distribute the invincible pot marigolds over the entire garden. (I just shook some seed heads into a small flower bed last year and it seems like every seed germinated.)

Hopefully one way or the other, I'll have a garden filled with plants soon !

late-sown annuals                                   strong & runt foxglove seedlings        self-sufficient marigolds
plan b                                                       plan c                                                     plan d
                      

More information about slugs & snails (the picture of slugs mating is not for the faint-hearted) :

Did you know that slugs evolved from snails by reducing the shell to a hidden membrane ? (You may not want to scroll down to the picture of the dissected slug.)  :

Slugs & snails get the blame for most things that go wrong in my garden, though I have never caught them in the act. Have you noticed how they don't eat weeds ?

borlotti bean                                            peony-style poppy                                 giant hollyhock 
            

©Copyright 2011 b-a-g. All rights reserved.

25 comments:

patientgardener said...

I use organic slug pellets and encourage lots of wildlife and this helps. I have also found that seedlings are tougher than we think and keeping them in the shelter of the greenhouse make them sappy and weak and more prone to attack. It is better to harden them off quicker and actually sometimes the conditions in the greenhouse can slow them down once they reach a certain stage

b-a-g said...

Thanks Helen - This is helpful advise about hardening off seedlings. It didn't occur to me that keeping them in the greenhouse would make them more vulnerable.

debsgarden said...

Whatever else you end up having success with, I vote for marigolds! Every garden should have at least a few. They are utilitarian and dependable. They satisfy the inept gardener's desire for color, and they repel insects. I've never seen a slug on a marigold. The first seeds I ever planted were marigolds.

By the way, as the mother of three boys, I am not squeamish about bugs at all. Except for giant black grasshoppers, the ones with yellow stripes on the sides. I am truly afraid of them. They give me nightmares!

HolleyGarden said...

Well, thankfully I don't have a big problem with slugs. I, too, would find it hard to get rid of them drowned in beer. If I'm out, I always, always have gloves on. Twigs are much appreciated when it comes to 'touching' things. So, you're not alone, although I wouldn't say mine was really a fear, more of just a disgust of slimy and/or stinky.

One said...

I'm surprised to see slugs here and even more surprised to see Onenezz mentioned. The slug is a cutie especially when viewed from the front. I don't think I have slugs here. Only snails.

Can I request that you take a few more close-ups of the slugs? It can't bite. There is nothing to fear. It eats what you eat.

Congrats! Your captions are chosen again. I'll be putting links to your blog in my next caption post. Still working on it.

b-a-g said...

Deb - So glad someone else likes marigolds. I thought I was the only one. I have never seen a giant black grasshopper with stripes, just the thought of it makes me cringe.

Holley - I think we're in the same boat. I used the word fear because I didn't want to describe it as a phobia as it's not that severe. As you say - it's a feeling of repulsion, but then when I look at the photo of the snail looking back at me with its eyespot, I find it hard to call it disgusting.

One - The second picture is actually a snail, I think it's shell is hanging back as it climbs up. Your blog is making me see critters in a different light. Thanks for choosing my captions.

Alistair said...

Hi B-a-g, Like the patient gardener we also use the organic pellets, there is a bit of a question mark over them but used sparingly I am sure they are ok. Well anyway we have an amazing amount of garden birds, dozens of frogs and bees so the balance must be fine. The very first flowers we grew from seed was pot Marigolds, I was 24 at the time. We didn't know they were Marigolds, we informed everyone they were Calendula because that is what it said on the packet. Still love them to this day, and they make me a bit too nostalgic.

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

My brother the engineer,does NOT like getting his hands dirty. No fear of slimy slugs, just not a gardener. Me, the architect, have been doing it forever. I came in all a muddy mess and my brother was a clean as the moment he dressed in the morning. You would think we would be the opposite in this respect. Weird thing though, he is a dirt bike rider and even competes. He gets pretty darn dusty there.

fer said...

So good to see this post. I just discovered some slugs going wild in my garden. I have no idea how they managed to climb all the way up here.

I consider myself a hands down gardener, but I have to admit, I don't look forward to having a slug creeping between my fingers. I rather use a twig too.

b-a-g said...

Alistair - I'm beginning to feel nostalgic about marigolds already and I only got to know them last year. Their bright orange radiance always cheers me up.

Donna - LOL, you paint a funny picture of you and your brother. Whenever, I see celebrity gardeners on the TV, I always check out their fingers for traces of soil.

Fer - I think there were probably some babies hidden in a plant that you brought in. It happened to me -I recycled seed trays without disinfecting them, then found baby slugs in amongst my seedlings.

Stacy said...

B-a-g, in replying to your comment on my post I meant to say that we don't get slugs here. I've seen snails sometimes, but only in places where people are truly irresponsible about overusing water. But now I feel mean saying it--I'm sorry about your poor seedlings! Your backup plans all sound like good saves.

Like you and Holley, if I have to pick up a grub or caterpillar or something, I do it at a distance (chopsticks to the rescue!). And even though One phrased the request so nicely, don't feel like you have to post more close-ups of the slugs...

b-a-g said...

Stacy - I'm trying to imagine a garden without slimy creatures ...
Actually since One's request I haven't seen any, just empty snail shells. I think it's because I've unzipped the greenhouse to give it some ventilation. I suppose I could go looking under some stones ...
When I started this blog I didn't think I would be writing about slugs and weeds. Maybe it's because there's nothing much happening in my garden at the moment, or because I've realised that gardening is not just about growing pretty flowers.
I'll try and include some photos of pest-free plants in my next post (if I can find any).

Donna said...

I use the organic or natural pellets that are safe for wildlife...and I vote for marigolds too...mine grown from seeds are so happy in the garden with the veggies...

Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens said...

Bag, I don't have much of a problem with slugs although they are in my garden. Would you be able to tolerate putting the rinds of used grapefruits out in your garden upside down and then collecting them in the morning? Slugs go under them to sleep during the day (they'r nocturnal), and then you throw the grapefruit beds in the trash. Carolyn

b-a-g said...

Donna & Carolyn - Thanks for the tips. I think I'll try using either the organic pellets or grapefruit rinds in the plastic greenhouse. The slugs & snails can roam free in the rest of the garden.

PatioPatch said...

Hi b-a-g - an interesting resumee as to how you came to be a gardener. In your teens no doubt you confronted nature full on! I am the hands in the dirt kind of a girl but eek when I put my hand on slugs which closet themselves under containers or worm their way into opened compost bags. Like you I wish I'd kept seedlings in the kitchin - without a greenhouse, squirrels have used the pots as toys.
Laura
p.s. prokill is my word verification - must be a sign!

beangenie said...

I'm another fan of the organic slug pellets, but I've also discovered that robins like slugs. I often garden with one very close, and when I turned a pot upside-down and revealed a slug, he/she was on it almost immediately. Now I need more robins (pity they're so territorial)...

Rosie@leavesnbloom said...

Wouldn't it be great if they would just eat weeds. I've got newts maturing in my pond so I'm hoping they will soon devour them. So far the slugs and snails have not found my salad leaf seedlings.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Laura - Please try covering your pots with netting. I find that it protects against foxes, squirrels, birds and slugs & snails.

Kate - Your comment reminds me of when I used to think I was really special because a robin hopped around really close while I was weeding. Now I realise that it's common for robins to do this. However, I think the chances of finding a robin and a slug in the garden at the same time are pretty slim. Maybe I could lure the slugs into a grapefruit rind ...

Rosie - I've got a theory that slugs and snails don't eat native plants. Maybe they're trying to tell me something.

The Sproutling said...

Oh slugs and snails are the bane of my life too - I still haven't managed to grow runner beans at home because of the slimy little so-and-sos! Good luck with gardening despite the slippery beasties!

linniew said...

Gardening makes us resourceful-- I love your plans A-D! I have also found that sometimes if I just don't worry about the leaf damage early on the plants sort of outrun the slugs and are fine as they get bigger. My hollyhocks and sunflowers sometimes do this...

Masha said...

There are lots of snails and slugs here - so many in fact that we hardly ever get to eat strawberries... I tried the beer method until my husband told me that beer should be poured into him, not into snail traps :). Good luck with your seedlings.

b-a-g said...

Thanks The Sproutling, Linnie & Masha - Maybe one day we'll discover that despite their bad reputation, slugs do some useful work in the garden.

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

Hi b-a-g, I share your dislike of slugs and snails, though I now happily crunch the latter under foot and have very few of the former thanks to the pond and therefore the frogs. I've lost a lot of seedlings in the greenhouse this year because I wasn't up to moving them out into the garden before they got decimated, so that picture of lovely plants reduced to stumps is all too familar. But sprinkling marigold seed around and planting out foxgloves are great ideas - if you like nigella (love-in-the-mist) I find that too thrives without getting munched, as do Californian poppies. The other thing I realised is that I've stopped putting gravel over newly sown seeds for some reason - when I did that, I had far fewer problems with seedlings being munched.

b-a-g said...

Janet - I know that accidental crunch sound very well. I dread looking behind me, and avoid that spot for a while after.
I've got a packet of nigella that I didn't get round to sowing - I'll give it a try.
I'll remember the gravel tip next time I'm brave enough to leave seedlings in the greenhouse.

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