I have known slugs forever but only since I've had an allotment has my
relationship with them become personal - especially in a year
notorious for their depredations on allotments and kitchen gardens -
ιn this case on my cabbages. An otherwise successful sequence of crops
has been riddled with their holes.
I'm privileged to be able in my old age to be working a plot on the Victoria Jubilee Allotments next to Handsworth Park in Birmingham. This is my second year since the site opened in June 2010.
The basic grubbing up of deep weeds, breaking up of the soil, laying of paths, arrival of a shed, sowing and harvesting a soil improving crop of potatoes and occasional scything of verges has happened. The hard work was what I expected.
There's no question that I'm making progress - in part self-taught, in part tutored by more knowledgeable neighbours on the site. My back aches less after digging and weeding because the soil works easier and because I've become better at working with fork and spade and hoe.
In recent months, as well cropping as potatoes, I've been bringing home runner beans, broad beans, spring onions, brussel sprouts, onions, spinach, and - I'd like to claim - cabbages but for the slugs getting to them first.
We're forbidden insecticide and non-organic slug pellets on the allotments - a policy I support - but so wet has been the weather that organic pellets I put down were ineffectual. I could not see the slugs that were causing the problem. Other gardeners complained of them too. This afternoon I picked two cabbages that looked as if they might be complete enough to be cookable. I removed their outer leaves finding slug after slug - often larger ones lodged in the damp spot where the leaves joined the stalk. At last I was seeing the cause of the problem.
I found at least six slugs before I arrived at a centre that was
unnibbled. I selected a third smaller but well bunched cabbage
penetrated to the core. I took it apart leaf by leaf removing ten
slugs. Andrew Simon, a friend strolled round. I explained what I was
"I put small bowls of beer out. The slugs go in. You take them out a drop them into a moderate saline solution. It kills them almost at once."
Earlier Vanley had suggested I put a plastic bag on the soil beside the cabbages
"They crawl under it in the night and you can pick them off the next morning".
Later our friend Denise came round
"Put out saucers of meaty cat-food. They love it. That'll keep them off your cabbages and you can collect them up when you collect the saucers."
I've been so pleased to be getting greater control over my plot that I've overlooked the control of pests - especially slugs this year. The next crops, especially root vegetables and brassicas, will be getting far more attention. I will experiment to find the best way to defend my crops.