Thursday, 12 October 2017

FEEDING CREATURES

Onion seedling on Halifax allotment.
Onion seedling. Here one day, gone the next. 9th September 2017.
My allotment neighbour and I say little. We call out a cheery 'good morning' or say 'see you tomorrow' as we wave goodbye. We have few words in common. We speak different languages. But we both know 'slugs'. She showed me a heavily nibbled vegetable. Later she waved a big container of slug-pellets, pointed at it and smiled.

She may be right. My onion seeds germinated and vanished. I think I had kohlrabi seedlings at one point. It's of no account. Whatever they were, they've gone.

I planted fifty ornamental alium bulbs; badgers came over night and dug them up leaving one left on the surface. I replanted it.

Red clover germinating under a heavy black mesh
On the upside, I now I have a use for some of the rubbish strewn around the place. I covered the bulb bed (which may now be an empty bed except for one flower) with plastic mesh and weighted it down with old bricks. The next day, I sprinkled red clover seeds through it. The seeds weren't meant to be scattered across the surface of the soil but I was reluctant about dismantling my badger defences. The germination rate was wonderful; visible. But only briefly. Mesh may deter badgers but slugs sniffed at it and surged in.

Brussels Sprouts Plant
This week I planted curly kale and Brussels sprouts plants from a garden centre. The big windows in our new house light our rooms surprisingly well - but the sun isn't strong enough to properly warm our sills. Everything gets a bit bedraggled. They had been there for a while before I had time to move them. None the less, I cleared a new bed and interspersed the slightly unhappy plants with slug traps. Beer is conventional. Milk works just as well and the plants have survived. But the half buried traps were soon dug up and overturned. Badgers!

I'm assuming badgers. There are round indentations where they've placed their feet. And round indentations where they've pressed their snouts into the soil searching for worms. And there are diggings which go nowhere. And slimy grey poo! (Next time I find some I'll show you.) And the soil, though not sandy, is fine. I suppose they like that.

The beginnings of a compost heap.
The red blob which looks suspiciously like a tomato is a crab apple.
At least, I hope it's a crab apple.
I wouldn't intentionally to put tomatoes or potatoes in compost.
I now have compost bin where I feed brandling worms from Dorset with specially bought veg. from here. Rats have found it and burrowed in. We can buy rat poison in the allotment shop but I've blocked their first hole with a stone.

In theory there are carrot seeds between the rungs of an old wooden cot side tugged out of the long grass and weighted down against badgers. But slugs are undeterred by wooden bars. So . .  no carrots!

I have onion sets and peas to put in. (Seed-selling sites recommend which varieties can be planted at this time of year.)

I hope slugs enjoy them.
Long live badgers who cavort in my newly dug beds.
And a toast to the birds which don't seem to be there to feast on the seeds.

Could do with a robin for company though. Or a blackbird.

Or perhaps not. Do robins and blackbirds eat slugs? I think they might be interested only in worms. Maybe they eat other things too for some of the time but when you are digging - it's worms.
And pigeons would want brassicas and peas.
Bother wildlife!

* * *
LINKS

'How do Slugs Eat?' - Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
For masses of information about badgers - Badgerland.

16 comments:

Phil Slade said...

It's a shame about your lack of birds but your neighbour's slug pellets wont help the birds or the badgers. There does seem to be an imblalance in the area, perhaps some good quality squirrel proof bird feeders with niger and sunflower seed would bring in Goldfinches, Greenfinches and I'm sure, a Robin or two.

Flighty said...

I sympathise, and grateful that I don't have a problem with badgers. Robins eat grubs and worms but not slugs. The latter are one reason I don't grow any vegetables at this time of year when it's damp and still relatively mild.
I guess that you're going to have to think about how you're going to protect your seedlings and plants. xx

karen gimson said...

Oh no. I truly sympathise with you. I can recommend something called strulch to protect the seedlings from slugs. It’s expensive, but works for me. Makes a nice mulch and protects plants from frost too. Did you know that badgers love peanuts. We once managed to entice them away from the veg plot by making a feeding station nearby. Cost a fortune in peanuts, but did take their mind off the veg. Good luck.

liz said...

Oh dear, your allotments seem to be a haven for varmints. It is a challenge, but I’m sure you will prevail.

Barbara Fisher said...

I love the humour running through your post but I can also sense your frustration. Slug pellets might well deter (or rather kill) the slugs but I can no longer use them. I did once, but not anymore I would rather the birds were safe and my plants not so.

Cro Magnon said...

Lucy, I am very against any form of chemicals at Haddock's, but when it comes to slugs I really have no option. I buy 'wildlife friendly pellets' which work well on the slugs, whilst (I hope) not doing any harm to the wildlife. If I didn't use them I would have NOTHING.

eljaygee said...

Gosh there is evidently more wildlife in Halifax than I would have guessed Lucy. The love of one does not always gel with a desire to grow food though - you need thrushes for those slugs. Badger poo is particularly smelly but they do eat slugs I believe - probably prefer earthworms in that lovely toiled soil

Linda aka Crafty Gardener said...

Yikes, so many critters enjoying your attempts at veggie gardening. I gave up gtowing in the ground and went to large containers on tables to elevate the plants from nibbling critters. Alas, you can’t stop them all but I can make it a lot harder for them. Thank goodness for riadside farm stands.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Phil. I'm not sure what other allotmenteers would think about bird feeders. Looking around the plots it's clear that soft fruit grows exceptionally well.

Hello Mike. I'm hoping that when I have more growing on the allotment, the badgers will find it less interesting. At the moment, I suppose, they are seeing every dug bed as a new plate of food.

Hello Karen. I'd not heard of Strulch before so I looked it up - and goodness! it really is expensive! This whole first year will be a 'discovering' phase. I don't know the climate here. So far, it's been warmer than I had expected. And for all that the broader area is known for floods and rain, there are water pipes on every plot which suggests it's drier in summer than I might have anticipated too. Sun is the greatest slug repellent of all! Here's hope.

Hello Liz. Thanks for your confidence. I hope I do prevail . . in time!

Lyn said...

oh dear! We can sympathise with you....Hubby lay a lovely new lawn last weekend, took him all day in the drizzle and came in with a bad back.....that evening the badger dug it up again!!
Father in law said we should encourage them to eat elsewhere in the garden by feeding them but Hubby is more inclined to follow internet advise and shall we say......relieve himself on the lawn! apparently they don't like the smell of human urine.....I said neither do I!!!!
xxx

Brian Skeys said...

I have virtually given up growing vegetables everything else eats it before you can! Badgers are a problem both here and on the allotment.

Caroline Gill said...

Sounds like there is much to challenge your ingenuity and determination on the allotment, Lucy! Personally I would also have tried the stone-blocking method for the rats. I don't like the use of poisons...

Strangely for the first year my Nasturtiums have not been macerated by caterpillars - the downside being less white butterflies in the garden.

Keep up the good work, and thanks for your kind comment.

Alistair said...

Lucy, I think you deserve a break, perhaps a plague of frogs, and maybe a few hedgehogs and also a thrush or two.

Down by the sea said...

Oh dear it looks as if you are feeding the wildlife rather than yourself. Slugs and snails can be frustrating. Not sure what birds like eating slugs, have a feeling ducks like them. Sarah x

Caro (UrbanVegPatch) said...

Gosh, what a lot you've had to put up with, Lucy! At the plots where I help out, there's a guy who puts out food for the birds and, as a result, gets lots of rats on his plot. I doubt birds would eat slugs if there was plenty of bird food to hand! Turning the compost regularly will get air in and disturb rats trying to settle but, like slugs, you'll never be entirely rid of them. Badgers are so strong - I remember them regularly knocking over our dustbin to get at the scraps when I was younger! If you can get hold of some old metal poles, I'd try banging them into the ground in a rectangle, fixing netting to the sides to deter badgers, use organic slug pellets, or strulch, or wool pellets around the seedlings and then net over the top to deter birds. It has to be all belts and braces on an allotment!! It's the pigeons that do the most damage at my plot but slugs, foxes and cats are top villains in the veg patch, despite 6ft high fencing! Lucky I enjoy gardening as much as eating the results! Caro xx (PS, sorry went on a bit there ... !)

Anna said...

Oh what an array of creatures keen to taste your tasty offerings Lucy. I have almost all of the above on my plot bar badgers. However I have rabbits instead :( I'm surprised that you have not seen a robin yet -normally they just have to hear the sound of a fork and they are at your feet. I used to get upset when young crops disappear but now try to take the attitude that usually there's enough for all. I wonder if your plot has been uncultivated for a while before you took it over. If so I think that the slug population will probably decrease now that somebody is working the plot regularly. Good luck!