22 June 2012

Slugs and snails and ........a huge moth!

Growing vegetables at Hill Top can be a thankless task. It seems that whatever I grow, something else wants to eat it before I do. Having successfully banished the rabbits (I hope), it's now the slugs and snails who are happily munching my produce. Plants which I've lovingly nurtured in my greenhouse, conscientiously hardened off and carefully planted out in compost enriched soil are reduced to tatters within days. It's enough to make a grown man cry!

What used to be a lettuce!
I've tried all the usual remedies; beer traps, egg shells, parasitic nematode worms and organic slug pellets but nothing really seems to work. I have one last weapon in my armoury though, pinhead oatmeal! Several years ago I visited the wonderful gardens at Cragside and discovered that the magnificent dahlia border was kept slug-free with pinhead oatmeal. I can't remember whether the slugs just like the oatmeal better than the plants or if it dries them out and makes them easy pickings for birds who are also attracted to the oatmeal but I'm going to give it a try. I'll let you know my results.
I can't get rid of all the snails though; as part of the National Trust '50 things to do before you're 11 3/4' campaign, one of the Hill Top events is snail racing, so come and have a go, just don't bring your own snails!

It's not all doom amd gloom in the veg garden though; my runner beans are merrily twisting their way up the hazel poles, potatoes are growing nicely and onions are looking especially good. The strawberries I planted in the early spring have got some fruit on so I've treated them to a traditional blanket of straw, courtesy of Hill Top farmer Gary, to keep the fruit off the ground and hopefully away from the slugs.  I'm also quite pleased with my crimson-flowered broad beans.
Broad bean 'Crimson flour'd'
Elsewhere in the garden the main borders are looking at their best with alchemillas, thalictrums, roses, geraniums, lilies and loosestrife all vying for space.
The main borders
And finally, I had a very interesting visitor to my nursery last week in the shape of an Elephant Hawk-moth, an amazing looking thing about an inch and a half from nose to tail. Apparently the caterpillars are three inches long so I really hope they don't invade my veg garden!
Elephant Hawk-moth
Post and photos by Peter the Gardener