Saturday, December 5, 2009

Extending the Season and the Challenge of Slugs

My only serious attempt to extend the growing season has been a cedar frame with a glass cover that I have used the past four years to keep lettuce in wait for growing in the early spring. Here is what it looked like two years ago. The glass cover (an old storm door window) just sits on top (see below).

The first year this worked wonderfully and in the spring we harvested quite a bit of lettuce before anything was ready from the regular garden. I think I was just lucky that year because I had no idea of when to start the seedlings and no problem with slugs. In the intervening years I didn't plant soon enough (last year) or slugs had a feast. It must be a real treat for them to have a protected, relatively warm place with delicious young seedlings to feast on.

This year I either planted early eno
ugh or the unusually warm November gave the seedlings enough time to mature. But, as a number of people have experienced, slugs and snails have had a very productive year. I originally set out 35 seedlings and a little later replaced six or seven of them to maintain the 35 seedling number. But as some of those began to disappear I discovered that slugs were the problem. I had left the black six-packs with a few remaining seedlings in the frame and discovered that slugs were spending their daylight hours under the six packs and in the grooves between the cells of the six pack. Obviously slug control was needed. I set out a piece of board with black plastic stapled to it in the middle of the seedlings and a small black plastic tray in a corner of the bed. Each day I go out, remove the glass cover and transfer whatever slugs I find into salt water. I am surprized at the number of slugs that I have removed from this relatively small area - somewhere between 40 and 50. I don't know whether they are immigating into the frame from outside, or there are eggs hatching in the soil, or there are just that many slugs there. When I go two days without finding slugs I think the battle is over but then go out the next day and find three or four more.

I have also scattered crushed egg shells around the seedlings and for the past week or ten days the number of healthy looking
plants has held at 24. I don't know why I didn't do that when I planted the seedlings because I did that earlier with Chinese cabbages. What I did do initially was spread some wheat bran around the seedlings. Rumors that slugs eat the bran and die didn't work for me. The bran absorbed moisture and got crusty and needed to be removed.

As to the correct planting time for the seedlings, I just read in Eliot Coleman's "The Winter Harvest Handbook" that pl
ants you want to harvest through the winter need to have almost reached maturity before the day length becomes shorter than ten hours. In Syracuse that would be November 8th. I started this year's lettuce on September 23rd and transplanted them into the frame around October 28th. That seems about right, although maybe starting the seeds a week earlier would be better. I recall also reading recently that September 15th is suggested.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Just thought you would like to know of a brilliant slug protector....I like you and most gardeners suffer from slugs and snails in this damp weather and in fact now that the climate has changed we have the slug and snail problem all year round, I have tried beer traps, copper tape, salt, egg shells, even throwing them in my neighbours garden etc,etc recently a lady gardener recommended a new device to control slugs and snails called the slugbell she has used it and found it to be absolutely brilliant at controlling them I have just ordered 6 of them to place around my flowers and vegetable garden ,here is there web page they use both organic or normal pellets and that the small amount of pellets needed will last up to three months.!!! as they don’t dissolve in the soil and they are pet safe Brilliant for pet owners well, I will try anything to keep my garden looking how it should.
    just thought that you may be interested
    your veggie s look very good.