2012 will be known, by many, as The Year Of The Slug. It would appear that our slimy, all-destroying foe have made some kind of pact with the devil, and have spawned offspring with superpowers capable of reducing an established pea plant to 1mm of stalk in twenty minutes flat.
Add to the demon slugs a big dollop of extremely odd weather, vastly flucuating temperatures, a very late frost and the damned rats of the sky (pigeons, what else?), and you will understand why I have spent much of this growing season with my head in my hands.
During an extremely rare hour today when we didn’t have bright sunshine followed by a sudden deluge; the boys and I ventured up to the garden to check out the bed and the polytunnel. On Saturday, Richard had worked magic with our tatty bit of netting to ensure it was taut enough that the pigeons didn’t consider it a handy perch to sit on whilst they demolished my sprouts, and I had filled up the beer traps with the dregs of our barrel of homebrewed Welsh Trollop Pilsner and despatched a fair few slugs with all the glee of a horticultural Idi Amin. Let battle commence!
Things are NOT looking too shabby, all things considered.
At home, in the shaded front garden, we are growing kale and purple sprouting broccoli. These are actually doing really well, and don’t seem to be having any issues with the weather, or with cabbage white butterflies. Our potatoes in sacks have also done pretty well considering I have been guilty of ignoring them and not earthing them up when I should have.
In the raised bed we have:
Peas – a second sowing, because the slugs demolished the first ten plants overnight. These haven’t been a great success, the plants stayed small and we’ve only had a few pods ready at any one time – these are eagerly devoured raw by the boys.
Broad beans – These have been phenomenal, really. We are all currently sick to death of broad beans. I mistakenly bought a tall growing, rather than dwarf variety which isn’t ideal for the bed; but pinching the tops out have stopped them getting too out of hand.
Courgette ‘Zucchini’ – It’s doing alright, slower than the two I have in tubs at home (different varieties, but Hellboy has hidden the labels so I can’t remember what they are); but the slugs are even attacking the leaves of that, despite its prickly underside. Usually, we have a glut of courgettes from two plants – this year we have a total of three, and have just enough to handle.
Red cabbage and sprouts – These were planted a couple of weeks ago, to fill in the gap left by the incredible disappearing carrots. Both are doing well, though there have been a few pigeon attacks to the sprouts (they don’t seem interested in the red cabbage) hence our trickery with the netting.
Lettuce – Red lettuce, Bulls Blood (which are really beet leaves), and Little Gem. These are doing remarkably well considering the almost constant attack by the marauding slug hordes; but that is where I have put the beer trap. The Bulls Blood is doing less well – possibly because it was sown from seed in situ, rather than grown in the polytunnel and then transplanted as the other two varieties were.
Leeks – Are looking pretty healthy, and are growing much better than last year when they were very stunted, and then bolted almost immediately when we had an uncharacteristically hot spell.
As for the carrots….I sowed two varieties – Amsterdam Forcing ‘Sprint’; and Autumn King. Weeks went by….nothing. Then, I saw a few seedlings poking their heads out of the soil, and there was much rejoicing.
Then the seedlings disappeared.
We concluded that a combination of slugs, and cold, damp weather had destroyed the lot – what hadn’t germinated and been eaten had probably rotted away. So…imagine my surprise on Saturday when I noticed a lot of carrot seedlings popping up. Around my sprouts. These are the Amsterdam Forcing, the so-called ‘early crop’ that we should have been eating by now. Given that we are almost half way through August, I don’t really see them coming to much but we shall see. I shall call it an experiment.
One year, I will get it right. I swear.