Monday, 19 July 2010

The Beast Within

Readers who were with us last season will be familiar with my feelings on the subject of slugs. I thought my hatred of slugs had reached its peak with the decimation of last year’s savoy cabbages. However, the well of hatred has not run dry, and may in fact be bottomless. Yesterday I discovered my inner beast, the place inside where my murderous urges reside. It was raining lightly, I’d watered the polytunnel and was already quietly seething as an overnight visitor had nibbled the leaves and buds on two pepper plants. Despite the rain I thought I’d harvest a legume selection for our guests in Hen Ffermdy cottage. That’s when I saw them. Hundreds of the little *******. Big black ones, fat brown ones, even baby ones, sliming up the stalks, squatting on the leaves, squelchily gnawing at the pods. Below are “before” pictures of my peas and broad beans. There’s no “after” pictures as I fear the images would be too distressing.


One broad bean plant was stripped entirely of pods, and its few remaining leaves drooped sadly under the weight of engorged slugs. I ripped the plant from the ground and fed it to the pigs. Handful after handful of slugs were catapulted over the fence. In the end I decided this was too kind and took to dashing their slimy bodies to the ground, stamping and mashing them into the stones, cursing like a woman possessed.

I am partly to blame for the demise of the legumes. As the cabbages and sprouts were so badly damaged last year by the twin menaces of slug and caterpillar, the brassica bed has been the focus of my slug defences. Baked, crushed egg shells, plus slug pellets, plus slug beer trap and constant netting, all of which has left this year’s brassica bed in tip top condition. The sprouts are doing so well that Dave had to raise the height of their net structure to cope with the burgeoning plants. I’m particularly proud of my drumhead red cabbages, with their vast leaves that flap in the breeze like purple elephant ears.


We lifted the garlic and shallots last week, so the winter crop of leeks could go in. Last years leeks were a bit stumpy, so this time Dave pushed the big dibber in nice and deep to give the leeks plenty of growing space. The down side is that the cats think the holes are mouse houses. I caught Stevie with his paw down a hole and a baby leek in his mouth. Bad cat. So now the leeks have to be netted too. Pests come in all shapes and sizes, big and furry, small and slimy.



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