Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Murder at Midnight

All February, I busily tucked seeds and seedlings in the ground here and there: shelling peas under the bedroom window with a tomato cage accommodatingly placed so, when the tiny seedlings burst through the soft soil, they can reach and roam at their leisure. Radish seedlings pushing their little faces toward the sun only days after we planted their earlier-seed selves. Farmers' market lettuce seedlings - purple and green bouquets of lacy leaves - slipped in, while their older siblings, bolt and move to the compost heap.

This March has been unusually warm and dry. I can recall only one storm so far and, even as I lament the dire need for rain, I'm shuffle through my seed packets, plucking out sunflowers, pumpkins and runner beans - which my local gardening book promises I can (and should) plant now.

Yesterday, while out sprinkling my babies with shower warm up water, I bent over to examine some stubs around the cages meant for crawling peas. My seedlings had been shorn down to the dirt. Clutching my heart and raising a hand to my forehead (for affect), I had a flashback to last summer. Before I'd been bitten by the vegetable garden bug, I was all about the flowers, particularly sunflowers. I had yanked out some low maintenance shrubbery, added compost and weeded the soil along my back fence. Then, I gingerly buried two packets worth of Mammoth sunflower seeds in a row, speckled with several adolescent sunflowers purchased from my local nursery. I envisioned a line of shaggy, seeded heads come fall. What I got, though, were tiny seedlings, slayed bite by bite by some slimy slugs.

The pea seed evidence was in. Murder had been done last midnight. A verdict was reached. It was time for slug soup.

1 Tablespoon yeast
3 cups warm water
3 Tablespoons sugar

Dissolve yeast in water, then mix in sugar. Let mixture sit a bit until foamy. Leave outside in shallow containers (like plastic lids) for the snails and slugs to enjoy their last meal.

I know what you are thinking.

You are right. You can do the same thing with beer but, honestly, who wants to waste a perfectly good bottle on those voracious little critters.

Oh, you weren't thinking that? Well, you are also right in that you can hand pick them. I've spent many an hour out in my garden, in the dead of night, under the glow of a single flashlight, harvesting snails and slugs. I do need to sleep though and, with my infestation of tiny slugs, I could spend a week's worth of full nights hand picking and only then make a dent in the population. More importantly, I'm a bit squeamish about all that picking and stomping and, truth be told, kind of sad to have a violent hand in the creatures' demise. Look at that picture. There is something cute about a snail or slug - when it isn't mowing through my 100 foot produce.

Besides, drowning in a frothy little blend of locally processed yeast and organic, fair trade sugar seems a sweeter way to go - and I can dispatch 30 to 50 of those crawlies a night. Will my seedlings survive this year to grow into the garden I've dreamed of? Will Slug Soup save the day? Do you know of a kinder, more efficient way to rid my vegetable gardens of its hungry residents? Who will actually be murdered at midnight - the plants or the slugs?


arduous said...

Ew. At first I thought slug soup meant ... well you know.

I guess it would be local!

CindyW said...

I have seen slugs/snails moving to our yard as well. They are trying to destroy my nascent garden! Will definitely use your SLUG soup recipe.

Green Bean said...

Arduous: You know I'm all into the 100 foot diet, right? Plus, it's an extra source of protein. ;-) I'll save you some.

Cindy: Hope it works for you!

Raw Food Diva said...

I follow Perelandra methods. No bug killing required but it is a learning curve.

molly said...

OMG, I thought you were making a soup to eat from slugs LOL!

I bury an empty margarine container that hasn't been washed, put about an inch of beer in the bottom.....well, needless to say, they climb in after that yeast and have a very happy death.

I feed them to the chooks (chickens) after that.....don't ask me what happens when you have a ton of them and give them to the fowls, I had some happpy chooks through doing this once LOL!!

arduous said...

Geez, I get slug soup but no sweet potato gnocchi? So unfair! ;)

onestraw said...

In addition to slug bait traps you can also lay some old 2x4's or other lumber in your gardens. The slugs will hide under them in the day and are super easy to scrape off when you come out to check your beds.

Ducks work well too...

Envious (at least right now!) of your Zoen -I just PLANTED my peas -we got 12" of snow last Friday and will get another 2-3 tomorrow.

Green Bean said...

RFD: Hmm, never heard of Perelandra but it looks interesting. How long have you been doing it?

Molly: Wish I had chickens to feed out slugs too. Oh well, at least they die happy, right?

Arduous: You know I love you girl but, heck, that gnocchi was go-od!

Rob: Perfect! I knew someone out there would have advice for me. I'll lay out a few 2x4s. Sadly, neither ducks nor chickens are in the picture for us . . . this year. Thank you!

TopVeg said...

Thanks for the recipe - our slugs are just preparing for this season's battle!

Tameson O'Brien said...

Kinder? NO. More efficient? Maybe. Diatomaceous Earth will slice up their little bellies making them dehydrate, but it won't bother larger animals. I can just imagine the neighbor dog slurping up my slug soup (my old dog loved beer and bread and any other yeasty old thing he had access to). Just spread the DE around your plants and the slugfest will cease. As an aside, I know many sheep farmers who use DE as a wormer in order to gain . There are 2 grades Food grade and Pool grade. I'd go for the former.

Tameson O'Brien said...

Ooh sentence interuptus - that was supposed to be in order to gain organic status.

Audrey said...

I don't know about cute. These guys have also razed my radishes this spring. I've tried many things and beer works until the squirrel living in the magnolia tree drinks it dry.

Best luck has been with wrapping copper pipe around a small raised bed. It apparently gives the slugs an electrical shock of sorts.

Chile said...

Having had no experience with slugs, I'd only heard about beer. Can tell you one thing though: copper pipe wouldn't last here. Copper theft is HUGE due to tweakers; they'll rip up interior walls to steal the pipes.

I'd rather waste a little beer than have idiots trash my garden....well, unless they decided to lay down and slurp up the beer. Hm....

Donna said...

That soup sounds like a great idea and more kid-friendly than some other methods. I'll probably try it! Now, do you know a kid-friendly way to get rid of the ants in my kitchen?

Anonymous said...

If you save your eggshells,crush them and sprinkle them around your plants the slugs will stay away...they hate to travel over those scratchy eggshells.
I've planted a large garden for 44+ years, can and freeze the extra and line dry my clothes unless it's snowing. I'm happy to see so many people caring about our impact on our planet.
To me disposable diapers are the worst contributor to pollution.

Green Bean said...

Tameson and Audrey: awesome ideas! I'm going to do them both.

Donna: ants? no clue. I usually just wipe them up with a damp towel. Ours go away eventually but we don't have major ant infestation (knock on wood). Good luck!

Chile: better keep the beer inside just to be safe!

Anonymous: egg shells have never worked for me. Maybe I don't have enough or am doing it wrong. Bummer. But thanks for the comment!

Topveg: best of luck to your garden!

cindy24 said...

I bought some thin copper tape and plan to nail it to the border of my garden. I made a small circle of it around my pumpkin and it has kept the slugs off. The slugs ate 1/2 the pumpkin the first day it was in. I think they should sell the wood planter boxes with a small copper trim.


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