Summer, Showers & Slugs

Its been a mixed year up on the allotment this year. The weather has been…well, wet is the only way to describe it. From April to June it has been what felt like a constant downpour. The rain I can get over, but the wet weather has brought out an army of slugs in numbers which could rival that of the British armed forces and although warm it hasn’t been enough to allow some of the crops to establish well and grow strong, and a slug loves nothing better that to take advantage of new growth on a plant not at full strength.

I planted 5 rows of potatoes in total: 2 rows Colleen (early/seconds), 2 rows of Sarpo Mira and 1 row of International Kidney all or which have grown well and we have even lifted 4 plants of Colleen and had a pretty decent crop. It wasn’t a massive crop but being impatient I did lift them early as they flowered. They were delicious and I’ll be growing them again next year. We did have a moment one day when I found one of them had gone brown and my heart sank as I tried to work out if blight had made an appearance. Having looked carefully and gathering the opinion of some of the more experienced people on the site we deduced that it probably wasn’t blight but just a bad plant that had probably got damaged and rotted. To be on the safe side I burnt it anyway…blight is not something you want to risk.
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The parsnips are growing beautifully and are green a luscious and so far no sign of pests *fingers crossed*. The carrots on the other hand have been a nightmare. I sowed 2 rows, 1 a small globe variety good for clay soils and a rainbow mix. None of the globes germinated…well actually I tell a lie, 3 germinated. Half of the rainbow mix came up but they have recently decided that they don’t want to grow and some of the tops are now dying off. Not one to be defeated I have purchased some seeds for an autumn/overwintering variety, they can be sown up to August and I will be doing so in a few large containers on the sheds balcony. Unusually, I have had the same problem with the beetroots. I sowed boltardy, chioggia and golden burpees and all of them either didnt germinate or stopped growing. Once again, the slugs took advantage of the weak plants and demolished the remaining beetroot tops, stopping the plants from harnessing energy to grow.

Following their feast on the beets and carrots they moved onto the climbing french beans. About 4 out of the 10 plants have recovered from being eaten and begun to climb the poles but given the time of year I think Ill be luck to crop enough for a meal before they need to be taken up. Ill be replacing these with some dwarf french beans which I will start at home to ensure strong growth before putting them out.

Finally it was the turn of the brassica bed to take the hit. After a disaster earlier in the year when I forgot to bring my seedlings in after a warm day and they all died from a night frost, I was already running behind. The brassica’s were planted out a bit smaller than I would have liked and because the weather had been less that ideal, it has taken them even longer to esablish and start growing well. The bed is covered which has helped to protect them from the hungry pigeon and caterpillar but the slugs are cunning. They will not be deterred by such things as nets and cages and instead will tunnel underneath where they can happily feast away on the fresh green growth smug in the fact that a) they have the brassica’s all to themselves and b) the predators cannot reach them under the netting.

I love all animals and even actively go out of my way to care for, rehabilitate and release sick and injured wildlife. However, I do sometimes wonder what the point of a slug actually is?

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