Slugs, Begone!

We have a slug problem. I first noticed while doing a pre-spring weeding in the flower and vegetable bed, when I kept turning up the slimy little nibblers in the soil. Then I noticed chunks bitten out of new shoots. Recently, I saw flower buds with bites. But Thursday’s transgression was the worst yet: dwarf iris’s first delicate blooms, the year’s second flowers (hellebore beat them by a week), bitten to pieces! Unacceptable.

Slug-eaten iris. Last straw!
Slug-eaten iris. Last straw!

At lunch, I broke our house rules, opened my iPad at the table, and did a search for “slug deterrents.” I found an illustrated article at WikiHow that gave me several ideas, two of which I put into practice.

The first one I’m trying is the cornmeal method. Very easy. Dump cornmeal into a jar. Lay it on its side. The slugs smell it, crawl in, and die, because…I’m not sure why. The article says the texture is too rough, but I’m not sure if it cuts their bodies up or if they die from eating it. Either way, it’s so easy I had to try it.

The second approach I decided on is the yeast-and-honey method. I boiled yeast and honey together, about 1/2 cup each, in a half gallon of water.  I hesitated over the boiling instruction at first, since it would kill the yeast. But then I concluded that this might be a good thing; otherwise we’d have yeast bubbling all over the garden.  I poured the mixture into jelly jars (I wanted to use plastic disposable cups, but we had none). Then I dug a hole in the garden near a patch of tender shoots using my nifty transplanting tool, and sunk a jar into a hole. The idea here is that the slugs will be attracted to the smell of the mixture, crawl in, and be unable to escape, drowning. I only got to place one jar, though, because it was at this point that Sofia did a face plant into a patch of mud and had to be taken inside. Ah, the hazards of gardening with babies on rainy days…

We shall soon see how these are working out! Already, taking Cody out for a bedtime potty venture, I noticed that a cornmeal jar near the back door had attracted two slugs. I’m hopeful that I can save my emerging blooms. To see how these methods worked out, click here.

Hundreds and Thousands and Millions of Sprouts

Well, not quite that many, but dozens, anyway.

We have a big rectangular garden bed with rounded ends, built up with a brick wall to make it level on a slight incline, that’s perfect for veggies. We call it the oval garden, which isn’t quite satisfactory, since it’s not oval, but of course neither is it rectangular. Anyway. This garden was planted with scattered dahlias when we moved in last spring, and there were maybe half a dozen tulips at the far end. I shifted the dahlias when they started to sprout late in the spring, interfering with my rows of peas. They were shrimpy and insignificant. I doubted they’d survive. However, they not only survived, they thrived, producing vividly colored flowers until frost killed them off in the fall. I loved them — but there were far too many of them for the veggie patch. So I determined to shift them, and the tulips.

Obviously this should have been done in the fall, as soon as the foliage died off. But the ground froze before I got to them…and then the holidays were all-consuming…and I just didn’t get to it. So last week I decided to tackle the job at last, hoping I wasn’t too late.

Three tulip sprouts had popped up already. Not too bad, I thought. There were only about half a dozen last year. A little digging, and I’ll have them all out in no time. Ha. Hahaha. Little did I know that tulips multiply! There were DOZENS of the things lurking under the soil, all with yellow-green baby sprouts. I dug…and dug…and dug. Forkful after forkful of bulbs, from barely visible babies to great big fat ones. I filled half of our little red wagon with them. Here are a few pictures of the process: [I have placed pictures here six times now. Each time, in the previewed or published post, they appear at the top of the page instead. I give up. They look prettier there, anyway. Maybe tomorrow it will reset and they’ll remember where they’re supposed to be.]

I replanted as many as I could that afternoon before dark, burying them under trees and in beds all along our winding driveway. I have no idea if this was the correct solution, but since they’d already sprouted underground, putting them back into the ground seemed logical. Then I gave two dozen more to a friend. And then I spent an hour or so the next day planting even more of the things, with Niko’s help. So. Very. Many. (Yes, he’s wearing shorts. And orange-on-orange. How could I deny his need to be a pumpkin that day?)

While I was planting out the tulips, I got distracted by weeds. My ADHD took over, and before I knew it I’d weeded a whole bed while the last six bulbs waited to be planted. And then I was distracted from my distraction by these lovely blooms that my weeding uncovered:

And by these shoots — young rhubarb! Exciting!

Baby rhubarb in January, thriving under leaf mulch and burlap.
Baby rhubarb in January, thriving under leaf mulch and burlap.

Then I tackled the dahlias. These should be easy, I thought. They were so small last spring. Easy peasy. WRONG. They multiply, too! The tubers were monstrous, many-bulbed things, with each bulging root system easily eight inches across. I got as much dirt off as possible, and lay them on paper in a big feed bucket the size of a small pond. (Seriously, you could feed a whole herd of horses from that thing.) I’ll divide and plant those monsters when the frost danger is past…and no doubt I’ll have some to give away, too.

One final tidbit: Sofia sound asleep after an exhausting afternoon of riding on my back while I dug things up and buried other things.

Sound asleep. Relaxing on Mom's back is exhausting!
Sound asleep. Relaxing on Mom’s back is exhausting!

Next project: a long raised bed of overcrowded gladioli to dig up, divide, replant, and (of course) share with friends. Should be easy, right?

Budding Camellia

Not long ago, I wrote a post about how delightfully odd I am finding it to be not just tending the garden, but actually finding new growth — in the middle of fall and, now, winter. I’m not totally sure when people around here consider the start of winter; there are still golden and orange leaves on some trees, but we get a skim of ice on our ponds now, and we’re expecting snow this week. In Anchorage, my most recent home, and Northwestern Ontario and British Columbia, my childhood homes, we’d be well into winter now.

In any case, whatever the official season, we keep finding more examples. Yesterday Aaron came in from doing some yard work and announced that the big maple in the back has leaf buds. A few weeks ago, I discovered that my brand-new, freshly-planted grape hyacinths had popped up already. I see fresh young leaves on the unidentified shrub in front of our house.

Today I was taking the puppy out for a potty break and paused by the camellia behind our garage while I waited for him. And what did I see? Flower buds! They’re small and tightly furled, with no color showing, but they’re unmistakably flower buds. Amazing.

I don’t know what kind of camellia it is or when to expect blooms. I did a quick search of the Internet to make sure my plant hadn’t lost its mind and discovered that, indeed, some varieties bloom in winter, and some in spring. I suspect ours will flower in the spring. When we moved here at the end of April, the ground underneath it was littered with rotten-looking, unopened, coral-tipped buds. I’m hopeful that was a one-time problem and this spring’s flowers will succeed.

For those who share my questions, here are two sites that provided some information and advice: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, and Growing a Greener World.