June 06, 2014
Behind The Hedges // 2
This year is our first year as allotment holders. Tucked away on Sheffield’s hillside, our plot is lined up with 29 other gardens. With keen garden neighbours all around us, advice, tips and help is never far even in the most daunting situations. In Behind the hedges I would like to share my experience in gardening and being part of a great community that is our little allotment society.
There is a battle going on in our allotment these days. It has changed me. Gone are the days when I thought gardening is all about nurturing tiny seeds into little plants and them feeding and cheering them along until they are strong and full of life. Oh no, that is – I am afraid to say – only the romantic 10% of gardening. Nurturing our plants is more like an ongoing battle against various enemies. For once there is the integrated stubbornness of seeds that just won’t germinate until they have the right conditions. Picky little things they are, demanding more water, less water, more nutrition’s, less nutrition’s or even complain about the soil. I can deal with that though, it’s like having just another argument with an impatient 11year old. Been there, know how to do that.
Never would I have thought though, I would murder for my plants. Yes, you read correctly –murder! In only one afternoon my favourite Englishman and I turned from innocent allotment rookies into slug killers – coming up with ideas to get rid of the enemy on a daily basis.
Admittedly the intensity of the current war was sparked by our own stupidity. Do you remember the cold frame my fav Englishman built for me? Yes, that fancy window construction we so bluntly placed on a free patch, with no protection underneath or around and then inspected one day to find our seedlings and cucumber juniors gnawed away. Oh that shock. When I retrieved the trays from the frame, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A massive slug party was nesting underneath. Rubbing their fat bellies, hung over from too much cucumber and basil leafs and dozing in the warm air of the greenhouse. How could they? Well, let’s be honest it was inevitable that we would have to fight for our fruits with other species; we just hadn’t given it any thought before.
Now we were raging with ideas how to get rid of the slugs. First, we moved the cold frame on to a new patch, which we lined with thick concrete slabs first (no digging through the earth anymore, you slugs!). Then we turned to our neighbours for help, who immediately grabbed for their slug pellet bottles. Slug pellets if you have never heard of them before are little blue pills or, well, pellets that attract the slugs. So much that they rather go for that then the yummy plants around, which is bad, because the pellets are poisonous to the slugs.
Slug pellets are not the only weapon we came up with in the past weeks. We also spread lines of salt around the patches, so when the slugs attempt to crawl to our plants they will dry out and die as soon as they cross the salt border. Pretty mean, huh?! Our newest inventions however are beer baths in the middle of our strawberry field. Apparently slugs love them self a nice pint of lager. So we thought we pay them a round.
Now every time I find a slimy trace going through the cold frame or across one of the patches I immediately look for a dead slug at its end, punching the air with satisfaction when I find one. It’s bad I know, and I do feel sorry for them at the same time. Only one look though at the gnawed on leafs on my fighting and thriving basil plants eases my mind. It’s all for the little ones!