sorry slugs

Last year in a random attempt at gardening, my husband and I haphazardly planted various vegetables and flowers in our north facing planter boxes. Even with serious neglect (third trimester + the dead heat of summer = zero gardening motivation), we still had plenty of beans, peas and tomatoes that managed to hang on for dear life. That experiment taught us several lessons including:

  1. don’t question the broccoli – just harvest it. We ended up with a handful of beautiful yellow flowering plants instead of steamed green goodness.
  2. don’t underestimate the slug. It may appear at first to be just a dumb, slow-moving gelatinous glob, but it will wreck havoc on your bounty before you can grab a salt shaker.
  3. watering in the early morning or late evening truly does make a difference. Think of plants + water like vampires, they will explode in a burst of fiery flames at the first sunlight. Perhaps not that dramatic, but you get the picture.
  4. think just as hard about what to plant, as what you plant in. I gravitated towards those brightly colored sacks of earth that promised plants of epic proportions, but really, does a tomato need to be the size of a beach ball and what exactly is this “miracle” that makes this sh*t grow? In hindsight, we were the people in Idiocracy. Note: Brawndo is not what plants crave, even if “it’s got electrolytes.” While my child did not end up being born with a third arm, I don’t think putting chemicals into the soil where you’re growing food is a good idea.

So, 2010 is going to be our gardening year. We’ve both loosely read All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew (I say loosely because we’ve got a very mobile, very crazy eight-month old who limits our reading time) and are loosely following it (also due to aforementioned very mobile, very crazy baby). So far, so good. From what I can tell, Mel is much like the Mister Rogers of the gardening world and I trust his advice implicitly. His soil blend, deemed Mel’s Mix, is comprised of vermiculite, blended composts and peat moss and it is the bomb. Every vegetable that we have planted is from seed this year, and nearly all are showing signs of life. Wildly different than last year’s experiment which only yielded about 10% of what we planted.

To say that I am dorking out about our results thus far would be an understatement. That said, the one wrench in the cog so far are those pesky, gelatinous globs that are seriously encroaching on our little sprouts. Last night I whipped up a simple and cheap little death cocktail* that I’d like to share:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar
  • chopped banana peels – I only had one on hand, but I bet you could go crazy and chop up, like, lots
  • 1 gallon water

Mix it all together until the sugar has dissolved and ladle into whatever shallow dishes, jars, etc. you have tinkering around in that recycle bin. You can store excess solution in a quart mason jar and it’ll keep in the refrigerator for about a week.

As you can see, I opted to pour the solution into jars in my kitchen. If you’re on the clumsy side like yours truly, seriously considering doing this outside. Sugar water is sticky and I may have had a bit of an accident. Perhaps I’ll be posting a death cocktail for ants in the near future. Anyway, if you opt to use this solution and it works for you, I’d love to hear about it. Also, what other natural pest control methods are you practicing?

*Death cocktail acquired by using a recipe from Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living by Annie Berthold-Bond. Slug image source: Oregon Live.

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