Tuesday, 3 January 2012

rain stops play.....

Slug eggs: urtica 
Rain - and wind - stopped play this Tuesday, the trainees were not due back until Wednesday and it was a good time for Sarah and her team to catch up with paperwork so volunteering day was cancelled.
The heron is back, though and seems to have set up residence in the area. Sarah’s seen it in the pond and on the roof of one of the houses on Windsor Street opposite the farm. ( If anyone can get a photo of it please send it in and we’ll put it on the blog.) 

There is a theory that if there are predatory birds around then the food supply must be plentiful, which in turn suggests that the supporting environmental infrastructure is healthy too. I hope that’s true. I’ve spent a bit of spare time over Christmas reading about slugs. ( I had a bad cold , television was rubbish - what else was there to do?) There are between 24 and 30 different types of slugs and there seem to be as many, if not more approaches to getting rid of them. Slugs do have their role - they clean up by eating decaying vegetation but they seem to be committed adherents to the view that life is a continuous process of decay starting with those healthy young plants that you lovingly nurtured  until they were ready to plant out and moving on to the roots and tubers which you can‘t even see have been attacked until you come to harvest them! 
If you want to take an ecological approach then maintaining a healthy and clean environment seems to be the best way to minimise slug damage. Slugs need cool, shady and damp places to protect them and their eggs from drying out during the day.  If you keep your vegetable plot tidy you reduce the number of places where slugs can hide and places where they can lay their eggs - which is no bad thing if you think that hermaphrodite pairs of slugs lay batches of 30 eggs each and any one individual slug has the potential to produce arond 40,000 eggs. These can hatch out after 10 days if the weather is warm. Young slugs take under a year to mature and can live for a further two or more years, munching and breeding...

Some gardeners recommend creating natural barriers from substances that are likely to irritate slug skin - like coffee grounds, sand, grit etc; others recommend turning the soil over in spring and autumn to expose slugs and their eggs to the elements and predators, but this doesn't fit in with the no dig method practised at the urban farm. We don’t seem to get huge amounts of slug damage, though. This might be because the wood chip paths around the beds create a rough barrier which is enough to deter slugs - why crawl over that when there's the woodland area full of decaying vegetation just waiting to be eaten? Or it could be because of the wide range of natural predators that are around, including the insects, frogs, toads and newts and birds all attracted in by the pond which in turn attracts the heron….

Tuesday normally is volunteering day at the urban farm. If you are interested come along for a chat. We're usually there from 10.00.  

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