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Archive for the ‘pests’ Category


20130704-184301.jpgLook carefully at the picture above. Notice something odd?

Well, of course you do. You instantly noticed how the dahlia in the picture seemed intact and uneaten by slugs, right? After all, a dahlia in a slug-infested garden should look more like this:

20130704-184308.jpgHowever, both pictures are from my garden, though I must admit that the first dahlia was only planted this evening, so the slugs probably don’t yet know it’s there. Clearly the second picture shows a dahlia that the slugs know far too well.

But… Some time ago, the Flâneur Husband read somewhere that dead moss could work as a physical slugs barrier. It won’t harm the slugs, but  supposedly they don’t like crawling over the dead moss. It makes sense, really, as they don’t like coarse sand, sawdust and other coarse surfaces, so it might work.

To give it a go I had to get up on a stepladder and use a lawn rake to try to get enough dead moss off the roof of the annex, and as you see in the first picture I’ve spread it thickly around the newly planted dahlia in a barrier 6″ wide. I’m curious to see if it will work, but my fingers remain crossed for now (making it rather difficult to blog…).

Anyway, this entry won’t be all about the slugs.

20130704-184325.jpgLook; the first daylilies are blooming! Yesterday there were no flowers, but today there are two – with many more to come. This is an unknown variety from the Flâneur Husband’s grandmother’s garden (perhaps hemerocallis fulva?), and it happens to look just like the daylilies my own mother and grandmother had in their gardens; it’s been around in Danish gardens since around 1900 and it’s as reliable as it gets. It spreads a little – enough to ensure that people could give their neighbours surplus plants, probably accounting for it’s wide use – but it’s manageable and perfectly adaptable to any weather the Danish climate can throw at it. 35 Celsius summer day? Fine. -20 Celsius winter nights? Fine. Rain? Fine. Drought? Fine. It’s a tough plant, and I love it for it.

I’ve also purchased some other daylilies for the garden last year; ‘Frans Hals’ and ‘Double Firecracker’. They are doing well enough, I guess, but they are still disappointing compared to the “heirloom” daylily. They are more prone to slug attacks – which is a major concern in our garden – and they don’t seem to bloom quite as effusively. Still, maybe they just need to mature, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt…

20130704-184416.jpgA plant that doesn’t need “the benefit of the doubt” is the deadnettle in the Evening Border. This year I haven’t really gotten around to weeding it – does it show? – and that means that there are some rather attractive long grasses growing there and a vast number of deadnettles. I quite like it, though it wasn’t the look I originally aimed for with this narrow border up against the Uncovered Terrace.

20130704-184406.jpgStill, sometimes wild flowers should be allowed to do their thing if they actually look as good as anything you could create yourself, and in between them are numerous rudbeckias and 3 hostas (as well as four clematis to climb the posts of the terrace), so it has become a mix of wildflowers and cultivated plants. I’m not quite decided about it yet, but I quite like the wildness of it, and the cultivated plants in the border are fortunately tough cookies that won’t mind the competition. It takes a lot to knock out a rudbeckia or a hosta, right? And the clematis prefers some undergrowth anyway, so it seems a good idea to wait and see what happens, rather than attack the border with a belated weeding frenzy.

20130704-184343.jpgAnother “wilderness” in the garden is between The Puddles and The Hedgerow towards the road; there’s a spirea japonica growing amidst a tall weed with flowers that somehow echo the flowers of the spirea. I quite like the combination, and it makes me happier about the spirea that I didn’t really like at first. I’m not sure what the weed is – or whether it might actually NOT be a weed but something a previous owner planted on purpose – but it grows to 6-6′ and dies completely away in winter. It might be a perennial, it might be an annual, but either way it spreads like crazy, so even though I like the foliage and the flowers I regularly have to pull out volunteers in areas where they don’t belong – and where they will inevitably flop over before blooming.

They are spreading around The Puddles, which is all right since there they are supported by the iris, the lady’s mantle, the hostas, the astrantias and the daylilies, but in other parts of the garden there’s just not anything sturdy enough for them to stay upright, and that quickly gets to look messy.

20130704-184252.jpgA weed that doesn’t look messy is this yellow-flowered groundcover. I don’t know it’s name, but I love it. I pulled up loads of it when weeding The Courtyard last year, and the weeded plants were all repositioned in front of the first puddle. It seems to be battling it out with the wild strawberries for supremacy, but hardly any other plants get a foot to the ground so I am planning to use it as groundcover in other beds in the garden. (Let’s face it; it grows freely in the lawn, so it’s not afraid of anything!)

And that will be all for this jumble of an entry tonight. If any of you have a name for the yellow-flowered weed – or the tall white-flowered weed – let me know. Eternal gratitude (or at least as long as I remember it, which might not be very long) will be your reward!

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They’re Baa-aack…


The fearsome hunter and his weapon

Well, this spring I posted about how something was “missing” from the garden; the slugs were a long time in coming this year, but they’ve finally appeared. Sadly…

Their numbers aren’t as great as they have been other years; this morning I only found 34 while strolling around in the garden with my morning coffee, but I’m sure they will soon regain their former numbers unless I keep at it, so I do. At least now there are 34 fewer slugs that can eat my plants.

It might be a somewhat macabre start to the day, strolling around the garden in my bathrobe with a sharp hoe to cut the little bastards in two, but it’s effective, and when carried out regularly it actually seems to do a better job at controlling slug numbers than pellets did when I tried those.

Further to the 34 slugs, a meagre 4 common garden snails also crossed my way, and these were expedited in much the same way as the slugs.

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I’ve been taking a walk around the garden this wet morning, and something struck me. Well, apart from the rain drops that insisted on falling on me, even though I was clearly not attired to be rained upon; I find that very inconsiderate of the weather! Or perhaps I should know better than to walk around in the garden in my bathrobe when there’s a drizzle?

Anyway. Something is missing in the garden.

Tulips in the rain

Look closely at the picture above. See how there is not a single slug in sight?

The dreaded Killer Slugs should be abroad by now, feasting on everything they can lay their what-ya-ma-call-its on.

Peony shoots

The peony shoots are also delightfully slug-free. (Though surrounded by weeds. Ah, well; you can’t have it all, can you?)

Sure, we had a cold and long winter and a late spring, but the Killer Slugs, a.k.a. the invasive Iberian slugs that have been wreaking havoc in Danish gardens over the past decade, are normally quite hardy and should be able to survive even a cold winter as they burrow 6 inches into the ground to hibernate.

Lawn

On a wet morning in May they ought to be out in droves, but they are nowhere to be seen. Not that I’m complaining, mind; I’m perfectly happy if they never return – and more than a little naïve if I think that’s likely…

We do have the native small garden slugs, but they are fewer and less aggressive than the Killer Slugs.

Snail

We also have lots of snails, but again they do much less damage than the Killer Slugs – and are easier to deal with as they are less yucky than 3-5-inch slugs!

Red tulip

Anyway, this means that I have not yet gotten my slug-killing spear out of the shed this year and instead of looking for slugs to kill I can just enjoy the flowers in the garden.

Yellow tulip

I must say, I could get used to this killer slug free style of gardening, but I guess I had better remain alert because sooner or later I’m sure they will appear and then the War On Slugs will be on again.

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Yes, I did. And I’m not ashamed of it.

Slug eggsThis is what the ground looked like under the capillary box that I grew tomatoes in last year (and weeds this year, since I didn’t actually plant anything in it this year…). Or rather, this is what it looked like under the capillary box after I had poured two litres of boiling water over the ground, so these will be dead slug eggs.

Now, there are slugs I HATE (killer slugs) and there are slugs I tolerate. These eggs, by all probability, are from a type of slug that I tolerate, the leopard slug.

Leopard slug

That would be the mother/father of the eggs I killed off. I do kill all kinds of slug eggs, but I don’t mind having a small population of leopard slugs in my garden. For one things they are significantly more stylish than the killer slugs, and secondly they also have a knack for hunting down other slugs and kill them. (And they don’t breed in the same ridiculously prolific fashion as the killer slugs…)

It IS a pest in some ways, but all things considered it’s good to have them in the garden since they are preferable to other slugs and will keep them at bay, at least to some extent.

NOTE: This is only true in areas where the Iberian slug, i.e. the KILLER slug, has invaded, so Northern mainland Europe. Had I gardened on the British Isles, for example, I’d have killed it on sight!

(Also, according to wikipedia, they are rather clever little fellows: “Limax maximus is capable of associative learning, specifically classical conditioning, because it is capable of aversion learning and other types of learning.”)

And now enough of this; I finished digging out the unnamed flower bed in the lawn last night, so now it’s time to find some compost and dig in so I can get some stuff planted in there!

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-I kill slugs, therefore I am

I’m sure this is what Descartes meant to write, right?

The fearsome hunter and his weapon

The fearsome hunter and his weapon

The death-toll last night ended at 83 slugs that will no longer prey on my dahlias. During spring we didn’t really see many slugs, probably due to the dry weather, but the wet and – to be polite – temperate summer has brought them out in droves.Like last year. And the year before.

Some of the other animals that eat our plants and flowers are accepted and even loved; The Flâneur Husband has repeatedly said about the deer that “they were here before us”, indicating that we just have to accept and adapt. This attitude doesn’t really transfer to slugs, though… Perhaps because they’re not as cute? Maybe it would all be different if Disney made a cute movie about a mother-less slug that grew up having to fend for itself, avoiding pellets and angry flâneur gardeners with sharp hoes? I somehow doubt it, though.

No, the slugs must die. If not all of them, then as many as possible. I could go all nationalistic and say that the Iberian slug is an invasive species and we need to protect our local flora and fauna by doing our best to eradicate it or at least keep it at bay, but the truth is they eat my dahlias and they’re just gross. DIE, I said.

And they’re devious little monsters… This was my view last night as I was sitting on the covered terrace with a cup of coffee. (Okay, it was a glass of Chardonnay…)

You don’t see it? Well, how about this?

You see, they don’t just stay on the ground, oh no. That would make it too easy to hunt them down. No, they think nothing of climbing shrubs and trees when it takes their fancy!

Pesky little bastards… DIE, I said!

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So yesterday I showed you my smallish (male?) toad relaxing in the pond. Well, last night I spotted some movement on the covered terrace, and there was a somewhat larger toad, which might be a female.

Another Toad

So we have two toads! How exciting is this!!! And toads eat the eggs and small specimens of slugs, so they are useful as well as exciting and – let’s face it – somewhat less-than-pretty.

The other day I also made another discovery in the old, disorganised compost pile in the less-frequented corner of the garden. Meet my new friend Hunter, a roman snail (helix pomatia):

Helix pomatia

I instantly moved him to the narrow border to the North-East of the covered terrace, since this is a favoured place for the slugs to burrow, and Roman snails are said to prey on the eggs of other gastropods. I’ll take any help I can get!

The Roman snail gives me a problem, though: I have to stop using slug pellets, as these kill ALL gastropods, including snails. So one is clearly not enough… So I went scavenging in the woods nearby and found a dozen more which I placed around the garden where I thought the conditions would be damp and cool enough for them to thrive. Some went into The Hedgerow, some at the back of The Ambitious Border and some in The Evening Border. (Putting a snail in The Sunny Border would just be unfair to the snail, I think…)

Now, Roman snails are protected in Denmark but you are allowed to collect them for private consumption, so I figure it’s probably also okay to collect them for your garden. After all, I’m sure the snails would rather be released in my garden than baked with garlic butter! (Though I do like snails…)

Besides my army of slug-fighting recruits I have also armed myself:

Spear or hoe?

This came with the house when we bought it, and I guess it’s technically a hoe, since it’s meant to be used to weed the cracks between pawing stones, but I’ve begun to use it as a spear when I walk around the garden in the early morning or late evening when the slugs are out and about. It might be slightly brutal, cutting them in half with a spear-like instrument, but I’m convinced it’s probably more humane than poisoning them. The other day I took out 102 slugs just by strolling around the garden with this tool…

Yes… The War On Slugs is definitely on in the Flâneur Garden! By all means possible.

 

In other news, I’ve also collected some more wildlife for my garden; 12-15 tiny baby frogs out of hundreds that were crossing the road a mile or so from here. Considering that several hundreds of them had already been run over by cars I think that it was okay to collect a few for The Puddles. Though of course their natural instinct when they have metamorphosed from tadpoles to frogs is to wander away from the pond they hatched in – hence the massacre on the road – so they quickly abandoned The Puddles, but maybe they will be back. Fingers crossed! After all, they might not eat slugs, but I wouldn’t mind if they made a dent in our mosquito population!

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I’ve been wondering how to protect my garden – and in particular my dahlias – from slugs, and though I have (organic) slug pellets and am not afraid to use them, it does seem I will need something more powerful.

A few years ago while I was in Greenland on summer holiday I bought a tupilaq. Or rather, a modern replica of one, since mine was carved for sale, rather than as a spirit avenger.

The tupilaq was manifested in real, human-made object. It was made by people to the detriment of their enemies. It was a puppet-like thing, but was thought of have magical power onto the victim.” (Wikipedia)

Now, in the garden my main enemy is the Killer slugs (Spanish slugs), so I figure I might as well try to get my tupilaq to target those.

image

For some strange reason the Flâneur Husband doesn’t find her attractive and seems keen on getting rid of her, so perhaps he’d also prefer if she took up residence in the summer house, rather than in the apartment. I love her, though; she’s made of reindeer antlers, and while some parts of her have the porous texture of the inside of the bone, her animal companions and her breasts have a glorious ivory-like glow to them that begs to be touched. She might not be the conventional “looker”, but she has a certain voluptuous fertility to her that makes me think she’ll enjoy protecting a garden.

She has a friend:

His shape is simpler – more monolithic – than hers, but he has another thing going for him; he was made from reindeer antlers that have been buried in the boggy soil outside Nuuk for a year or two so the antler would start to rot and as a result begin to take colour. The pale pink of his head and the greenish tint of his diamond-patterned body are the results of this. Mind you, the best thing about this tupilaq is the contrast between his smooth head and tail and the sharp feel of the diamond pattern on his body; this is one item that seems designed to be touched!

He will remain in the apartment, simply because I love holding him and feeling the different textures, but she will need to find a place in the summer house. After all, all’s fair in love and war, right? And I love my garden and have now declared war on the slugs, by means natural (i.e. organic) and supernatural!

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