Time to sow seeds – and slug it out with slimy pests
April 18, 2008
Growing vegetables is one of the most satisfying, frustrating, fulfilling and joyful gardening experiences.
It involves heroic battles with the elements, pests and diseases, requiring planning, forethought, hard work and guile.
As the soil begins to warm, the time has come to sow seeds – both straight into the ground and for the tender vegetables into pots ready to go out when the frosts are over.
I sowed tomato plants and peppers weeks ago and they are growing well – although still on a bedroom window sill.
Courgettes, runner and dwarf beans seeds have now been sown into pots although I am never really sure this is a better idea than simply sowing a little later straight into the ground.
I look forward to trying a little round Italian variety of courgette, or rather zucchini, called Tondo Di Toscana.
As soon as sowing begins outdoors, the battles start.
In my garden the first enemy is the cat. Marauding moggies destroy my neat rows and blocks of sowing both before the seedlings appear and afterwards.
Netting the entire seedbed is essential to prevent them using it as a giant litter tray.
The nets also protect the young shoots from pigeons which are another formidable enemy.
These fat dim-witted birds crash land on the vegetable patch and pick off every single juicy shoot.
More insidious attacks come from within the patch, where tiny slugs living in the soil creep up and eat new shoots as they emerge.
Beans and courgettes are both very susceptible to these attacks as are lettuces, aubergines, peppers – well pretty much everything.
I am going to try sharp sand this year to protect my seedlings.
Other people use coffee grounds, eggshells or copper tape.
Although they work, I won’t use slug pellets any more.
I find the disgusting conglomeration of slimy slug corpses are almost worse than slug damage on the plants.
I also cannot bear the thought of sprinkling blue poison over the place where I am growing my food.
Slug pubs – sunken cups of beer – certainly attract and kill slugs but it needs a strong stomach when disposing of the rotting stinking bodies.
It really is difficult to understand exactly what purpose slugs serve in the great scheme of things or why the humble and useful earthworm should be under attack from foreign invaders like the New Zealand flat worm while the slug population, despite predators like hedgehogs and birds, never seems to diminish.
For the time being, warming weather and showers ought to be on our side in the vegetable patch.
Later on, lack of rain will have to be made up for with gallons of water as vegetables must grow quickly if they are to grow well.
I’ve sown some Italian mixed salad seeds, spinach and Early Nantes carrots. More seeds will be sown week by week to ensure continuous cropping.
So let battle begin and may the rewards be green, tasty and plentiful.