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Slugs – We all got em! Now what do we do with them.

slug AM

Slugs are sort of amazing really, most feed on leaf litter or rotting material and work to keep an ecosystem tidy and free of too much bacteria that might build up in decomposing matter. Unfortunately in our urban gardens there are very few natural predators to keep slug populations in check and the leaves they prefer are our tender young plants. While a few slugs will do a bit of damage too many slugs can devastate our veggie gardens and perennials.

If slugs are becoming a problem in your garden here are a few tips to keep them under control.

Hand pick them – I once told this to a man seeking advise and he looked at me like I was insane “with your hands?” he said turning green with disgust. But Northwest gardeners are a hardy bunch and if that is what it takes to protect your lettuce you can find the courage to do it. My grandmother Lucille gives this advise –  “Slugs love to hide under the rain downspouts, under rocks, between bricks or even the underside of large leaves” She also looks for them “near their favorite foods like hostas or salomons seal”. Slugs are nocturnal so the best time to find them is in the evening. Slugs prefer moist areas which is another reason to water the garden in the morning instead of the evening. Evening watering creates the perfect environment for them to come out and feed.

Dispose of the them – you can put them in a jar and release them far from your garden if you are feeling generous but most people just plop them in saltwater or squish them. Some people feed them to their chickens as a treat while others think it gives their eggs an “off” taste.

Bait them – If you are having a hard time finding them in the first place you can lure them into a trap by placing something enticing out for them to find and then collecting them up. Try a half citrus peel in the garden and the next morning they will be lurking underneath so you can collect them. They are also drawn to food scraps.

Trap them – You can also use traps filled with beer or cornmeal. You can purchase little traps or cut a hole in a used yogurt container. Leave enough room at the bottom to fill with the bait and cover the top with the lid to keep rain from diluting, plus with a lid you don’t need to see the resulting slug slurry. Dispose in the compost.

Natural predators – Nematodes can be purchased in little packets and watered into the surface of the soil. These parasites attack the slugs and can be effective but keep in mind that slugs are a part of the garden system. I have hear stories of people wiping out slug populations only to find them rebound with destructive force the following season.

Poison – This is a last resort please use caution as some poisons will linger in the slug and can harm birds that feed on them. Pet safe sluggo is the best option but read the labels carefully and use caution where wild animals or pets are present.

Preventative action – look for slug eggs and dispose of them. Slug eggs are a gooey little cluster of round white balls, they can be found just under the surface of the soil or stuck under leaf litter or protected under rocks, bricks or decks.

One last tip – vinegar will to help remove the impossible slime from your hands and tools.

Making the most of your vegetable garden!

garden overloadThere are several ways to make the absolute most of your vegetable garden plot. Succession planting will give you a much longer season of harvest and inter-planting will help maximize space and make room for more plants and less room for weeds and pests.

Succession planting – Cool or short season crops can be planted very early in the Spring, starting in February then rounds of successive plantings continue on into the Fall for continual harvests. During mild winters here in Portland we can have harvests of vegetables almost year round with just a little consideration of planting times.

The first step in developing a succession garden is to make a list of which vegetable you want to grow. Seed packets, gardening books or local University extension web sites will have information on the best time to plant each crop. Check for the dates to maturity, spacing needs, sun requirements and frost tolerance.

Make a planting schedule with the best dates for each plant. You can simplify the process by breaking it down into Spring, Summer and Fall plantings. Or you can go nuts with weekly additions like fast growing lettuces or radishes.

You can pick up a copy of our free planting guides at thicket for tips on what to plant when. Some examples are:
Early planting – peas, arugula, brussels sprouts, carrots, kale, broccoli, beets, greens, cilantro, onions, leeks.
Midseason planting – beans, corn, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, melons
Late planting – Beet, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chive, collard, endive, kale, shallots, fava, garlic.

Interplanting is a great way to make more room in your garden. The process involves planting crops in the same place at the same time.  Many plants can thrive in much tighter quarters that the seed packet suggests as long as you have an understanding of the plants needs and growth cycle. And pests are usually crop specific so mixing up plant families in the garden can help keep them at bay.

Staggering harvest time is a simple process. You might plant a very quickly growing radish, beet or arugula in front of something like a pepper or tomato which will take much longer to mature. You will harvest the fast crops by the time the slow crops need all that space.

Light requirements vary from plant to plant. Lettuces, spinach and celery need less light so place them behind taller crops like tomatoes, peppers or beans.

Nutrient needs can also vary. You can plan your garden so that heavy feeders are grouped together for easy fertilization. Examples are broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, squash and tomato.

Root depth can also be a consideration. Shallow rooted veggies like greens, alliums and radishes wont compete as much for water and nutrients if planted with deep rooted beans, squash, pumpkins or tomatoes.

Compact plantings of lettuces, greens, onions and beets will produce to many plants in one row but you can thin the plants and eat them as micro greens while you are waiting for the rest to reach maturity.

Happy planning and happy eating!

Friends of Zenger Farm



We couldn’t be more excited to be supporting local nonprofit Zenger Farm during their Spring for Zenger fundraiser this year. Shop at Thicket on March 29th and we will donate a portion of your bill to supporting increased access to good food for all Portlanders. Check out the other great local businesses participating in Spring for Zenger March 29 – 31 by clicking here http://zengerfarm.org/index.php?page=spring-for-zenger

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