Come Out, I’m Ready

Typical.

Why is there never a slug about when you want one? Having decided to write about pest prevention ahead of the gardening season, I set off to find a photograph of my nemesis. Poking around in all the likely places, digging deep in an attempt to haul one out ready for its appointment with internet fame and glory. But no. Not one. They are all hibernating. Sleeping off last year’s ridiculous overindulgence. Taking advantage of the current dearth of munching opportunities. Waiting for me to plant out my beans.

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Last year I tried everything to get them to move on. We used every type of slug deterrent known to man. Eggshells, coffee grounds, gravel, bits of the thorny berberis bush, copper rings, moisture absorbing granules. All to no avail. As you know, it’s not in my nature to harm any living thing. But what about the weeks invested in sowing, pricking out and planting. Only for the slugs to get fatter and for me to have to go to Waitrose for the veg? Enough was enough. After much soul searching I resorted to biological warfare. Nematodes.

Well WHAT a palaver… first you’re supposed to tip the contents of the packet into a bucket and add 4 litres of water to make up a stock solution. The nematodes are microscopic, but even if I can’t see them I know they’re there, squirming about. 12 million of them, allegedly. Then we have to measure out 500ml of the stock into a large watering can, dilute to the top and sprinkle it on to the garden. The rose gets jammed up and stops pouring within seconds; it needs to be constantly declogged. Repeat the last step, 8 times in all.

The nematodes like to sink to the bottom of the stock. It must be constantly stirred to keep it mixed up. It’s easy to splash. Yep, straight into my eye. There’s much frenzied rinsing and a pair of contact lenses thrown into the bin. It’s possible to have a very uncomfortable night in such circumstances, I can tell you. Imagining them still swimming around, trying to find a way in…

And, after all the fuss, did it work? No. I waited the required five days before planting out more beans only for the whole lot to go the same way as the last. Those wretched molluscs were just too numerous and too deeply entrenched. More nematodes ordered. Double strength. Elegantly kitted out with Mike’s decorating goggles I had to go through the whole bloomin’ performance again.

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So this year there will be no messing about. Oooh no. First, I have signed up to a nematode supply contract. A packet will be delivered every six weeks, starting at the end of March before the slugs have a chance to breed. Better yet, I’ve found a gadget that attaches to the end of a hose and does all that diluting and fussing in 5 minutes flat.

As the man on the video said.. “simple”.