Slug Wars: The Farce Awakens

 

Slug.

Gastropida; Stylommatophora; Arionidae; Arion.

Flash name for a blob of gunge that maintains an annual all out assault of mass destruction on us.

Yes, dear gardeners. This is a member of the dark side. The dark destroyer. The dark lord. The… ok, you get where I am coming from.

Darth Slugs Cary28117 cop

Never seen slugs with light sabres before?

The reason for my winging? Hostas. Since having a garden of my own for some years now I have always had Hostas. Lush, green, glossy. A super addition to shady parts of the garden until Darth Vader of the horticultural world sweeps in on his Tie Fighter and decimates said green gloss to a pitiful skeletal pile of green bones. *sigh*

I’m trying hard not to turn to the slug pellets so as to protect the wildlife we have here but when it comes to hostas I have felt pretty defeated. I have read up. I have consulted Jedi Don and Jedi Titchmarsh as well as the countless padawans on t’internet. Until I saw a tweet by, oh, who was it? (I’ll find the tweet and let you know), but they were using wool pellets and were having some success.

Then I had a brainwave.

The Trug household have been ordering up meal packages from a certain company. Not my usual thing but they have been a god send when long hours at work ruin our healthy eating habits. Back to the point, the items which need to be kept cold until we get the package are wrapped in ice and thick wool blankets.

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Me being as eco friendly as I can, I won’t throw them away. Some sheep and farmers went to a lot of effort to make that. Inside the plastic cover is a thick wad of natural fleece. They’ve been piling up in the garage while Mr Trug gives me withering looks of ‘why are we keeping these?’ until I thought of the slugs.

The hostas were in their early stages of popping the surface of the cold ground with early shoots so now was my chance.

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I cut up the fleece. Fluffed it up a bit and pegged it around the hostas as best I could.

I know the leaves will touch other plants and the slugs in their evil Tough Mudder style gymnastics will navigate these mini bridges but it’s worth a shot I reckoned.

May…                                                      Early June…

Not bad but….

May…                                                   Early  June…

Hmmm, not so good. But I think this is because they are touching so many other plants creating the slug bridge highways. Annoying. That said, they are better than last year. I had remnants left by now.

Conclusions? It’s not foolproof but I think the fleece has helped. I’ll revisit the Hostas in a few weeks and see if the dark side is winning. If any of you have better ideas then please do let me know otherwise hosta heaven will remain but a dream for me. I’ll update later in the season to see how they are doing.

May the force be with you fellow slug fighters.

Remembering November Colour

Back in November I was working in the garden and like the rest of you I was astounded by how much colour there still was all around. So I took some photos of what I could find. I’m slowly trying to identify what I have. Double photos can be hovered over for names or me hazarding a guess at names anyway.

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Greater Periwinkle perhaps

 

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I think this is Kerria Japonica Plenifloria. It seems very invasive with hardly any flowers.Meant to bloom April to May.

 

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Wild primroses looking a little moth eaten but still pretty.

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Fuchsia ‘Hawkshead’ maybe?

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Fuchsia magellanica?

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Lonicera japonica var.repens Creeping Japanese honeysuckle. It’s evergreen and pretty rampant.

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Even the geraniums are still looking good and flowering.  I’m gambling on when to take them in.

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Yellow Jasmine Gelsemium sempervirens.

 

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A geranium I think. It’s been very pretty all summer and autumn.

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Not sure, flowered in the summer and then returned after the cold snap in October.

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Hydrangea Lacecap

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Even the Evening Primrose was persistent.

Some roses were still hanging on.

The Mahonia which of course should be flowering now was in its element.

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The weather is odd being so mild but it is lovely to have the colour remain just that little bit longer around us.

Feeling Fruity

Both our previous gardens were fruitless being quite small. The new old house came with a range of fruiting plants and trees. We are learning as we go, reading, seeking advice from those more experienced but there is also a lot said for trial and error don’t you think?

The back wall of the potting shed catches the midday sun until the end of the day, and there grows a lovely thornless blackberry.

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Just ready to ripen.

I did net them as best I could at this stage as the blackbirds were certainly eyeing them up but the wasps were an irritant that couldn’t be stopped. I suppose a fruit cage is the only way to reduce that. Anyhow, with courage we delved in despite them and managed to collect over a kilo of fruit. In to the freezer they went  ready for making jam a bit later.

One of the most impressive inheritances is the grape vine outside the backdoor. My grandfather did have one himself that I believe rarely fruited. This one, on the other hand, has been spectacular.

Being new to fruit we weren’t entirely sure how to care for it so plenty of study was required. We learnt very little except how to prune the thing when it had reached it’s denouement and that plenty of watering was favourable. You can see that we have a pergola (I use the term loosely) frame supporting it. It is quite large being about 10 feet by 20 feet covering the whole patio area between the kitchen and the garage. You look down beneath it to the orchard so the dappled early morning sunshine is rather lovely first thing with the days first cup of tea.

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May

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Little baby grapes appear…

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and starting to grow juicy and green and fat.

They pretty much stayed that way all August while everyone else was talking about grape theft by birds and total destruction by wasps. We didn’t seem to have this problem at all but they just weren’t ripening except those around the edge of the frame.

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After some hmmming and harrring I decided to strip off some of the foliage and let more sunlight in. Holding your arms above your head whilst balanced precariously on a ladder for an hour at a time is not a pleasure. I was developing He-Man biceps which is not a good look for me however within a week the jolly little berries were rosying up a treat. Hooray!

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And, what luck! We had accidentally timed it perfectly. Most of the wasps had gone and the birds, who had not seen the grapes all summer, just didn’t seem to notice them there. This gave us time to harvest most of the bunches over  a few days and leave a few for wildlife to have.

What to do with all these grapes? The taste test resulted in squished up noses. The grapes did taste nice without their jackets so the decision was made to squeeze them. Mr Trug has had great success with sloe gin in the past so he was quite keen to attempt a little wine making. The juice was absolutely amazing. In fact it was unbelievably good. Lots of mmmmms and oooohs from anyone who tried some. If I had been more organised this year and planned for bottles and freezer space then I’d have kept some. Not to be this year but instead it was put through the fermentation process. This was not without it’s hazards where yeast was left in the sitting room by the fire to ferment with the lid on. Doh Mr Trug! It scared the life out of me when it exploded catapulting lid and foamy creamy clods up on to the ceiling narrowly missing the flat screen telly. I can still see the stain up there now.

The result was three demijohns of red, well, what shall we call it? Stuff.

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Please excuse delightful peeling wallpaper post bathroom flood

Will it be a cheeky little red 2015 or a lot of cooking vinegar? We will have to wait and see.

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The orchard was bulging this year with apples. Pears were leaner but not a bad crop overall. The previous owners had kindly labelled a map of the trees they did know and I spent quite a while in early summer labeling up the apple trees with tags.

Green tags.

I know, you’re shaking your head pitifully. True, with the trees in leaf it is virtually impossible to see the labels. They will be moved or replaced over the winter. Lesson learnt.

Sadly a lot of the apples made it on to the compost but we did store some in drawers in the garage each in their little paper pockets. All the good pears went in (Conference and Comice) too but we have struggled to keep them and most were thrown. A rethink next year on more cooking prep/freezer space.

Our favourite had to be the Worcester Pearmain. Delicious. So lovely to now take my own apples to work to eat. A little of home came with me for as long we had them to eat.

Of course, Mr T has had a go at cider making despite hating cider with a vengeance. I suspect this had something to do with episodes in his youth-hood. The apples were crushed with the tiniest apple press I have ever seen. Kindly lent to us by a friend (cheers Dave) but it could have been made for dollies. We moved on to the next size up (cheers Warren) but even that took a millennium to complete. The plastic barrel is now full and festering, I mean fermenting.

I am very pleased the apple collecting came to an end. Apples, apples apples, every weekend! But we did leave a good few lying around for the wildlife. Unnerving teeth marks could be seen chomped in to the flesh but I’m guessing that will be from the badgers and foxes plus maybe Fraiser the golden retriever who pops round on his morning patrol. Them rather than the Hounds of the Baskervilles I imagine lurk in the blackness out there once night falls.

Finally, we have the hazelnuts or cobnuts or filberts. Whatever takes your fancy. My mum and dad call them cobnuts and talk with real passion about them as part of their childhoods. We have quite a few hazels which were growing cobnuts and I promised dad some once they were ready to pick.

The squirrel spies had been listening. I patiently waited, following advice, for September to come round and for the little nuts in their wraps to start to brown. Then they were GONE! Just like that. Damn those pesky squirrels. They either ate them, chucked them about and ruined them or hid them. Occasionally a little stash turns up in the compost, under a pot etc.

So, I presented my dad with…

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Pitiful isn’t it. Oh well.

Squirrels 1 – Miss Trug 0

Hello… it’s me.

No, not Adele, (my sad attempt at being topical) it’s me, Miss Trug. You might have forgotten I was here. Apparently blogging takes greater commitment than I bargained for. It is hard to fit in what is meant to be a ‘passion’, to the hurly-burly of day to day life. Mainly my day job just gets in the way. Infact, Mr T would say it is a day and night job due to me needing to bring it all home each night. It’s a chore.

Well, that plus me trying to negotiate the challenges of  using wordpress after it deleted a post, then also the rewritten post. Grrrr! I abandoned the whole thing at that point.

But now I am back, thanks to a delightful dose of Shingles that has parked me on the sofa this week. Despite all the unpleasantness of that I have had some quiet time to saturate myself in all things gardeny via t’internet and my books and the motivation came to put my thoughts down.

Lots has occurred in the world of Trug Towers. Mainly not pretty stuff to be honest. A lot of hacking, digging and destroying which doesn’t sound very positive at all but is, however, a necessity to begin the improvements.

Generally, the story would go like this:

Hmmm, lots of Ivy here. Let’s pull some out.

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Hmmm, more even thicker Ivy. Lets dig this out.

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Oh, hello, what’s this? An abandoned large tree stump hacked off and left to be consumed by Ivy, fungus and the entire slug population of East Sussex. (Mr Trug duly summoned to add stump removal to the list of stump removals).

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You get the idea.

We’ve opened up a fair bit of garden by doing this and discovered some pretty grim tree/shrub management along the way. As you can see in the photo above, there are old coppiced Hazels but they have been coppiced very badly. None have been cut to the base to create the stool needed for the plant to regenerate healthily but hacked off at about waist height leaving some sections to die off and others to sprout far too high up. Such a shame as some of them are quite a size and must date back many decades. I am hoping that this season we can do a better job and coppice them correctly. It will be worth a try at least and if they refuse to regrow then we will give in and remove them. (Add a few more to Mr T’s stump removal list, he’ll be thrilled).

This particular section of garden slopes away in to Witchy Hawthorn Woods and while I was digging out all the endless Ivy discovered the previous owners tried to tackle the soil dropping away using a variety of methods. Bricks, lots of bricks, broken terracotta pots, livestock wore fencing (part buried) more terracotta pots, plastic sacks and clinker (I believe the owner dabbled in pottery making and had a kiln). It all had to come out as far as I was concerned but not all was thrown. The old bricks are perfect for path repairs and I collected a large box of the terracotta to use for pots and general this and that around the garden. It was then over to Mr T to go wild with the chain saw to cut back the Hawthorn’s that were encroaching Triffid-like on to our garden. This has brought in huge amounts of light which will do the greenhouse directly next to it no end of good.

This done we then needed to tackle the old beech hedge that ran from this section along the path and field to the corner of the flower garden. Our intention was to remove, yes, you guessed it, all the ivy that was strangling it and encourage the hedge back in to a healthy state.

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Here it is mid summer. It looked really promising. Unfortunately once the ivy was tripped out it looked like this.

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Oh the horror! Not a great outcome really is it. Everything is just so overcome by the endless ivy that once it has gone the plant is nothing more than just hanging on for dear life. Upset though I was, it had to go and the whole remaining hedge was taken out. That gone the garden was free to slip away down to tree growing level so a new plan had to be agreed for fixing the boundary. In one sense this isn’t a bad outcome as a new hedge will be far healthier. You can just about see the barbed wire fence of the field owners which stops where the Hawthorn thicket became impenetrable. This means we can level off this section of the garden, put in some post and rail fencing and then line with a new Beech hedge. It will take some time but be worth it. I love those autumn colours.

(Photo of current hedge-less state in it’s way)

The soil we’ve dug out here is amazing though. I am guessing it is years of the Hawthorn shedding leaves which has decomposed to make a lovely mulchy soil. It’s almost too good to leave there and I might have to wheel barrow a few loads out and spread it about the garden to help break up the heavy soil.

Next job then is to source some post and rail fencing.

Kirpi? Kerpow! Those weeds never stood a chance.

Sometimes you have one of those kitchen tools that eventually gets relegated to the garden. I had such a paring knife which was truly pants in the kitchen but had its moment to shine in the garden. It was my weeder between the pavings extraordinaire! Then I moved house three times in the past year and my beloved weeder has been lost down some imaginary rabbit hole. High and low I have rummaged amongst the pots and boxes but to no avail.

I have been studying one of my holy books. The Complete Gardener by Monty Don and I came across his recommendation to get me one of these here kirpis. Looking it up online revealed it to be the mother of all weeders. Could this be even better than my long lost knife?

Indeed it be! A hook for getting right in there… a serrated blade for decapitating the most determined of weeds…. a hoeing blade for scything off all in its prime. If Lara Croft took up horticulture she would be packing two of these spinning them wildly through the jungle.

Not really before, more during.

Not really before, more during.

After... nice job super kirpi.

After… nice job super kirpi.

All this plus you get to feel a bit good about yourself as they are traditional tools made in India (and they are clearly hand made from sustainable and recycled materials) by the organic trust.

Kirpis rule. Go on, you know you want to.

Hot tubs

Our new home came with a hot tub ready installed.

Sorry, it’s beginning to be an old joke for our first time visitors. ‘Ooh!’ They say before rounding the corner of the potting shed, ‘Lucky you!’ Then they are greeted by this…

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I take delight in their dismayed faces. Mr Trug rolls his eyes,he’s heard it all before.

Despite the previous owners recommending we keep the tub for at least this season they had no need to convince me. Its the perfect way to store water and so handy for dipping the can straight in for speedy watering of the greenhouse directly next to it. Luckily it is tucked round the back of the potting shed (the old loo) so when it starts to look a bit soupy it isn’t anywhere we like to sit. It has had a scrub since moving in (thanks Mr Trug) as it looked a little like a place for body disposal when we moved in but as long as it gets fresh rainfall top ups it stays relatively clear.

Bang! And the dirt is gone. Almost.

Bang! And the dirt is gone. Almost.

I’ve bought a fine mesh net to try to fashion in to some sort of cover to reduce the midges which like to hatch out in there but haven’t quite worked out how to fix it in place.  Sewing isn’t my forte. Any ideas are very welcome.

It must have come out of the house at one time or other. I’m told the house was upgraded in the past with a bathroom converted out of a bedroom. Its a big bathroom. Although the loo remained outside. The bath is a big heavy enamel type so no doubt it was a hefty beast to get out, down the staircase and in situ in the garden. I love it’s quirkyness as well as practical handiness so it’s staying for now.