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I’ll Have Some Mustard With My Slugs, Please…

This spring at Chez Siberia has been almost enough to have us change the name to Chez Seattle or Chez Portland Oregon in terms of the amount of rain we’ve been getting. So far this month, we are 1.5 inches above the average for precipitation.

Lots o’ rain. That means that we get Lots o’ Slugs too.

Grey ones, big honkin’ orange ones (grrrr). And snails, too (snails are only slugs with real estate pretensions..remember that when you think of escargot). And short of ‘slug death’ or some such other chemical horror, we have tried every ‘get rid of slugs’ method known. And your dear Aunty has had zip luck. Until this year, and this was not even written up; I just stumbled upon it.

See the picture at the top? Oh, the slugs are having a field day there. It’s as if there were a sign just out of sight that reads “Slug All Night Buffet”. I’ve been out there early in the morning when I’ve counted (quick and dirty, mind you; it’s not like I got down on my hands and knees to do this) 6 slugs on every could almost hear the rasping of their tiny jaws. And except for one thing, I would have been really furious.

Well, two things, actually (Fear AND surprise…right?):

First is that they’d managed to pick something that I’d never grown before, but had tried this year straight into the dirt. Just wonderful stuff..jumped right out of the ground even when the ground was cool. Bright leafy green..bursting with leaves. The only problem is that the leaves are prickly and hairy and the meat of the leaf was not big enough for me to really make a whole lot of them. So, I just left them there, figuring I’d rip them out and use the space for something else.

no slugsSecond is..look at this picture, where I’ve pulled back a little so that you can see the plants covered in slugs and chew holes in the front and our lovely spinach and lettuces right in back of them. And I DO mean right in, as Groucho said, “if I was any closer, I’d be in back of you..” They are touching the plants with all the slugs and chew marks. And when I saw that, I DID get down on my hands and knees and took a closer look at the spinach and lettuces.

No slugs. A couple of holes made by some other sort of bug; you get that with spinach. But no slugs and no skeletonized leaves. And we are talking so close that the spinach plants are touching the plants where the slugs have set up the Good Housekeeping Seal of Slug Approval.

Well, I figured that it must have been a fluke, right – I’ve got a whole bed full of lettuces about 2 feet away…let’s check out the slug fest there. Very few slugs. I mean, in a bed of lettuces about 3’x3’, with probably 20 heads of lettuce I probably found 3 slugs. Where are all the slugs?

At the slug canteen two feet away. Asking a slug to slither(slither? Do slugs slither? Well, they don’t crawl – they are one giant ‘stomach foot’ that floats on a layer of slime..that’s how they ambulate) two feet is like asking the rest of us to crawl using just our elbows for 8 city blocks. But if the vast majority of the slugs in my garden decided to make the trek to those other plants, they must have something pretty powerful as an attractant to slugs and who am I to argue?

Now, for those folks who want to find their own Chinese Cabbages, here is a picture of what I truly wanted: On the package, the label said “Chinese Cabbage” which I thought was going to look like this.
But it did not and I’m thinking that what I really got is Chinese MUSTARD Cabbage, because some of those have prickly leaves and pretty powerful chemicals in the leaves with smells and tastes. And those smells are probably what is attracting the slugs.

So, guess what I’m going to get when I buy seeds next time…I don’t mind sacrificing a big of space to some Chinese mustard cabbage plants if it means that the slugs are going to turn into lemmings and all move off to feast on a plant that I wouldn’t eat in any case.

In other words..a trap crop.

Aunt Toby is smiling.

(photo of napa cabbage is courtesy of foodinmouth)

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