After a couple of days of weeding some of the veg beds I began to fantasize about a slight shift in nature’s laws. What if slugs and snails ate weeds instead of vegetable plants? Two of the gardens biggest battle grounds would take care of themselves.
My thoughts then went to experimentation and reminiscences of work on my Botany degree during which I did a lot of experiments with snails (easier to handle than slugs) to determine the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of their food selection. People who were sharing my life at that time will also remember with a shiver the molluscan ‘research volunteers’ that I routinely collected and left lying around, sometimes kept for safe keeping and completely forgotten like the ones in a tea-caddy.
The conclusions of all this showed that snails were quite selective when it came to eating, not just for plant variety but also for nutritional value (it seems they are as concerned about healthy eating as us.)
And then it hit me. Why were we not planting the High Bank productive garden in a way that deterred or distracted the slugs and snails away from the crops that are of value to us? There is nothing new under the sun, this is after all ‘companion planting’ a practice that goes back centuries, most famously used in English cottage gardens and the main reason why cottage gardens look the way they do. As an example, Marigolds were traditionally planted near to crops as they deter aphids, not only by their scent but also by attracting Hoverflies, whose larvae is a natural predator to aphids. Another is planting Basil around Asparagus as it deters Asparagus Beetle. The principle is also applied in forest gardening, more of which will be discussed as we develop the High Bank forest garden.
Winter is the time for gardeners to plan planting schemes and crop selections for next year (whilst sat gripping a large glass of single malt in front of the wood burning stove,) and is one of the most pleasurable jobs of the year. The subject of companion planting should be high on the agenda as this year’s slug pandemic will result in the mass presence of slug eggs ready for next year’s onslaught. What a cheering thought.
Sky grey, drizzle. Temp 10c.
Time for G&T.