Friday, 30 May 2008

A Nice Green Leaf: It's a Mollusc's, Mollusc's, Mollusc's World


At Wisley yesterday I got into one of those conversations with garden-loving strangers where I end up grateful for the community of ordinary gardening knowledge. There is nothing like a slug-battling tip from some real gardeners to make you go home determined to try harder. 

They were delphinium fanatics who'd brought their granddaughter to Wisley for half-term: she was taking notes in a Royal Botanic Gardens Kew notebook, suggesting that Granny and Grandpa normally get their own way about the destination of grandparently treats.

We had a long conversation whilst soaking up the heat in the sweltering trial fields (see picture, right) about how best to keep the slugs off. Slugs are an enormous threat to delphiniums, so this couple had tried everything.


Yet at Wisley the RHS team don't lift a finger to combat slugs. They don't have to: the field situation means there's no slug or snail population, according to the gardener we talked to. But domestic gardeners face entirely different problems, and big slug massives out raving till dawn are a depressingly common reality. 

"Best of all," my new friend said, "get out there on a wet evening and collect them by hand, then kill them by whatever means you prefer. But he," she gestured to her sun-tanned husband, sitting on a bench, "swears by copper tape, too. You tape it around the top of a pot, and it really does stop them. If your plants are in the soil, you can cut the bottom off a pot, run tape round it, and then use it as a protective ring too." 

I've been meaning to try copper tape for a long time, but I finally got round to buying some in the Wisley shop and wrapping all my most vulnerable pots in it - leaving most of the backdoor area at my house looking a little bit like it was Christmas. Hopefully, the tape will do as it promises on the packet, and eventually acquire a bluey-green patina.

Dsc_1645jpegI will report in future on whether the tape saves my summering amaryllis from further predation, and gets my brugmansia to flowering trumpet size.

In the meantime, I'm putting my faith in these guys, who I found in the dampest corner of my garden recently and who I think are probably eating many of the baby slugs this year. It may be a mollusc's world, but it wouldn't be nothing without a frog or a toad.

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