Bursts of Colour and Hungry Critters
The garden is finally bursting into colour with a riot of blousy, frilled daffodils competing for attention alongside an array of charming tulips. There are lily flowering tulips which have elegant, fluted blossoms that splay in the sun only to reflex back to their regal form when the temperatures drop at night. Other striking varieties and the most rewarding so far, are from a hastily bought mixed net of tulips and daffodils that were planted embarrassingly late and are stealing the show right now (image above). The tulips as mentioned in my last newsletter include ‘Carnival de Rio’ which is a cheeky, raspberry rippled variety which sits comfortably alongside the magenta pink blossoms of Tulipa ‘Purple Prince’. The daffodil or should I say daffodils turned out to be two different varieties, neither of which were listed on the packet. This wasn’t a bad thing though, as both were from the Tazetta division which boast multi-headed, small, heavily scented blossoms. The combination of the two, which I believe are ‘Paperwhite’ and ‘Minnow’ are dispersing a heady waft of perfume in the patio which instantly stops you in your tracks once you’re within whiffing distance.
A bulb lasagne bought from a well-known supermarket chain has also given endless delight with cheeky crocuses appearing first, and despite their short flowering period, will always bring a smile to my face. These have been duly followed by one of my absolute favourites, simply because I’m a sucker for anything purple and just because I think they’re fun and cute to look at and that’s none other than the grape hyacinth, Muscari. The foliage of the pink tulips due to finish this succession of flowering has already filled the pot, so fingers crossed there is some overlap with the Muscari which will ensure a real visual treat.
My seed sowing is also well and truly underway with a rolling batch of seedlings heading out the back garden each time the sunny windowsill they’ve started on begins to groan with the weight of all its new tenants. The only trouble with the new home out the back (a mini greenhouse I bought last year) is, it’s also home to a wily population of slugs and snails who take delight in chowing down on all the sweet new plants I keep delivering to them. No matter how vigilant I am, and I’m only short of donning a head torch at night to try and catch them in the act, they continue to outsmart me and just when I think I’ve flicked the last of them over the neighbour’s wall (kidding) a new batch come slithering up to see what’s on the menu tonight. I’m sure I can hear little sniggers as I close the lid of the greenhouse at night but it’s me who will have the last laugh as a beer trap has now been introduced so I’ll sleep soundly as a faint ‘Too Ra Loo Ra La’ comes from the bottom of the garden as they have one last hurrah. Honestly, it’s one of the more frustrating aspects of gardening. You molly coddle seedlings and get them strong enough to withstand the environmental threats like frost and cold winds only to have them devoured by opportunistic slugs and snails hiding in the shadows being the slimy predators they were destined to be.
It got me thinking though, what is the best way to control slugs and snails? I had the pleasure of giving a talk to the Trinity College Retirement Association this week and was asked just that question. I personally prefer not to use chemicals in the garden whether it be pesticides or herbicides and go the natural route using good ole elbow grease for weed control or find some humane way to control pests. Beer traps are pretty easy to introduce and of course you could grow some sacrificial crops to try feed the slimy critters in a bid to encourage them away from those you want to succeed but they generally don’t do what you ask and get fat on the abundance of seedlings hanging around their territory. Other suggestions I’ve come across include adding copper wiring around the base of new growth on herbaceous perennials in particular, or smearing grease like Vaseline along the rim of a seed tray or pot and sprinkling that with salt, pepper or sand as they don’t like travelling over those substances. Other seeds of advice include not watering late at night as it provides the perfect moist surface for the slugs to traverse. Alternatively, grow plants they won’t devour but that cuts out a whole range of flowers I’m just not prepared to forgo just because I’ve some hungry predators hanging around. One trick which I’ve yet to try, is adding wool around pots and seed trays. Apparently its dreadfully irritating for them to travel across the dry material. “Oh diddums, are you a bit uncomfortable there?” Ok, I see a plan coming together!
I hope you’ve all had a chance to pick up some seeds, there’s a resurgence in gardening right now so there’s a definite shortage in the shops. Either way, sow something, anything, I promise it’ll give you a boost as it’s fun to do and if you don’t grow them for flowers or food you could set up a scene from the hunger games for your slugs and see who gets to the finish line!
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Next month I'll be talking all about how to take cuttings so make sure to share the newsletter with all your friends and family!
Happy Gardening Folks,