Slugs!!!!!

In my post on Hostas, I mentioned hostas could be bothered by slugs and I would write a post later on how I have battled slugs. I think I also mentioned I had never had problems with slugs eating my hostas. No sooner had I wrote that and I discovered slimy little trails in my hosta bed, which quickly explained why one of my younger hostas looked like swiss cheese. So I went out early one morning and voila! Slugs.

These are not creatures I love. While they do have a purpose, eating my hostas is not one of them. I take it as a personal offence when they sneak out at night, eat my plants and then find hiding spots. A little sneaky for me.

Years ago, I planted my very first vegetable garden in Fox Creek, Alberta. I was warned not to plant peas as they would only be eaten by slugs. I refused to believe such a small pest could wreak havoc in my garden. Wrong! They were everywhere and I quickly consulted my mom who recommended diatomaceous earth. I purchased some and spread it around the perimeter of the garden. I believe this helped to keep more slugs from coming in, but it didn’t control those already happily filling their bellies with my peas. A book I read suggested beer and this had some effect, but not enough. So my mom suggested I try salt. Well, I got up early every morning for 2 weeks to search under boards I had laid out on purpose the night before. I used tweezers to pick the slugs and put them in a bucket of salt. Not a nice death for them, but I was desperate. This worked! As I read further about them, I found slugs don’t really move far during their lifetime. So by reducing the population, they didn’t reproduce and the diatomaceous earth kept those wanting to stray into my garden at bay.

I disposed of the slugs I could find in my garden this fall and will now await spring when they will undoubtedly be in abundance. Once again I will battle the persistent slug and will most likely have plenty to update you with! Please share any ideas or practices you have to battle the slimy slug!

 

 

Fall Clean Up: The Dirty Deed

Ahhh…Fall. How I love to hate you. This is such a confusing time for gardeners. Or maybe it’s just me. At one moment the Fall colours overwhelm me and are spectacular against a crisp, blue sky and then utter desolation fills me as the knowledge I am saying goodbye to some of the plants I have watched grow throughout the season. This sounds a bit dramatic, however, the habit of checking plants daily and taking in their beauty is one that is hard to break. While I love the colours, sights and smells of Fall, the impending departure of plants can be so very difficult.

Now I am not sure if you caught that in the last paragraph, but I did say “some plants.” I do have many perennials that I simply say, “‘See you later,” and wait for them to go dormant knowing they will be there in the Spring to greet me again. It isn’t as hard to say goodbye to them. Sadly, in our climate the annuals are only around until I absolutely have to pull them. So begins the nastiest job I can think of: Fall clean up.

With me I hope and pray we will get a killing frost and I will then look out the window on a dreary day to see blacken, wilted leaves. YES! I can pull them without too much guilt. This year, I wasn’t so lucky. Apparently the petunias and even the Canna Lilies survived the first frost making my job of pulling them even harder. I usually begin with my pots and every year I curse myself for having 32 pots. Why do I need 32 pots??? A question I will leave to another day for sure. I had every intention of pulling the Canna Lilies, cleaning and drying the tubers and storing them in my basement along with the water plants. However, I have discovered my basement is far too warm and I would likely end up with mushy, rotted tubers. So I decided I needed to try a shorter variety of Canna Lily next year and added the entire plants to my compost. The pond plants were harder as they cost so much and it seems like such a waste. Not only is our basement not cool enough, creating a pond to store the pond plants was not an option. I do not want the humidity issues this could create and nor do we have a lot of space. So I have tried an experiment and likely it will not work, but the plants would have been thrown out otherwise. I dug a trench in one of my flowerbeds and after cutting the tops of the pond plants, I sank each pot into the trench. After covering them with soil, I added a shredded bark mulch on top. I will await Spring and update then on their survival.

The pond is quite shallow so must be emptied, which my wonderful husband does so kindly every year. I don’t bother cleaning it all out and scrubbing it down in the Fall as the winter will only bring more debris. It is much easier to clean in Spring and set up the pump then. Why do a job twice? All the pumps were pulled, drained and scrubbed down. I keep those in a dry spot throughout the winter.

After a few frosts I finally and grudgingly pulled my petunias and snapdragons in the front bed. This bed is about 30 feet long and approximately 2 feet wide. Yes, I know I should be using metric, but I consider myself to be part of that generation where the metric system was brought into Canada during our formative elementary years and hence many of us can “speak” two measurements. I digress…….After pulling the annuals, I had my husband mow over the plants and then empty the mulched leaves and flowers back onto the bed. Why waste the nutrients? Since I don’t use pesticides of any sort, I feel quite comfortable adding this rich source of plant matter to my flowerbed. Being the soil was a bit wet, I decided to leave it until Spring. A decision I will most likely regret when the rush of Spring planting begins.

Now to my beloved hydrangea! Last year due to an injury, I was unable to cover a beautiful hydrangea shrub and lost most of it to winter kill. I was determined not to have the same thing happen this year after replacing the lost bush. I have built a stake frame around the hydrangea and wrapped burlap around the stakes creating a screen around it. I wasn’t finished and decided adding shredded bark mulch inside the little screen and thus covering the hydrangea would add further protection. I intend to cover it with snow as soon as there is enough. So the yard is cleaned up, trees watered in one last time and the hose drained. It ends.

I love the way Fall creeps up on us and exits with a final wave of colour and delightful scents. And at the same time I dread saying farewell to some of the plants that I have nurtured and visited on lazy summer days. I take many photos of my flowers, not as a means to show off my growing prowess, but as memories I visit on those deeply cold days of January and February. The flowers in those photos stir summer memories and encourage me to plan for next year’s beauties that will once again fill my soul with awe.

Hydrangea cage in progress
Hydrangea cage in progress
Mulched snapdragons and petunias
Mulched snapdragons and petunias

 

Electuaries….What are they???

This summer I had the opportunity to take a wild crafting workshop at the Devonian Botanical Gardens just outside of Edmonton, Alberta. If you haven’t visited the gardens, please do. They are an incredible resource for those in love with gardening and for those who are just beginning their gardening journey. You can easily spend the day there or, like me, take a workshop or one of the many courses they have to offer. So much to do!

The wild crafting workshop was to be five hours long, but could have easily been so much longer. Our instructor was very knowledgable and had so much to share. One of the little gems I came away with, was making electuaries. Simply, electuaries are herbs or plants mixed with honey. To make an electuary, you need to use “real” honey as I call it. No, seriously, you need unpasteurized honey as it contains nutrients and the “good” bacteria that fight bacterial, viral and fungal infections. For years, raw honey has been used on wounds and to fight illness and has shown great healing properties. When I feel a sore throat coming on, I take my raw honey by teaspoon and have found my sore throat does not last as long. Pasteurizing heats up the honey and kills the good and bad bacteria. Sometimes, if not rarely, raw honey can grow the botulism bacteria (nasty stuff that will make you very ill). This is why it isn’t recommended to feed babies raw honey. For most adults, this is not an issue. The benefits for me of raw, unpasteurized honey outweigh the risk of coming into contact with the botulism bacteria. I have consumed raw honey for many years and keep the practice of storing my honey in the fridge. Although I have read many articles suggesting refrigeration is not necessary.

If you can get organic, unpasteurized honey, good. However, I am still on the fence about organic honey. Really, how do they track where the bees go to get nectar? What are those bees really up to? I do know organic bee keepers, do not use pesticides around or within their hives. This is good! So organic may be more about good housekeeping practices with hives. Enough about the honey- just use unpasteurized honey if you can.

So how do electuaries help us and why the heck would I want to make one? Well, the recipe we were given helps to build a strong immune system. With the benefits derived from the plants working with the antibacterial and antiviral properties of honey, the electuary is meant to help fight illness in the early stages. I have always preached about the benefits of using herbs as medicinal agents, however, the little skeptic that resides inside of me cries out for PROOF! So I need to see it to believe it. But, hey, why not try it? What can it hurt?

With the electuary recipe I was given, you add minced garlic, ginger, fresh thyme leaves (believe me you need a lot of thyme leaves), and you can also add rose hips which are high in vitamin C. I did not have rose hips and I understand the seeds are somewhat hard to digest, so I opted out of adding them to my electuary. I could give you exact amounts, but truthfully I just added according to my taste. I did use organic garlic and ginger and the thyme came from my garden (I DO NOT use pesticides on my plants- not necessary). I also think if you are making a product to promote a healthy immune system, you really need to use organic products as much as possible. Why give the body another chemical to process that it does not recognize and which could possibly harm the cells in your body?  Seems rather contrary to what the electuary is intended to do.

Making the electuary is really quite simple. Mince the garlic and ginger and then strip the leaves off the thyme- Ta-Daa! ¬†This preparation is what seemed to take the longest. Heat the honey just so it becomes liquid on a very low heat. You don’t want to kill those good bacteria smiling back at you in the cooking pot. Add the garlic, ginger and thyme to the honey, stir and then pour into clean jam jars. You can even sterilize the jam jars by boiling in water and removing them using tongs (kitchen utensil). Not only do you not want to burn yourself when removing the hot jars from the boiling water, touching the jars will undo your efforts to prevent contamination of the jars. I didn’t bother with it and feel confident all is well with my electuary. See my photo below for the materials I used.

The directions for using the electuary is to let it sit for a month prior to using and then take one teaspoon daily just before cold and flu season starts up. So I have started this regime and will report in the spring on my impressions of how the electuary worked. As I said I need proof it works and hopefully I will maintain good health throughout the year. Hope you are able to try it!

Simple ingredients: garlic, ginger, and thyme
Simple ingredients: garlic, ginger, and thyme
The final product.
The final product.

Note: You can strain the garlic, ginger or thyme out of the honey, but I prefer to leave it in.