I think that gardening is quite difficult. I don’t mean buying a few bedding plants and popping them in a patio pot. I mean ‘proper’ gardening; growing from seeds and cuttings and making a garden. So much can thwart our efforts and while it is part of the ‘job’ that every season is different, it can also make it a challenge.
‘Wildlife’ has slowly invaded the gardener’s world and is now threatening to make gardening impossible. I feel under attack. I have always been of the opinion that making a garden was ‘harnessing’ nature and I have no problem with loosening that grip a bit.
I like most plants and there is no way that my garden will become a monoculture. My garden will always be a haven for wildlife, whether I plan it or not. I want my garden to buzz with bees, I want swallows screeching overhead and I want frogs to populate my ponds. I have planted low shrubs for cover around one of the ponds to help the frogs and the larger pond is frequented by swallows drinking on the wing. I have long grass for beetIes and butterfly larvae, have planted buckthorn in the hedge for brimstone butterfly larvae and my raised beds are being colonised by mining bees. When I arrived here the site was a field of grass, like the surrounding field with no diversity – just grass – a few docks but not even a buttercup. I feel I am doing my bit.
I don’t like slugs but I will accept that, in the wild, they eat dead and decaying matter and break down organic matter.
What gets my goat is ‘gurus’ on TV with no gardening experience saying that anyone can help wildlife – all you need to do is buy a lavender (grown under glass – possibly with fossil fuels, in The Netherlands, shipped hundreds of miles), plant it in a plastic pot (probably made in China), in some awful recycled compost and then watch the butterflies appear. How wonderful – except that you done nothing to actually ‘make’ the butterflies – nothing!
But what has provoked this outburst is being sent a press release about slugs. On April 1 (yes really), it became illegal to sell or use metaldehyde-based slug pellets in the UK. The press release actually said that slug pellets were banned which is inaccurate since you can use those based on Ferric phosphate. But what really maddened me was the advice, after describing the good that slugs do, that I should plant sacrificial plants for the slugs and then they would leave the ones I want alone. REALLY??
Well nature doesn’t work like that. Apart from the madness of trying to get slugs to eat some plants and not others, a slug doesn’t think ahead – I wish it would. If the slugs sat there and thought ‘if I wait a few weeks there will be lots more leaves and the marigolds will flower too, so the bees can have nectar as well so I won’t eat these tender seedlings now’ I would be very happy. That doesn’t happen. After all, like the scorpion and the fox; ‘It’s in my nature!’
Take the rabbits that almost killed my apple trees by eating the bark the first winter. Did they eat just some? No, they nibbled them all. Do blackbirds take some strawberries and leave me some? No, they peck at them all and never eat them all.
So I am supposed to think that I can train my slugs to eat some plants that I grow for them and leave the rest for me? Who are you kidding?
I am not against the idea of putting down some lettuce leaves and trapping the blighters but then you have to get rid of them and isn’t stamping on them reducing the population of these slimy grazers that are now seemingly beneficial. If I am supposed to embrace slugs and feed them then I just give up!