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Horrors of sheet mulching

 
Travis Schultz
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Okay so some of you are familiar with who I am and my experience in starting a small scale biointensive type farm. I have relied mostly on close spacing for weed control but was really liking the idea of sheet mulching beds and pathways to make a more esthetically pleasing look and to greatly reduce the weeding. I just used my own hybrid method of cardboard newspaper and straw or dried grasses on top.

I didn't read Ruth stouts book but I doubt it would have changed anything.

In a temperate climate like my own sheet mulching seems to do more harm than good at least in my experience.

Everybody needs to find what works for them, in their climate and in their situation.

Slugs, cabbage worms, and voles..... These are now the bane of my existence. Why? Because sheet mulching basically makes a perfect habitat for these pests.

So do I spend $400 on sluggo for the season? I can't use poison on the voles in my organic garden. So now I have to resort to picking hundreds of slugs off the garden every night which is by far the easiest and most efficient method for large scale slug removal. I know what your all going to want to say, get ducks! Well I'm on a small lot, I already have chickens, and I couldn't release ducks or chickens into my polyculture garden untill the end of the season without spending more money on fencing and infrastructure to keep them out of the veggies. Ducks also do a very good job of trampling the plants they don't eat.

All of these are starting to seem like more work than a few days of properly timed weeding a season and a little more watering. Sheet mulching is no easy task when your doing half a 12k sq ft garden. It took days in itself and now will take many more days of fighting the pest battle to get them in check. Not to mention hunched over picking up slugs and 930 at night when I should be in bed with my wife.

I have had several people lately try telling me that sheet mulching is the only way to go (most of these members probably don't even have a garden they have just read books and watched Geoff lawtons videos) yet they assume they have the perfect system for EVERYONE.

I am here to tell you that just like any other method of farming or gardening you have to experiment and find what works for you. Do not just assume anything in farming until you yourself know how it works.

I am now left wondering why I wanted to fix a system that was already in balance. Because the sheet mulch threw my system way out of whack. I was attracted by laziness and the idea that I could plant and forget and then just harvest.

Damage done? My seedling flats in greenhouse were mowed down by voles, twice. Re bought seed, and had to buy seedling to replace the early starts that I couldn't replant in time. Slugs have eaten overnight a large number of broccoli, kale, collard, and chard that I can only replace in time to get a harvest by buying starts. Voles ate all my rutabega and turnips ( thousand or so).

In years past 1 application of sluggo and a few precisely placed mouse traps kept the voles and slugs way in check and I only saw little damage.

But now 2 resident cats, 60 in sluggo, and 24 mousetraps and I have finally gotten the damn voles under control, picked roughly 100 sluggs off herbs and brassicas last night, after making my round through the garden I started back at the beginning and another few dozen were picked the second pass through.

Started to think I made a mistake!!!

But on a much lighter note we just had our first day of market saturday, I have been reading about business and marketing and learning a lot from Jack spirko this winter. We brought maybe half the produce we would normally take to market but I made $100 more than my best market day to date. Testement that it's not just about selling your goods, but how can we increase the price paid for the same product without really changing anything about it?

Good luck to everyone on your endevours, and always take what people tell you with a grain of salt until you have experience in that regard. And please if something works for you, please stop telling everyone it's the perfect system and the only way to do it! Every piece of land is different, and for every question the answer is "depends".

Travis.
 
Rus Williams
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We sheet mulched our garden/ food forest too.
Yes the slugs are a big issue and hand picking seems the only way to deal with them, unless of course we get ducks.

But there are benefits too.
For example, we have much better water retention in the soil, much faster soil building and improvement in earthworm population, a massive reduction in weeding. For us it was the right thing to do for the system we want and the time we have.

On the other hand, in a limited space, growing veggies for sale, I would go down the route of Jean-Martin Fortier, and use row covers, imported compost etc and keeping slug habitat to a minimum. Not very permie, but there you go.

Really nice to hear about your marketing successes!

Our next approach towards the slug issue is going to be coffee grinds, we'll see if that helps.

Rus

 
Travis Schultz
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Thanks for the reply.

Yeah there are many benefits. The worms do such a good job aerating soil when it's sheet mulched, along with many other benefits. I have 5ft wide permanent beds, and idk if row covers are going to do anything for the slugs. As the season goes on I will update here as to how it's going and improving. I may or may not clean mulch off garden in fall and plant a cover crop before winter on most my garden. Many of the same benefits as sheet mulching, without the formation of supreme slug habitat lol.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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In a small intensive system, I think composting needs to be separate from the growing. Sheet mulch was initially a way to jumpstart a forest garden. In one of Mollison's recent books, he complained that sheet mulching and compost are now used as if they were synonymous. He thinks that any sheet mulch garden will either: 1. succeed to a food forest, 2. revert to grass, 3. evolve into a more intensively maintained style of vegetable garden.
 
James Everett
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Good to know. I am just starting to progress on my land and I do have areas I see mounds but up around my house is mainly rock land. So I am sheet mulching areas just to build up more then half inch of dirt and such. As for me Jack Spirko I am learning from to due to my land is rocky like his. That and I am 5 hours west of him.
 
Travis Schultz
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Yeah great info thank you. Got to rethink my approach here for next year.
 
Casie Becker
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Small Snakes and lizards are voracious slug predators. Are there areas near or in your garden where you might be able to put a few rocks as a basking location to attract these? Of course, you might not have the ready population of reptiles that I do, but that's the first idea I have that's self sustaining.
 
Travis Schultz
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Casie Becker wrote:Small Snakes and lizards are voracious slug predators. Are there areas near or in your garden where you might be able to put a few rocks as a basking location to attract these? Of course, you might not have the ready population of reptiles that I do, but that's the first idea I have that's self sustaining.


That would work fine on a large acre parcel, but in intensive market gardening I will lose my table at the market if I can't supply enough produce. Slugs seem to explode in numbers overnight, and in a week or so the garden would be wasted.

I literally was pulling 10 to 15 slugs off each seedling last night. A couple nights of that and all that hard work is for nothing.

I have a couple rock piles and a few garter snakes around, as well as toads and frogs. It just takes a season or two of those predetors breeding to equal the numbers needed to put a check in the slugs.because snakes and frogs breed once a year.
 
Nicole Alderman
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We have slugs in abundance here, too, and though we have garter snakes, they never seemed to help. Mulch made the slug problem worse, too, as the slugs lived in the soil/mulch and then ate the seeds before they even got above the ground. It was horrible.

Ducks do help a lot, but require fences, especially if planting things ducks like to eat (mine love pea and bean seeds, as well as potato plants, both of which make them sick, but couldn't care less for alliums and brassicas).

But, one thing that really does combat the slugs (as well as bunnies) is coffee grounds! See if you can find a barrista or coffee stand that will give you bags of coffee grounds. They have literally saved my garden this year. Any strawberry plant that has coffee grounds around it is safe from both bunnies and slugs--and bunnies and slugs LOVE my strawberries.

Coffee grounds are literally the only mulch I use on my plants that slugs/bunnies love. (For some reason, daikon radishes seem immune to both these pests in my garden, though who knows how long that will last!)
 
Galadriel Freden
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I feel your pain. Two years ago we had a plague of slugs (they ate everything I put in the ground, and most of the stuff I put in planters); last year it was merely an infestation. It's still too early to tell about this year, but I have taken measures over the past year to combat them, which may or may not be working: we have a newish pond to encourage frogs and toads (tadpoles have been spotted). We have let existing shrubs grow bigger and bushier to encourage birds--lots of feathery activity this year. Plenty of cover for hedgehogs, though we haven't seen any yet this year; last year we found a dead one and a few days later, its halfgrown baby searching for it

My livelihood doesn't depend on my garden like yours, and I appreciate that my solutions won't help you now. During the plague of slugs, I too was picking off slugs with a flashlight in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other (so gross), but I just couldn't keep up with them, and it really gets you down, massacreing them on that level, and not even saving your plants.

My problem wasn't sheet mulch per se, but I do have some thoughts on that, too. I love sheet mulch for starting new beds on top of grass or weeds. However, I generally skip the mulch part if I'm planting right away, and just leave the compost layer as the top layer. If I'm sheet mulching over winter I do mulch, and then rake the mulch off a couple weeks before planting (to let any birds, etc, help with slug control). If possible, I also let my chickens onto it for a few weeks too, close to planting.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I'm on the edge of a moist Forest on the Pacific coast. My primary mulch is coffee grounds and my hugelkultur mounds are a breeding ground for snakes and lizards.

My garden is 150 feet from a skunk cabbage bog. I have not seen one slug in the garden, although they are endemic in the area.

One of my mounds is in a shaded spot where the snakes and lizards don't go. This area was overrun with slugs and wire worms. When I harvested potatoes from the sunny mounds where the snakes and lizards live, there was no wireworm damage. On the shady mounds that did not have the reptiles, every potato had wire worms in it. I'd say that's pretty conclusive results. 100% worm free when grown with snakes and lizards. 100% crap when grown without them.

The coffee grounds present a physical barrier to slugs on dry days. Any slug that tries to crawl across dry coffee grounds, gets them stuck all over their bodies.

I lay the grounds extra thick on the southern slopes of mounds. Snakes and lizards bask on the dark surface.
 
Amanda Montgomery
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I'm having some issues with slugs as well but really my big problem (other than voles) are ANTS. My goodness, so many ants. I've sheet mulched other areas of my yard on a smaller scale and not noticed an issue but now it's a real problem.

Something else I've been trying to figure out but haven't seen is an issue of soil compaction. I started with cardboard, then a layer of straw, leaves, then compost. My plants have been yellowing and have stopped growing. I aerated and the compost layer was solid. There are lots of worms and once you dig a little deeper things look pretty nice. We've had a ton of rain here in Central VA so I'm sure that has something to do with it but it's really frustrating!

 
Marco Banks
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Casie Becker wrote:Small Snakes and lizards are voracious slug predators. Are there areas near or in your garden where you might be able to put a few rocks as a basking location to attract these? Of course, you might not have the ready population of reptiles that I do, but that's the first idea I have that's self sustaining.


This has been my experience. I've got a massive lizard population now compared to 15 years ago when I started our food forest. They do a great job of eating the snail eggs and small slugs.
 
Shawn Harper
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has anyone with slug issues considered gathering up a whole bunch, sticking them in a vented container for 4-7 days and letting the survivors loose? Several slug species will eat other slugs. In this way you could help select for cannibalism in your local population.
 
alex Keenan
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Travis Schultz wrote:Okay so some of you are familiar with who I am and my experience in starting a small scale biointensive type farm. I have relied mostly on close spacing for weed control but was really liking the idea of sheet mulching beds and pathways to make a more esthetically pleasing look and to greatly reduce the weeding. I just used my own hybrid method of cardboard newspaper and straw or dried grasses on top.


I understand your vole problem. They are very common where I currently live. I once had one using me as a salt lick as I was sitting near tree watching a ball game. I kept feeling something tickling my leg. I would look and nothing was there. I call my wife and she spotted a vole licking my leg. I was ducking into a hole every time I turned to look!

Voles like to tunnel.When you put in cardboard, boards, or any type of solid material in a vole area, you are likely to find voles tunneling under it for shelter.
Material like this provides ideal habitat for those little rodents. They can now safely venture out at night and eat the food you have kindly planted next to their new homes.

As for the slugs, you again have created moist areas were slugs can safely hide in the heat of the day. That mulch is now providing ideal moist conditions for slug eggs to hatch.

So something that does not support tunnel structures or provides protection would be a consideration for voles. This would mean small pieces of organic matter that allow you to see and collapse tunnels and allows predators to eat voles.
For the slugs you don't want pocket of moist areas.

I have used coffee grounds from starbucks to mulch between rows. Your idea of sheet composting is good. But your material has the wrong physical characteristics.



 
nikos pappas
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Marco Banks wrote:
Casie Becker wrote:Small Snakes and lizards are voracious slug predators. Are there areas near or in your garden where you might be able to put a few rocks as a basking location to attract these? Of course, you might not have the ready population of reptiles that I do, but that's the first idea I have that's self sustaining.


This has been my experience. I've got a massive lizard population now compared to 15 years ago when I started our food forest. They do a great job of eating the snail eggs and small slugs.


what about diatomaceous earth? in my raised beds it seems to be effective in controlling slug population.
 
Glenn Darman
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Travis I have the #1 system for you with out a doubt...at least for the slugs.Flat Beer ,just get a plastic ice cream container cut off 1/2 of the height and bury it up to the rim height that's left(About 3") and just pour in enough beer to fill 1/2 of that.WE did it 1 year and by the morning they were filled with slugs of all description.Don't just believe what I say...experiment with it.You could put several out randomly seeing you have a big size to deal with.,oh and don't forget to refill with beer.
 
Travis Schultz
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Well as I said in my original post, by mulching at all you are making the habit better for slugs and voles, that we do know.

I believe a combination of attacks is best. I hand pick, and I sprinkled D.e everywhere last night. Not nearly as many last night as the night before, I did pick well over a hundred. I also had the last of a tub of sluggo so on the broccoli beds that weren't mulched I sprinkled a line of sluggo around the edge of the mulched pathway so that when they come out of the mulch at night they pass over the sluggo before getting to the broccoli. And then each broccoli got a hefty amount of d.e. luckily were having a dry year and after spring I should be fine.

I have 12k sq ft intensive garden. 80 beds. I would need a minimum of 3 beer traps per bed, so that's 240 beer traps. Fine if you have a little backyard garden but beer traps are not a viable solution for the larger garden. Hand picking is the cheapest. It would take all day and a couple cases of beer, and I can pick a hundred off by hand in an hour without wasting beer. I also never have stale beer just lying around lol I drink my mine.

I just want people to hear it from me, from someone who has experimented yearly with these methods and found more headache come from sheet mulching than not. It's easier to do a little weeding FOR ME. Remember that this is my findings. If your someone who lives in a wet climate or temperate, be careful when sheet mulching as it makes the habitat perfect for pests, and adds a ton of work at a time of year where I'm stretched pretty thin as is.
 
Travis Schultz
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I'm on the edge of a moist Forest on the Pacific coast. My primary mulch is coffee grounds and my hugelkultur mounds are a breeding ground for snakes and lizards.

My garden is 150 feet from a skunk cabbage bog. I have not seen one slug in the garden, although they are endemic in the area.

One of my mounds is in a shaded spot where the snakes and lizards don't go. This area was overrun with slugs and wire worms. When I harvested potatoes from the sunny mounds where the snakes and lizards live, there was no wireworm damage. On the shady mounds that did not have the reptiles, every potato had wire worms in it. I'd say that's pretty conclusive results. 100% worm free when grown with snakes and lizards. 100% crap when grown without them.

The coffee grounds present a physical barrier to slugs on dry days. Any slug that tries to crawl across dry coffee grounds, gets them stuck all over their bodies.

I lay the grounds extra thick on the southern slopes of mounds. Snakes and lizards bask on the dark surface.


Hey, Dale. Thanks for that. I have no doubt the snakes in my area could do it but they are not at levels this year to combat it. And probably would take a few years for populations to increase. Our cold winters play a big role in keeping reptile numbers down. In 2014 we had the coldest winter in 70 years and we lost entire fisheries, though I can imagine it was the same for the reptiles. The summer following that winter we had almost no pest damage. But last winter was very mild so hence the explosion of pests in the garden, and the ticks are terrible this year.

I think after reading that I'm going to try to get in touch with a few coffee shops and start spreading grounds everywhere. Good to hear the snakes don't mind the grounds and actually like to bask on them.

 
Galadriel Freden
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Glenn Darman wrote:...Flat Beer...


During our plague of slugs we tried beer traps (and crushed eggshells, and coffee grounds, and wheat bran...). The slugs filled up on my plants, then had a nice refreshing drink of beer. They caught slugs all right, but didn't stop the damage one bit.

Actually, I found the combination of bran, sprinkled thickly as a barrier around my plants, and hand picking to be most effective. The slugs did indeed gather on the bran and it was much easier to pick them off the that than the plants. However it needs to be reapplied after a rain (which is pretty much every day here)--so though it kind of worked, it was not really a viable solution.
 
William Bronson
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I've been following an Urban Farmer as he does his thing up in Canada. He doesn't seem to have problems with slugs but he does sheet mulch with black . One might think plastic would cause slug problems what with its moisture retention, but if it does I haven't heard him mention it thus far.
He also flame weeds his beds which might help kill slug eggs.
 
Glenn Darman
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I digress Travis as we only have 250sqm of veggie's.Where we live now they aren't a problem and we hardly see any(Lucky I guess) I sheet mulched our original no-digs but have done away with them as they didn't perform well here.One thing we do have in abundance is "Slaters" tiny silver grey things that look like they belong in Jurassic park but they don't seem to harm any veggies that I've noticed.
 
Cristo Balete
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Travis, I've got the same issues with voles, slugs, etc, with very thick mulch (6-8"), but a few things make a big difference:

1. Keep cats and dogs out of the garden so lots of small wild birds will come and get the slugs and bugs. By mid-summer there are flocks of 30+ small birds coming into my fenced acre, kicking the mulch aside and handling just about everything under it. They are out there all day working over, even when I am out there. I always wear the same hat, hoping they will recognize me and ignore me.

2. HAWK POLES - Big predator birds will get the mice/voles/gophers. It helps to put up hawk poles, 4x4s that are a minimum of 10 feet off the ground, 12 if you can do it (obviously sunk in a couple feet, so it's a long pole). They will hunt from 4x4s, but need the cover of a tree to take the catch back to for safety. I left 2 pine trees that aren't too big on 1 acre for this purpose. there's always owl barf at the base of these poles, so they get used a lot. I've got 5 per acre, one of which is in the middle, one is a gate pole.

3. Large 5 gal BUCKETS half full of water with a 1" hose going over the top, extending down onto the ground on either side for about a foot. At night they jump in, it doesn't take long. I almost always find 2 or 3 in each bucket, and I have 6 buckets out under the drippy spots in the water lines. Once I found 6 in one bucket. The snakes will go into the bucket and get them back out sometimes, which I figure is nice and organic for everyone,

4. FLOWER/HERB/VEGGIE TRIAD: Don't plant all the brassicas together. I know it looks great to have everything all in their own zones, but with brassicas it's a recipe for disaster. I never plant them closer than 18 inches, and in between there's a cluster of annual flowers and a strongly scented herb of some kind, dill, parsley, catnip. I separate groups of brassicas by 25 feet to 50 feet. So if I plant 10 heads of broccoli, each group of 10 is separated by 25-50 feet.) It's the Permaculture Mix It Up theory. That way if one patch gets hit, the others will likely be okay. Make sure that brassicas are never stressed for water, that makes them that attractive pale green color that brings insects running. Wild birds will land on brassicas and take those worms right off em without damaging the leaves. Some of my best wild bird photos are of the birds on the kale plants getting the worms. They are small and light and can be your best friends. Let the dill and parsley go to flowering and they will bring in great beneficial insects. Let them reseed and they will come back. With a little thinning you can plant among them.

5. Surround plants that are vulnerable to mice/vole damage with native weeds that they avoid, and that don't have growth suppressors. No sunflower relatives, nothing with multi-petaled yellow flowers, But there will be some weeds that will come back every year that will save your plants. Daylillies are another great looking, long-lived, drought-tolerant plant protector that keeps those wind tunnels from surrounding the perennials and annuals.

I am so grateful for the mulch because it brings up the worms, which are my number 1 hard workers. It suppresses weeds, and it cuts back on water use (which can take up a lot of time in climates where irrigation is needed), and it adds valuable carbons and bacterial/fungi to the soil you just can't get any other way.

 
Travis Schultz
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I have a very diverse polyculture, wide no till beds, healthy happy soil, lots of birds, snakes, frogs, and 5 12ft poles around the garden area. I took care of my vole problem this spring.

I just came in from a 2 hour session of cutting up slugs. At least 300 or probably many more.

So with 12k sq ft of garden it takes about an hour to mow all the pathways, and maybe 2 hrs a week of weeding for about 8 weeks in spring until the beds fill in and then I don't have to really weed at all the rest of the year.

So let's figure 24 hours put into weeding and mowing pathways during spring. I have at least that into the vole war early this spring, and now I got another 24 into the slugs and it's only getting worse. Been at it every night for over a week for hours a night, and tonight is the worst I've seen it yet, so very discouraging.

I am about to tear up all the sheet mulch... the beds that are not sheet mulched (they are scattered about) are surrounded by sheet mulched pathways, yet there are only a few slugs per brassica bed, yet a couple beds over there are a hundred or more scattered over 100sq ft of mulch. When I say brassica bed they are still polyculture beds with self sowing herbs and flowers. Just mostly different brassicas.

By removing the refuse, planting closely so that the plants shade the soil and act as a living mulch, and making compost away from the garden, I had a very balanced system. In MY system and in MY experience, sheet mulching is not worth the effort timewise. I also don't live in an arid climate, and I have plenty of water on site.

So disgusted in myself for making this mistake and severely damaging my season. I warn anyone to make sure you start sheet mulching on a small scale. I should have saw this coming.

I am very lucky I only sheet mulched about a third of the garden beds and pathways. But even with a third mulched it's disrupted the balance across the board. I will lose many many seedlings tonight. I can't see them in the dark with a flashlight I have bad eyes.

I don't like bare soil as much as the next guy, but for me the next step as the season goes on is to start doing cover crops and living mulch and removing the sheet mulch on beds that are being hammered hard by slugs. And work my way back to a more balanced system.

In no way am I saying it can't work for you or won't work for him or for her, but for me, it's a total joke in a small intensive space. When starting a food forest, or putting in new beds I would still use it over tilling, granted if I had sheet mulched a year before I needed to garden that space.

But the sheet mulch would only be used to kill the grass and bring in the worms.

Sorry for anyone who has had good success with sheet mulch,i know people don't like finding out that what worked for them didn't work for someone else. I also know how it's easy to then point out all the different things they could do to change they're system to fit the new slug problem, but trust me, the greatest guilds and polycultures in the world will not keep pest and disease from getting out of control if other elements in the system favor the pest or disease. And I know many great trusted permaculturists would agree that no matter how awesome your system is, winds can shift, and bad things can get out of whack. The polyculture system helps with resistance but not like many people try to make it out to be.

I'm sure iv just pissed a few people off, but I'm pissed myself so we are all going to have to deal with it lol.
 
Galadriel Freden
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I have a feeling you would have had a problem with slugs this year even if you didn't have the sheet mulch. It's more likely due to the weather--conditions were right for an explosion of slugs and you got caught in the middle. Your sheet mulch may have been a great breeding ground for them, but I really think it was because their numbers were able to grow during the mild winter, instead of being knocked back as usual. Certainly when we had our plague two years ago, it wasn't just conditions in my own garden; it was all over the region because of successive mild winter and spring.

What I'm trying to say is, don't beat yourself up about it. It was probably going to happen anyway, no matter what you did. And hey, look on the bright side*: you learned something, right?

*Ok so there's not really a bright side
 
Todd Parr
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Hey Travis. I'm in about the same climate and growing conditions as you. I mulch everything with wood chips. I kill large areas with rubber roofing, and the voles make tunnels everywhere and break up the soil for me. I have heavy clay and when they are done with it, I can sink a fork in to the handle without a problem. You couldn't do that by jumping on it beforehand. After that I mulch very heavily, but always with wood chips. The voles and slugs must not like wood chips as well as your sheet mulch, because I don't have those issues at all. It is a lot of work to bring in all those wood chips, but it's something to consider.
 
Tobias Ber
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hey travis...

this is not a nice thing. i hope, you ll do well.

we have slug problems, but less area. i ve some ideas:

- get a head lamp (led)
- use a thing with a long stick to whack them. maybe a blade attached to a stick. you could even attach a torchlight to it
- get the slugs in easy to whack locations (paths, sides of beds) first. then got to the more hidden/complicated ones
- beer trap. do not use beer. use a liquid from yeast, sugar and flour. works very well.
- lure/bait them to certain locations. i poured out above mentioned liquid to refresh it. very soon after it, slugs came to get the liquid from the ground. you can use dry-dog-fodder with some water as a bait. then get em while they re gathered
- comfrey? chop n drop it. as far as i remember slugs love it when it withers. they ll hide under the leaves and stay there during daytime. so you can get them there during the day
- sheets, boards etc. lay them around as hideouts. get the slugs under there at daylight
- slug barriers.... probably wont work, when they re already in your bed. they are good to stop outside invasion
 
Cristo Balete
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Travis, we've all been frustrated by things that change from year to year. That is the really tough part of having Mother Nature as a coworker, she's in control, and she's got plans for us each year that we may or may not see coming. That's why pesticides, fertilizers, weed killers, and GM seeds are in the heart of world agriculture. They take out all of the variables organic Permaculture growers are dealing with every year.

And I know many great trusted permaculturists would agree that no matter how awesome your system is, winds can shift, and bad things can get out of whack.


But it can also shift for the better, too. It goes back and forth, no year is exactly the same. Most years at least one part of it goes wrong. It's what we've all signed up for, to meet these challenges as they rear their ugly heads. I think Galadriel is right, it wasn't the sheet mulch that caused the slugs, it was this particular year's conditions.

The voles will be back, so save your traps. Honestly, the buckets do a great job 24/7. And I'd hate to see you planting closer together because it is what conventional farming does, and that's why they need pesticides and fungicides, that creates lack of air flow, gives voles just as much cover as mulch does, and allows even a sick and dying insect to go from plant to plant and live long enough to lay eggs.

But we've all been through your frustrations, we'll all go through them again. It is the nature of the beast when growing food.
 
duane hennon
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I did a lot of sheet mulchng a few years ago to establish beds where there was grass
and I did have bountiful numbers of slugs and voles
but after the first year the paper and cardboard broke down and slugs became only an occasional problem
I and the neighbors have cats so the voles usually do not cause too much of a problem
I have adjusted my planting to go back to a more typical spacing although I mix up the plants
lack of sun and dampness are my problems with intense beds
I now mulch with chop and drop comfrey and weeds,, grass clipping and leaves, but only after the soil warms and the plants are established

as you stated permies seem to be carried away with doing stuff
to me, permaculture is a way of fixing the land, not a list of
required activities or projects.
we see a number of people building swales, hugelculture beds and planting tightly packed food forests where they may not be necessary or helpful
each has a specific place. the same for sheet mulching

being "cursed" with decent land and rainfall
doesn't mean you can't still be a permie
 
Ryan Sharon
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I seem to recall another thread (or was it a video) that mentioned using daffodils to repel moles and voles; it seems they hate the smell and won't go near tree roots that have daffodils planted around them.

As for slugs: in his 13+ hour PDC video I recall Mollison saying he'd built 'electric fences' for slugs with fine guage wire and a 9 volt battery. In the same video he mentioned building habitat around the garden with plants slugs find more tasty than your garden greens.

Todd Parr wrote:Hey Travis. I'm in about the same climate and growing conditions as you. I mulch everything with wood chips. I kill large areas with rubber roofing, and the voles make tunnels everywhere and break up the soil for me. I have heavy clay and when they are done with it, I can sink a fork in to the handle without a problem. You couldn't do that by jumping on it beforehand. After that I mulch very heavily, but always with wood chips. The voles and slugs must not like wood chips as well as your sheet mulch, because I don't have those issues at all. It is a lot of work to bring in all those wood chips, but it's something to consider.

Wow Todd, that is awesome! We have oceans of heavy clay and I've been trying to come up with a strategy for amending it that didn't involve tilling. Most of our indigenous crops out here are huckleberry and mushrooms...granted, having huckleberry pie in summer, jam in winter (we have about 3 of our 40 acres covered in it) and mushrooms in the fall is not something I'm inclined to complain about. The chantrelles are tough to come by sometime but the king bolletes can grow as large as my head on a good year!
 
wayne fajkus
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I just watched a show that had Jeff the organic guy. He does testing on different methods. Kind of like mythbusters for permies.

The beer works as Glenn posted above. Jeffs method is fill a mason jar. beer has to be at least 1" below the rim. They drown in it so they have to go in, not drink it from above. The jar should be buried about even with soil surface.

Eggshells don't work.

Diatomaceos earth- they won't crawl over it so it can be a barrier.


Oh, don't shoot the messenger. I report, you decide. Lol
 
Travis Schultz
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Lol all my pathways are Woodchips and it's crawling with slugs. I also have slugs eating the plants through dry, freshly applied d.e. I will post a couple pics of them eating my aromatic thyme, through the d.e. if my phone would let me, need better service.

I love what the voles did for aeration, no joke, and the voles are much less of a problem than the slugs to me. Slugs don't serve an awesome purpose like the voles, besides ducks food which I don't own any and can't have any right now.

I'm just cutting slugs every night, I'm hopeful in a few weeks I will have broken their cycle and can back off the assault.

It just goes to show you that just because something works for you or me does not mean it will work that way for anyone else.
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Travis Schultz
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Another 1
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duane hennon
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hi Travis,

I forgot to mention salt
take a salt shaker with you
sprinkle a dash on them and watch them melt
 
Travis Schultz
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I put barriers of d.e all around the beds, and in the evening I snipped almost as many slugs crossing the barrier as I did in the Woodchip paths. It's pine Woodchips with some needles if that matters.

Never seen anything like this. I only found 1 slug dried up in the d.e, but lots of little beetles and stuff were dead which sucks because beetles eat slugs! Lol the d.e only killed what kills he damn slugs.

Hand snipping is about the only logical answer at this point.
 
Travis Schultz
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As far as close spacing goes, and the problems you stated on them, there's just as many good things about it as there are bad. As with most things, depending on the variables at hand. The microclimate created in wide beds has an amazing effect on the health and vigor of a plant, John jeavons has done much work with this. And the countless vineyards on peninsulas around the globe is testament to that. Also the spider level in a shaded living bed is huge. As well as getting the same results as mulch without the slugs. If the voles are going to use both methods happily than I guess I should use the method that doesn't support slug procreating (They are actually hermaphradites).

If you have your soil tested regularly like I do and have legitimate proof that what your doing is building top soil, organic matter, cation exchange capacity, and P K CA increases as well as an uptick in a naturally acidic sandy soils pH then you can say like I can that you are not depleting the soil like industrial ag. If you know what your doing and you have the lab results to back it up, intensive gardening is a great way to show families how much of their diet they can grow in their own backyards, while healing the earth and building community.

Lawton has said many times that the most productive systems in the world are always the smallest.


 
Travis Schultz
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I also have never had fungus and mold issues unless you call mushrooms growing in my shaded living mulch mold issues. The amount of compost tea I make, as well as the homemade lactic acid bacilli add to that balance I was talking about earlier. I have homemade liquid fish which is broken down enzymatically with the probiotics so Everytime I water with that I am again re inoculating the soil with beneficial microorganisms.
 
Travis Schultz
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Also, not sure how good it is to be sprinkling salt all over the garden. That's sprinkling salt all over each plant because each plant is covered in slugs. When I could snip them just as quick without wasting salt or raising the salinity of the soil. It just worries me adding salt to the garden.
 
Todd Parr
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Travis Schultz wrote:Lol all my pathways are Woodchips and it's crawling with slugs. I also have slugs eating the plants through dry, freshly applied d.e. I will post a couple pics of them eating my aromatic thyme, through the d.e. if my phone would let me, need better service.

I love what the voles did for aeration, no joke, and the voles are much less of a problem than the slugs to me. Slugs don't serve an awesome purpose like the voles, besides ducks food which I don't own any and can't have any right now.

I'm just cutting slugs every night, I'm hopeful in a few weeks I will have broken their cycle and can back off the assault.

It just goes to show you that just because something works for you or me does not mean it will work that way for anyone else.


That's really odd that you have slugs in your wood chips and I don't. It's not for lack of slugs here. I lay big piles of old wet hay around and then move the piles so my chickens can eat the little critters that live under there and I always have slugs galore but I've never seen one in the areas I mulched with wood chips. Mine are primarily hard wood but I'm not sure that matters that much. Maybe it does.

I was serious about the voles too. They break up my clay soil better than I can by far, and as soon as I move the rubber sheeting away and mulch, I never see them. I think the cats take care of that
 
The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers: http://richsoil.com/cards
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