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Horrors of sheet mulching

 
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Supposedly the diatomacious earth only works when it's dry, so if it rains or gets dewy, the slugs don't get dried out by it. In other words, diatomacious earth works great if it doesn't rain... Of course, if it didn't rain, you wouldn't have so many slugs, either. Supposedly you're supposed to reapply the stuff every time it rains. I don't know about you, but that option never worked for me because I didn't have the time or money to keep reapplying it. I did notice a reduction of slugs when I applied a really thick layer of the diatomacious earth, regardless of whether or not it rained. I'd still spot one or two crawling on the stuff, but my plants weren't getting destroyed.

I really like coffee grounds much better, as they work even when wet. And, yes, I have seen slugs crawling through the coffee grounds, but not nearly as many and my plants are able to grow faster than they get eaten. If you have a coffee stand nearby, see if you can get bags of the stuff and mulch the ground and sprinkle the plants with it.

And, yeah, I've also given up on mulch, for the same reasons as you. Even with ducks, the mulch breeds too many slugs. The only mulch I use is coffee grounds on my tender annuals. (I put duck bedding on my perenials.) I have tried kelp meal (supposedly slugs don't like the abrasiveness of the stuff or it's small amount of salinity). Since my husband had bought something like 50 pounds of the stuff on a whim (from the feed store--he was thinking it would be tasty like dulse...it wasn't), I decided to give it a try, and it seemed to help. Supposedly all those nutrients are good for the garden, too. It's worth a shot to try it if you have it, or if it's cheap.
 
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As I stated in my last post, those slugs were crawling on FRESHLY applied d.e. I put it on during a really dry couple weeks here. And iv reapplied after morning dew also. It was not wet. It was working with any bug that had an exoskeleton. But not drying out the slugs.

Todd, I have no doubt it works for you, because you have your own system going, and it's different for everybody.

I got a cat and the rodents are to a Minimum now.
 
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Worms can't exist when diatomaceous earth is in the soil, so they will leave. They are Permaculture's main soil improvers, especially in clay. And you can't get some of those permanent soil additives out once they get into the soil, so let's not forget the bigger picture.
 
Travis Schulert
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Cristo Balete wrote:Worms can't exist when diatomaceous earth is in the soil, so they will leave. They are Permaculture's main soil improvers, especially in clay. And you can't get some of those permanent soil additives out once they get into the soil, so let's not forget the bigger picture.



What are you talking about? I have more worms thriving in my soil now than ever before and use a d.e root drench for root maggots yearly, as well as d.e on plant and soil. Worms apparently don't mind on my farm, and the big picture is very bright and regenerative.
 
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In the wet UK Charles Dowding uses only compost to mulch his no dig garden, because of slugs. See http://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/june-2016/
 
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ohhhh I feel your pain....

here in the northwest of England, slugs are the bane of my life.....

I DO sheetmulch, but only where I know slugs will not be a problem.

In the vegetable beds, I only mulch with really well rotted compost/manure - or - (horror) I use slug pellets to get plants past the vulnerable stage..... i just got so fed up of planting seedlings umpteen times...... (my allotment is 2 miles from my house and i can't get there every evening)

I use woodchip mulch on my paths - and have not noticed loads of slugs on them ... they are mostly coniferous - would that make a difference?

I have voles, mice and rats as well, but here they don't wreck the plants, they eat the seeds of peas, beans and corn. I have had success with sowing seeds in module trays and putting them out of mouse-reach on a shelf balanced on plastic compost bins (ie non-climbable) then once the seedlings are a few inches high, they seem to be ok

The rats are great at aerating my compost bins

Another thing I have noticed about sheet mulching though - if you are in a cool area, it can keep the warmth out of the soil. It's cool here and I noticed a real difference between beds that were mulched with straw (ie light coloured) and bare soil beds. Also, I found using cardboard REALLY attracts slugs - they seem to love the glue - and using thick newspaper under the mulch, whilst brilliant for weed suppression, makes the soil beneath very wet, cold and compacted. I now only use this for paths and under the hedges.

I doubt if any of that was of any direct use to you - as you said, every growing area is different - but it may give some pointers!!

Good luck
 
Nicole Alderman
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Travis Schultz wrote:As I stated in my last post, those slugs were crawling on FRESHLY applied d.e. I put it on during a really dry couple weeks here. And iv reapplied after morning dew also. It was not wet. It was working with any bug that had an exoskeleton. But not drying out the slugs.



Sorry, I didn't see that! Did you notice if it helped protect the plants? Were the slugs still eating it, or just crawling over it? I know you're killing them as you see them, but I wonder if there's at least some noticeable reduction in damage? (I'm mostly wondering for my own applications of it--thanks!)
 
Travis Schulert
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Honestly I'm trying to figure out if it helped. And I really don't see the progress at this point.

That doesn't mean it still can't really help, just didn't for slugs.

 
Travis Schulert
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Linda, I really agree with your observations, and I love you noticed the cold soil also.
 
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I have tried pretty much every recommendation for slugs there is as I dont have ducks either. Some work more effectively than others but most of these dont work at all when it wet (coffee ground, bran, etc) so I always have to go for a multiple pronged approach. Companion planting garlic, chives etc doesnt work at all, they will eat chives and garlic they just tend to eat it last. Copper tools are not a magic bullet either (they do work the soil much nicer than iron though).

This year I have given slug nematodes a go. Some people say this is 'too effective' and expensive but I disagree. Its not expensive for the time and money I put in for the gardening I do and its not entirely wiped them out as I only poured it in a limited area. Its certainly helped keep the numbers down and there are less of the larger ones around too.

I tend to keep plants in pots longer so if they are attacked they might outpace the rate they are being eaten.

One approach I have not tried is this pine seed spray.

If anyone has tried it I would like to know!
 
Travis Schulert
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Lol Henry your post is a sight for sore eyes, I am so tired of reading the same 5 or so slug removal techniques that everyone wants to share. A quick Google search reveals the exact same methods on every website you look at. So when I read nematoads I got excited!

I have a place by me that sells them, but what I was thinking was doing a little homework and trying to breed a package of nematoads out in whatever conditions they prefer. Maybe get lucky and be able to breed them in a compost tea, I have a 55 gallon vortex brewer and I am already familiar with making a tea mix high in predatory bacteria like nematoads ameobas and protozoa, but i have little control over exactly which ones I grow. Maybe the store bought nematoads could be more easily grown and isolated. That would make it an easy fight if it worked.

Did you notice it working?

And as far as repellents go I think I am done trying. Plus in my experience as a pseudo biodynamic farmer for awhile, I found most of the biodynamic preparations to be rather time consuming without a ton of results.
 
Travis Schulert
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Watching that video it looks like the simplest biodynamic preparation iv ever seen lol. They must have left out the fantasy parts of it like stirring facing the rising sun, while speaking your intentions to it. Or burying it on the summer equinox etc etc.

Still seems like a lot of work to make though, would love to know if someone has tried it.

 
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Travis,

maybe you're looking at this the wrong way
and a new business opportunity is just stating you in the face

fish bait!!




when life gives you bait
go fishing
 
Henry Jabel
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Travis Schultz wrote:
I have a place by me that sells them, but what I was thinking was doing a little homework and trying to breed a package of nematoads out in whatever conditions they prefer. Maybe get lucky and be able to breed them in a compost tea, I have a 55 gallon vortex brewer and I am already familiar with making a tea mix high in predatory bacteria like nematoads ameobas and protozoa, but i have little control over exactly which ones I grow. Maybe the store bought nematoads could be more easily grown and isolated. That would make it an easy fight if it worked.

Did you notice it working?

And as far as repellents go I think I am done trying. Plus in my experience as a pseudo biodynamic farmer for awhile, I found most of the biodynamic preparations to be rather time consuming without a ton of results.



Apparently they like water. Thats why its best to apply them in the rain or atleast a cloudy day or evening.... I did this on what was looking like a cloudy day then got pretty warm and sunny (unfortunately I removed the straw mulch from last year during the winter) which might be why I still picking them off. When the slugs get infected they slow down and eventually stop feeding. I have notice some pretty inactive slugs so have concluded it must be working from that.

You could buy some some put it in the vortexer and some in the bucket. My guess is would be the vortexer would be good for them (as I am keen on V. Schauberger's theories) however maybe we are wrong?! Either way I would add some slugs to mix too.

Apparently you can collect them up:



I have done this but I got them from where I applied the nemtodes however I only did it a few days ago so its probably too early to tell.

Travis Schultz wrote:Watching that video it looks like the simplest biodynamic preparation iv ever seen lol. They must have left out the fantasy parts of it like stirring facing the rising sun, while speaking your intentions to it. Or burying it on the summer equinox etc etc.



Its a bit strange that I cant find another reference to people using it too. Maybe there is a schism in the biodynamic movement!

 
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The beer system works for me too. I still have snails that like to stay atop the plants that I chase on occasion, but a few small stashes of beer where they linger and they are drunk/dead in a days...




 
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I saw voles my first year of heavy mulching. I go way beyond sheet mulching going several feet deep in the early spring and it cooks beautifully in the hot Florida sun. so there is a lot of volume for the voles to flourish.

After the first season of chasing the little beasts I decided to bring in the owls. Now I must say I was lucky in that they decided to move in right away. We have screech owls and they are voracious eaters of mice, small rats and the like. I built the box as a test (free plans here: http://www.horkavy.com/ken/category/products/owl-boxes/), three weeks later it was inhabited (had to run off a few starlings early on) and once the babies showed up, it was a continual swooping sound of feathers and rodent terror. I have seen two voles in a year and that was in a cats mouth. I do miss the soil aeration voles provide, but knowing they are no longer a species in explosive growth in my 1/4 acre is a relief.

The owls come back even when they are not nesting, spend a few nights and move on, so it isn't a part time control mechanism, it is nature filling a need and I'm humbly grateful.


 
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One of the things that we do is put down boards in the garden areas. Slugs congregate under them, especially during the day. Pick up the board, scrape them into a bucket. Lather. Rise. Repeat.

Doesn't solve your problem, but might aid in collection during daytime hours while you're already doing other tasks there.
 
Travis Schulert
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Awesome! I'm doing that tonight. The sub species of nematoads in my area would probly be better than the store bought commercially brew species. Maybe they are the same, idk. But to not have to buy the nematoads that's great. I wild harvest probiotics and beneficial indigenous microorganisms already, so that really fits into my system. Very small amount of actual work and time.

I love hearing a solution that really just makes sense and fits into my style farming, that's the point iv been trying to get across. The d.e didnt really work for me, but iv had amazing success with d.e in other areas, including making a paste mixing it with water and painting it on the tree trunks.or as a root drench for certain soil dwelling pests, d.e in my experience has not affected my worms, snails, or slugs, but does the job for squash bugs and for root maggots.

BT really helps me with cabbage worms but nothing else that I have noticed, and the repellants like neem and hot pepper or garlic do work for a short amount of time for some pests but not all of them.

If the nematoads thing works I'm solving the problem at the micro level, which is exactly what I like to do.

I am making it tonight and he said it takes 2 weeks so Henry, please keep updating here as you notice whether it's working for you, I will also.
 
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I had slugs in my wine cap mushroom bed and used wood ash from my wood stove to kill them. It was much faster than picking them off. I just kept a bucket of ash near the bed and used a scoop to both surround new mushrooms and to dust the slugs. It kept them off new mushrooms and drove them from mushrooms (and, I assumed, towards death) they'd found/I'd missed. Not a long-term solution, but may take less time than picking.
 
Henry Jabel
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Travis Schultz wrote:Awesome! I'm doing that tonight. The sub species of nematoads in my area would probly be better than the store bought commercially brew species. Maybe they are the same, idk. But to not have to buy the nematoads that's great. I wild harvest probiotics and beneficial indigenous microorganisms already, so that really fits into my system. Very small amount of actual work and time.

I love hearing a solution that really just makes sense and fits into my style farming, that's the point iv been trying to get across. The d.e didnt really work for me, but iv had amazing success with d.e in other areas, including making a paste mixing it with water and painting it on the tree trunks.or as a root drench for certain soil dwelling pests, d.e in my experience has not affected my worms, snails, or slugs, but does the job for squash bugs and for root maggots.

BT really helps me with cabbage worms but nothing else that I have noticed, and the repellants like neem and hot pepper or garlic do work for a short amount of time for some pests but not all of them.

If the nematoads thing works I'm solving the problem at the micro level, which is exactly what I like to do.

I am making it tonight and he said it takes 2 weeks so Henry, please keep updating here as you notice whether it's working for you, I will also.



Checked just now and they have all fallen in. So I added some more from where I applied the nematodes. It was the warmer weather today but I am sure these must have been affected they just sat there hunched I dropped one on its back and it moved so slowly to correct itself (even for a slug).
 
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To Travis,
I'm a little upset by your comment "how can we increase the price for the same item?"
Most of my friends don't even shop at the farmers markets because they can't afford the high prices .
I walk up and down the whole market looking for people who are selling cheaply enough for me to be able to afford their produce on my fixed income.
Organic has fast become food for the rich.
I grow as much as I can myself, but because of the vagaries of weather and grasshoppers I still have to shop the farmers market.
I would LOVE to see an article about how farmers can make a sufficient living growing organic at a price all people could afford
 
Leila Blair
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Would diatomaceous earth get rid of the slugs?
Last year my Great Pyranees had such a bad flea problem his hair was falling out.
So i dosed all the dogs with d-earth and it worked immediately.
I put it in my chicken pen too to help with bugs.
 
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Some interesting thoughts here.

The two things that have worked for us on a home garden scale are copper barriers (I got a roll of 8" copper flashing years ago and cut it into 2" strips: long lengths go right round a 12' x 3' bed and short lengths curled into a circle go round individual transplants) and hand-picking.

When we hand-picked a few years ago we dropped the slugs into a bucket of salt to kill them, but that left us with a bucket of yuck which had to go in the garbage. The comment above about wood ash inspires me to think that using wood ash in the bucket would work just as well as salt, and could then be composted.
 
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firefly larvae are predators of snails and slugs. As far as cabbage worms and the like, I've had them completely disappear since having large colonies of assassin bugs arrive. My biggest rival is the squash vine borer, and I'm hoping application of beneficial nematodes cuts down their larval populations in the soil so I can see how they could help with slugs and snails as well. They are easy to propagate big populations from small seeder colonies.
 
Travis Schulert
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Leila Blair wrote:To Travis,
I'm a little upset by your comment "how can we increase the price for the same item?"
Most of my friends don't even shop at the farmers markets because they can't afford the high prices .
I walk up and down the whole market looking for people who are selling cheaply enough for me to be able to afford their produce on my fixed income.
Organic has fast become food for the rich.
I grow as much as I can myself, but because of the vagaries of weather and grasshoppers I still have to shop the farmers market.
I would LOVE to see an article about how farmers can make a sufficient living growing organic at a price all people could afford



There are plenty of people out there growing food in a commercialized setting, which makes it cheap. When you put the time and effort in while taking hours off your normal higher paying job, to repair the earth and offer a very high quality product to the community, it is very normal to want to figure out how you can sell your product in a manner in which it makes more money per sq ft.

The problem is you have been conditioned through tax subsidized food to think it's supposed to be cheap. Or that there is some way to produce quality food cheap. The only reason it is cheap is because you pay a tax to the farmer to make it cheap or the farmer wouldnt make any money on the product he is selling because the big global food conglomerates pay less than production cost.

I don't get subsidies, so I have to find a niche to be able to just scrape by.

If you follow the links in my signature you can read my story. I didn't have the money to buy the best food on earth, I didn't have land, and I was stuck in a mortgage on trailer in a trailer park with very little yard to grow in, I had no money or savings and I managed to find land, build a tiny home, and start farming without it costing me anything but hard work.

If people want to pay good money to buy good food then I want to be the one growing it and marketing it to them. You are welcome to do exactly what I did, find land for free and work it hard. Then when the grasshoppers and slugs eat half your crops and your still able to make a profit by selling the other half, you won't be so upset. And when by doing so you teach the next generation by example that farming can be lucrative on a small scale, you will see the average age of the farmer go down from 65.
 
Travis Schulert
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Leila Blair wrote:Would diatomaceous earth get rid of the slugs?
Last year my Great Pyranees had such a bad flea problem his hair was falling out.
So i dosed all the dogs with d-earth and it worked immediately.
I put it in my chicken pen too to help with bugs.



Read this thread or at least a few posts back and you will have your answer.
 
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Haven't read every reply, so this may be a repeat. Due to torrential rains all winter, we were inundated with slugs this Spring. Unbelievable numbers. I put out shallow jar lids and trays sunk in to soil level with beer, cheap pumpkin flavored beer seemed to work best. They went in the trays by the hundreds at night. No more slug problem. We also were besieged with sow bugs and earwigs. To our happy surprise, they went for the beer too, still getting many sow bugs a night with this method. No hand picking! Hope this helps!
 
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Glenn Darman wrote: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.



Urgh, slaters! We have them here too, along with the slugs, millipedes and everything else that LURVES my veggie patch. I lost nearly everything to slugs and snails this year. Last year though my potatoes writhed with slaters. Watch them in the spud patch.
 
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Travis....I had the exact same scenario last year. I read and watched all the advise on sheet mulching, and applied it to a garden i had no problems with slugs in the past. Well exactly as you said, it created a Horror Show. Last year i would pick off at least 100 slugs every morning.......All summer long... there was not end. I did eventually rip up all of the sheet mulching after i realized what i had created. I also have snakes, toads, and plenty of birds around......but they did not make a difference.
What if found was that d.e. did not work effectively. I carried around a plastic container with about 1/3 water and a squirt of Dawn dish detergent. I simply put them in the jug and they die pretty quickly. I could not stand to cut them up. After a few days the dead mess went into the compost pile. i dont mind slugs in the compost pile, and i noticed that the dead slugs did attract other slugs.
I also put out bug traps, which are juice containers, painted blue and with tangle trap applied. It basically catches mosquitoes, black flys, horse flies. When these are full of bugs i put it on the ground and in the morning... all of the slugs are on the container, eating the dead bugs, and not in the garden. They seem to like meat better than veggees. it has been by far the best slug trap going.
I live by the ocean and pick up seaweed which i wrap around the brassicas. They will not go past that.

As for the comment that it would have happened anyway.......I totally disagree..... the sheet mulching causes disaster in some areas. Obviously like mine and Travis's.
I believe the lesson in all of this is for each one of use to discern what works best for us and Not to listen to those who think they have the magic pill for everyone. Every situation is unique.

With my changes to the garden this year.. i only have about 10 slugs each morning...far more manageable.
 
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Slugs are wrecking my garden too. I spent a lot of energy dusting every seedling with DE this week. But this morning I found a website where someone did a simple experiment. He found that DE doesn't harm slugs at all.
Back to square one. Kootenay brand beer doesn't attract them, if any BC folk are reading this! However slugs seem to like Labatt 50, for you Ontario types.

I'm feeling fed up with the internet as I learn about gardening and permaculture. It seems like every cool idea I try based on one website, the next day I find the other website that explains why it's a scam or just doesn't work. Seems like rumors spread far and wide on line! Why do so many web pages just repeat what other pages say? Clearly they have no first hand experience.

Here's the experiment:

http://www.gardenmyths.com/how-to-get-rid-of-slugs-with-diatomaceous-earth/
 
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Flinthoph Luthhaughmer wrote:It seems like every cool idea I try based on one website, the next day I find the other website that explains why it's a scam or just doesn't work.



That's why threads like this one are so important, so people can learn that not every technique works everywhere, and something that might be a stupendous success in one location, might be a total fail in another. That doesn't mean the technique is a scam, it just means it might not work for everyone.

 
Travis Schulert
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Yeah I am so sick of the people who may not have any actual experience out there telling other people what works and what doesn't. I see a lot of that online. That's why it's so important those who are really doing this to get online and start getting the truth out there.

I would love to hear of more people and they're own horror shows with sheet mulch.

Tyler as always I'm in total agreement of what you have to say.
 
Travis Schulert
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And for those not reading the earlier posts in this thread, keep in mind I am not saying it won't work for you in your climate or your situation. Nobody is. And by one person having a bad experience with it, it does not mean they did something wrong to have a slug problem.

Experimentation is key to innovation people! But it's totally OK when your experiment doesn't work the way you expected.

And remember, I only sheet mulched the beds and pathways of about a third of my 12k sq ft garden. I never set out to mulch it in its entirety in case it blew up in my face.
 
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A few decades ago when a was a wee child living on a hay farm with a huge family garden we once had a slug problem. Dad put beer in cupped iceberg lettuce leafs and set them in the garden. In the evening we went out and picked up the slug covered lettuce leaves and put them in a bucket, only took a few nights of this to have no more problem. I'm not sure what he did with the bucket full of slugs... knowing my dad he torched them! It may be easier than individual cutting of slugs!
 
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Travis,
-I know you may think that the beer not working, but I use aluminum pie pans filled with beer, deep enough to drown them. I also put 4 of the same-sized rocks in a square pattern and put a "roof" - board over the pie pan, with enough space for the slugs and snails to slither under the board and into the pie pan, but with enough cover from the board so that way rain and showers won't dilute the beer. I put a brick on top of the board roof so that rats and opossums don't take the roof board off to eat the beer-marinated snails. I get pans full of slugs since I'm inviting them to the beer party. I did go to places where they rent kegs of beer and arranged with them if a keg is coming in with beer that I can have the stale beer. You may have to bring a printed copy of this discussion and business card to convince them that you're not some cheap drunk. I had to do some fast talking to convince them to trust me with the stuff. I've gotten lots of beer for free; however, if not free, maybe the liquor store would sell for next to nothing. Bring plastic jugs with screw on lids. Nothing like spilling a jug in your car to make a disaster if a cop pulls you over!
 
Jan Cooper
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Travis,

We "borrow" land goats. The owner wanted the brush and construction waste gone. and we gave him a beautiful meadow. thanks to the dairy goats and construction gloves, 30 inch bow saws, wheelbarrows, garbage cans, and hard work.
Thank you for your comment about "hard work." As a reader, I appreciate that you are sharing your journey.
 
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My biggest problems with any kind of mulching are sow bugs (roly polies) and earwigs, both of which like to munch on most of my green vegetables.
They usually nest very close by, so after I notice holes in the leaves I check under the nearest items that might provide cover, whether it be wood chips,
rocks or even a layer of compost. I've tried going out with a flashlight after dark but am usually too exhausted to do this regularly and in the daytime
I too can see them much better - especially the earwigs as they'll try for a fast getaway.

I like the coffee grounds idea for strawberries as there is also a slug problem with our berries. Might try the coffee grounds for other areas - we're in an
arid, windy climate so I'd much rather cover up the soil. I have had good success with a deep layer of twig mulch around our apple trees, and with more
intensive planting of some things.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Johanna Sol wrote: sow bugs (roly polies) and earwigs



Excellent chicken food. My "chick starter" is buckets of garden soil full of sow bugs!
 
Travis Schulert
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I know the beer in pans would work, I am sure of it. Just on the scale I need it on that's a lot of beer!
 
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I also live in a forested slug, snail paradise so I understand.

The one solution I've not heard is chickens before you plant. Pasture raised chickens LOVE slugs. Bless their little predatory hearts. Run a small flock through in a mobile coop, give them a good ten days then plant right after with cardboard and wood chips around greenhouse grown starts. Check out Justin Rhodes homestead on You Tube to see how wonderfully it works.

1) the slugs and snails are gone for now and reduced for the season for sure.
2) the cardboard and chips keep in the moisture and
3) the starts have a big head start on any thing that wants to eat them. And because you start your growing season early you have a higher income at the farmers market with less competition.


As far as rodents go, across the board they have been taken care of on my one acre by three active mousing cats. They started cleaning out the neighbors until they got dogs and thus developed rat problems.

So just let those feathery predators do the work for you!
 
No. No. No. No. Changed my mind. Wanna come down. To see this tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
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