• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

I need help with a Deep (mulch) question

 
Ross Raven
Posts: 242
22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
No, Im not asking peoples help with existential questions.

I need help with my mulch. We have about an acre under mulch. Mainly hay. Yes, It was a huge and ongoing job. I like the benefits and don't want to give up on it. Mainly, we didn't want to be reliant in gas powered tillers or daily watering. The problem is that slugs decimated almost everything last year. I'ld herd that slugs would be an issue but I thought, what the heck. Its just slugs. We can live with a few. I didn't understand that we had created the perfect breeding ground for slugs...and they stripped most plants right down to the ground. The ones that got above the slugs were still pretty traumatised. We tried picking but were still overwhelmed. diatomaceous earth didn't live up to the hype as many of the "solutions" often fall flat once you actually try them. I saw no benefit of diatomaceous earth at all. Crushed egg shells, worse. It actually attracted them. Beer bates worked fantastic but couldn't handle the volume...and it was a lot of waisted beer I would have preferred to drink. The garden is too big to do the copper thing. I could really use some answer before the new planting season. I don't want to have to pull it all off again and buy a tiller. One suggestion that might work is adding sea weed for the trace salts...but that would be an overwhelming job because of the amount of sea weed necessary to add to an acre. Out of desperation, I am even collecting all of our wood ash this winter instead of putting it on the garden in a desperate hope that if I surround vulnerable plants, the slugs might not want to climb over it. Its a hail mary move that I doubt will work.
I have months of accumulated mulch piling into this venture so I don't want to just give up...but we cant afford to starve because I keep holding on to a bad idea.

So I am reaching out to the masters of the permi universe with supplication. We humbly beseech thee, oh, gods of the garden, in our hour of need.

I should point out that the primary mulch is hay from our own fields. We are concentrating the nutrition of our fields into our pugwash soil.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1424
Location: Central New Jersey
40
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You have actually hit a permaculture archetype here, in that Mollison is credited with saying "you don't have too many slugs. You have an insufficiency of ducks."
And there would be one answer. Get some ducks out there to eat those slugs and make them into tasty eggs and duck dinners.

Maybe ducks are not an option for you. Toads will happily eat slugs, perhaps you could encourage toads. Provide some vernal pools for breeding and some broken pots or whatever for toad houses. If not toads, perhaps snakes. Provide some rock piles that will give snakes a place to shelter and they will happily gorge on your slugs. Provide perches for birds in the field, there are birds that are slug predators and they will use the perches as hunting spots plus deposit fertilizer packages for your plants...

You could do all of the above. Whenever possible, look for solutions where nature does the work for you over those where you have to apply inputs or take direct action.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: northern California
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think that in your case, as happens in other situations too, the thing to remember is the principle of "it depends". Just because continuous heavy mulch is often a good thing doesn't mean that it is ALWAYS a good thing. In certain niches, certain climates, certain stages of succession, certain crop goals.....it might not be a good thing. Personally I've stepped away from it for similar reasons as the OP describes....except my main issues are earwigs and pillbugs. Sometimes these kinds of pest explosions solve themselves with time as their natural predators move in and multiply. I swear we now have world-champion toads now! Another thing I deal with in our climate is fire danger....and a layer of loose dry mulch; especially not covered by dense green vegetation, would be a problem as well.
Another thing to bear in mind is succession. The "ideal permaculture system" from my reading of the literature, is something like a food forest.....a system based around trees and perennials; which would be more tolerant of ground-based pests of all sorts....and also tolerant of the impact of wonderful control agents like poultry. Ducks won't scratch like chickens will, but that also means they will miss many of the insects that the chickens will find. Both will mess up small seedlings, and the chickens will mess up all but the stoutest plants.
 
Ross Raven
Posts: 242
22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks. Im not sure any of these options will work for us. Far too much for frogs and snakes though we have tried to foster this already. We sunk a bathtub in the garden. A chicken drowned in it after we opened up the gate in the fall. Lesson learned. Ducks would still need to be fed for half the year on food we cant grow (Canada) but it does bring up the idea of bringing in a bunch of ducks on a temporary basis to thin down the initial infestation. Maybe do a "crop" of ducks. Would ducks grow fast enough in the sping to tackle slugs and then be of a harvestable size by October?

Someone suggested a product called Sluggo. Supposedly it would keep us organic. Anyone have any experience with it?

Has anyone had experience with the seaweed option?
 
Justin Rhodes
Posts: 76
16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think deep mulch is a great thing. Don't give up just yet. I think you could turn a problem into a solution by adding chickens or ducks.

Even if you don't want eggs or meat, I still think they would be worth it in this case. Here's some things Chickens and ducks will ad to your mulch operation:

1. They'll de-grup it, and for that matter de-bug it.
2. They will de-seed it.
3. The chickens will help shred the mulch.
4. The chickens will help spread the mulch (just leave a pile of mulch where you want it and they will level it out).
5. They will fertilize the mulch with their manure.

Here's how I think you could use chicken/ducks to help with your grub problem.

The grub eggs will start hatching when the weather get's 40F plus, but the eggs could already be there. If it were me, I would:

1. Go ahead an put some chickens and/or ducks into rotation throughout the 1 acre. The grubs AND their eggs will be a great food sources for the birds. The chickens will help you break down the hay mulch.

2. Use electric mobile netting with a mobile chicken coop. Rotate them enough to cover the 1 acre before you plant. Keep them in rotation if you aren't planting the 1 acre all at once. 15 to 30 on rotation should work. Chickens need 1/3 a pound of feed a day, but you should only use commercial feed as a supplement in this case. You want to birds to really search out those grubs.

You don't even need food productive chickens in this case. You could likely find some older adults on Craigslist or if you want to get real creative you could raise someone someone esle's flock. They provide the housing, net, feed, feeders, waterer's and you take care of the birds, collect the eggs for them, feed them etc...

If you don't think your chickens will eat the big slugs, check out Paul Wheaton's video on how to train them:



If Bird Patrol won't work for you.

I've heard of people introducing nematodes (I haven't looked into that at all, so not sure it's a great thing, maybe others want to chime in on that)
You could use 50/50 spray of water and vinegar
Or a 2% coffee rinse (it's the caffeine they don't like)
Consider attracting natural predators like frogs, black birds, ground beetles and centipedes.

Here's some pics of my birds in action!

Hunting for goodies in the mulch (I use wood chips)


They dig down for the bugs, worms, slugs


My main mobile chicken house


I put 30 birds in this mobile house as it's just a hotel (they're out during the day).
 
dan collins
Posts: 72
Location: Nova Scotia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ross I know your pain! Our farm borders a large meadow and the morning mist produces a slug/snail paradise. A way I have found success with deep mulching is to plant between 2 boards, with the boards leaned up agianst the mulch on either side. This leaves a row of exposed soil within the piled mulch to seed. As the seedlings grows, sluging can be done by simply looking at the underside of the boards.

 
Ross Raven
Posts: 242
22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think the problem is regional. We are not dealing with those big west coast banana slugs. Heck. Ild eat those myself if I had to. We are dealling with a thousand teeny ones to each of those big ones. It gives me ideas though. Our chickens are totally spoiled . They are totally free range. perhaps I should totally lock them in the garden. The ones in the vid were totally starving in the enclosure. Maybe that's the key. make em work for it. I would have to build some coverings for them. They don't want to go in the open because the hawks will take them. Hawk tastes terrible. Some our chickens names are One Eye, and Lucky and Limpy. They survive hawk attacks remarkably well considering. They are somewhat appreciative of me for saving them. Little do they know I am not there savior. Wahahaha. Where is a cute evil emoticon when I need one
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 868
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
98
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I use deep mulch in a number of my garden beds, and also have slug problems. Here's some of my own experiences......

.....my chickens don't eat the slugs. They tear up the mulch and eat the veggie plants, but not the slugs.
.....my Muscovy ducks will eat the flat slugs but not the round slugs. Obviously they taste different, although I can't personally vouch for that. The ducks also eat my veggies, which is real bad.
.....Corry's kills slugs, but it's not organic. And it also kills cats and dogs, plus who knows what else. So I don't use it.
....Sluggo kills slugs. Not lethal to cats and dogs, and it degrades eventually into a plant nutrient. I have pretty good success with Sluggo (iron phosphate) but it does cost money.
....beer traps work somewhat but my farm dog drinks the beer each morning. Haven't been successful in training him to stop sneaking his beer breakfasts. And with the size of my gardens, it's too time consuming to tend hundreds of traps every morning anyway.
....most slug deterrents don't work. Ashes. Eggshells. Coffee. DE. I see slugs crawling right over the stuff and merrily continue on their way. I've never tried the ground glass suggestion because I don't want ground glass in my garden. And copper tape isn't feasible to use on two acres of gardens spread around a 20 acre farm.
....wild turkeys eat all types of slugs here, but they also eat my veggies. So they are not a good solution for me.
....no slug eating toads or snakes here.
....some physical traps work to some degree but others don't. Upside down scooped out citrus rinds catch almost zero slugs for me. A wet pile of newspaper or cardboard will catch a few slugs and so will a wet square of old carpet. But these work far better if I spread a handful of dogfood (or cornmeal, oatmeal, etc) on the ground before I lay down the wet paper. The problem is that they don't catch a lot at any one time and need to be checked every morning.
....nothing seems to catch the scads of little black slugs that eat up my bean plants.

Sluggo is my main defense. The wet paper traps my second defense. Hand picking in the early evening my third line of attack. So far I've found nothing that works really great that doesn't take a lot of time or effort or money. Gee, I'm open to suggestions!
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1424
Location: Central New Jersey
40
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ross Raven wrote:Thanks. Im not sure any of these options will work for us. Far too much for frogs and snakes though we have tried to foster this already. We sunk a bathtub in the garden. A chicken drowned in it after we opened up the gate in the fall. Lesson learned. Ducks would still need to be fed for half the year on food we cant grow (Canada) but it does bring up the idea of bringing in a bunch of ducks on a temporary basis to thin down the initial infestation. Maybe do a "crop" of ducks. Would ducks grow fast enough in the sping to tackle slugs and then be of a harvestable size by October?

Someone suggested a product called Sluggo. Supposedly it would keep us organic. Anyone have any experience with it?

Has anyone had experience with the seaweed option?


You are probably looking at a classic boom bust cycle, with the prey species experiencing a population explosion and the predator species increasing in population in response, but lagging behind. Then when there are enough toads and/or snakes to manage the slug population, there will soon be too many toads or snakes and their population will drop off. It can take a while for the predator population to catch up, since their population explosion is limited by their breeding cycle.

So, yeah, there is a bit of too little too late in waiting for Mother Nature to balance things out.
 
dan collins
Posts: 72
Location: Nova Scotia
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Seriously, try the two board trick.

Most of the time the boards can be lifted out, dropped on each other and then replaced, knocking off all pests without disturbing the plants. If done over a tarp they can be transported easily and used as fowl feed outside the garden. I do this for most plantings and remove the boards permently when the plant matures.

I started doing this the last two years, after a big fall storm did a number on my hay mulched beds. Intailly, I used the boards to weight down the mulch with lengths of slab wood, and I found when I went to move them on their underside slugs and snails cling to them as the wood provides them a highway for roaming and shelter from the sun. This lead me to lining all my beds with slab wood. But as I expanded the gardens last year I disovered it become to much, and I strarted to trip on alot of those loose boards. Which lead me start planting between them.




 
dan collins
Posts: 72
Location: Nova Scotia
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"Wasabi Greens", they are a type of mesculn and seem to be a excellent pest attracting plant within my hay mulched beds here in Upper Stewiacke. Often planted by mesculns, arugula, squash and spinach the wasabi greens will be riddled with holes of all sizes whereas the other plants leaves will be near perfect. I think I purchased them from West Coast Seeds years back and have collected them since. They selfseed like crazy, don't bolt in summer and sprout in early spring providing a long season.

For us they have become the must have plant in all our greenhouses.

 
Ross Raven
Posts: 242
22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
dan collins wrote:"Wasabi Greens", they are a type of mesculn and seem to be a excellent pest attracting plant within my hay mulched beds here in Upper Stewiacke. Often planted by mesculns, arugula, squash and spinach the wasabi greens will be riddled with holes of all sizes whereas the other plants leaves will be near perfect. I think I purchased them from West Coast Seeds years back and have collected them since. They selfseed like crazy, don't bolt in summer and sprout in early spring providing a long season.

For us they have become the must have plant in all our greenhouses.


Now, that's handy. Trick them into eating something else
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1113
Location: Pacific Northwest
115
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As for ducks on a short-term basis, check craigslist for drakes. People often have too many males for their females and don't have time/desire to slaughter them. They are often cheep/free on craigslist. You could rotate them through the garden every few days, watching to make sure they don't run out of slugs/bugs and go for your plants. For an added bonus, the ducks will poop in your garden and help fertilize it, too! When they're not in the garden, they can be housed with your chickens. Once the slug season is over, you can "harvest" your drakes for some yummy meat and duck fat. Duck fat is great for cooking!
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1213
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
9
forest garden trees urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Would the drakes be safe to keep with the church chickens? I heard they are pretty sexually aggressive.
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1113
Location: Pacific Northwest
115
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I haven't had chickens, though have read of many people happily keeping them together. But, some drakes are nicer than others, and some do attack chickens (http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/619837/help-duck-attacking-my-chickens), so it may or may not work out for you. If you're enclosure is really large, they would likely get along better. Or you could just fence them separately, and only have them share the coop at night when they are calmer due to the dark (so you don't have to build a separate duck house).

Another option is to have a separate duck run that rings your garden so they intercept any slugs before they get to your garden, without having to worry about them eating your plants. Ducks don't usually eat mature plants, but I've found (at least in my area) that I most need slug protection when my seedlings are just spouting, and are also the most edible to ducks (though ducks far prefer slugs to veggies). I just got my flock last fall, so I haven't had the opportunity to see how they do in a garden. I've only read stories...
 
Aljaz Plankl
Posts: 384
9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We should try this and report on results - DIY slug nematode predation - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardeningequipment/8675592/The-war-on-slugs-starts-at-home.html
 
Fiona Martin
Posts: 30
Location: UK, Newcastle Upon Tyne
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Love it! Gonna have to give that a go, especially since my 4yr old had hysterics when we were reading how slugs like sweet peas, and he's just sown some sweet peas. He only calmed down when we said we'd feed any slugs to the chickens.
 
Aljaz Plankl
Posts: 384
9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Fiona, check out Charles Dowding from UK - i think you will like him and his knowledge.
Forum on his website is amazing.

 
Fiona Martin
Posts: 30
Location: UK, Newcastle Upon Tyne
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Aljaz, the video was great, will definetly be checking out his website!
 
Jason Lloyd
Posts: 16
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
William, I have 13 ducks in with about 20 chickens and they all generally get along fine
 
Mike O'Connell
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
have you tried broadcasting EPSOM salt? i did this years ago with some raised bed gardens that had slug problems. seemed to slow them down enough to let the plants develop. of course you need to reapply after rains, but nothing is easy.
 
Raven Sutherland
Posts: 162
Location: MAINE
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
i use regular table salt sprinkled individually on each slug turning them to orange foam.

you have to go outside in the perfect slug conditions usually damp misty or super fine rain at night
with a flashlight if needed

this may seem impossible at first but if your diligent on doing your salt missions you will turn the tide.
 
James Colbert
Posts: 271
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For slugs and snails I blend hot peppers, habanero or hotter with garlic in a blender with water. I strain the mixture and spray on seedlings one a week until they can take care of themselves. Spray the plants and the area around the plants. The hot peppers really irritate the slugs/snails bodies.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!