Sorry, so many questions...!
Thanks, Catch. We're in Duncan.
Have you left mulch in place over the winter? Was the pest problem worse the following spring?
I, too, am thinking of getting ducks. I love the sounds they make and hopefully we'll be putting a pond in as part of our design plan.
Paul Cereghino wrote:
I mulch in perennial systems, but all my mulch is seasonal, and eventually turned under in my intensive annual garden. I have been experimenting with galvanized barriers as well, and believe they have an effect, but have not run conclusive trials. A living cover-crop and catch crop, tilled or otherwise weakened in spring provides LOTS of functions in our rainy mild winters as an alternative to permanent mulch with soil benefits. Many of our annual vegetables that are most vulnerable to slugs are weeds adapted to ground disturbance. Lots of opinions out there on this topic. Many I know use Sluggo (TM). I stage early morning massacres (slugs become fertilizer... but don't let sensitive children watch). No ducks, here.. I suspect you'd need a tightly choreographed system to keep the duck pressure high, but not mix them with the vege seedlings. The heaviest damage is to crops like greens and peas where there are too many individuals to protect one at a time -- but the slug issue is not across all crops. Without some kind of slug control in vulnerable species my losses are very high. I cannot justify the cost of copper at my scale (around 200 linear feet of raised bed).
I didn't really the first winter (well I did, but I had used it pretty sparingly and actually tilled some of it in in the fall without knowing better). The slugs were worse the following spring, but it was also a very wet spring and I started a thicker mulch much earlier. There is a thick cover of straw on the garden this winter, but we've moved so I don't know what effect it will have this spring. I think a lot depends on the rainfall once it starts to warm up. Also, my garden there was a very typical annual vegetable garden in rows. The slugs seemed to know exactly where to move in. I assume having things more helter skelter would mean that even if they killed one section of crops, there would be another one somewhere else they might miss.
I did try a living mulch last year, but the clover very quickly overtook my garden and I tilled it all in and dug a lot of it up. I don't think I gave it enough of a chance though. It looked a bit messy/weedy to me, but honestly straw doesn't look all that much better really. I definitely want to move towards using living mulches instead of straw myself. I saw a reference somewhere to using strawberries as a living mulch, but haven't read much more about it. My daughter would probably be in seventh heaven if we had strawberries growing through all our gardens, so I want to find out more about that. Clover would be good too though as we plan to have chickens and I think they like clover.
I agree that the copper can be prohibitively expensive for a large garden. I wouldn't mind the cost if it were permanent, but from what I've read it doesn't actually last long before needing to be polished or replaced. My daughter's favourite animals are ducks, so I think ducks and some Sluggo applied sparingly near the areas that are hardest hit might be the way I go this year.
In this book Solomon states quite emphatically that you cannot use mulch systems in our climate because our winters are not cold enough to kill off all the pests that make a home in them over the winter. He claims that using mulching techniques results in pest overloads in a short time.
I was hoping you guys could give me some insight on what to expect in terms of soil quality. I know it differs area to area, but what are the general characteristics? I assume its very clay-like and dense, perhaps making root growth difficult for plants? If so, what are the methods you use to make your soil more loamy and aerated? Obviously adding organic material helps, so i was thinking of sheet mulching on the bank of a swale, and then spreading legumes and cover crops to fix nitrogen over the light mulch, and then after a season i could plant fruits and other crops. Would this help aerate and better prepare the soil?
Danelle, I agree. Straw doesn't seem to make slugs any worse. It may even be beneficial for slug control. Slugs don't seem to proliferate so badly when there are plenty of earthworms. I don't know the connection there, though.
Also, rock piles are a great idea! I love seeing some garter snakes in the garden because I have seen them eat slugs. SLUUURRRP!!
I'm going to set up a rock pile in my community allotment soon. Snakes need their sunbathing space.