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Horrors of sheet mulching

 
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Sawdust around your plants on top of the mulch, problem solved.

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 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.

 
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Shawn Harper wrote: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.


I have tried making slug compost. I had a lot of weeds and not much brown material on hand. I used a plastic garbage can with a tight lid. Put the weeds in there and any slugs that came up with them. In the morning and evening when I would be taking the kitchen scraps out, I would gather slugs along the way.
I keeped the garbage can in a shaded spot so it would not overheat in the sun. When I was ready to finish the compost I put it out in the sun where it got hot enough to kill the slugs and their eggs. It also fermented and produced an anaerobic tea. After it was buried in a ditch in the dirt aerobic critters moved in and started makin soil.

Warning: Just as Travis started this thread to warn that sheet mulching is not a universal best method, slug composting is only appropriate if it matches your specific conditions.
 
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Travis Schultz wrote:Linda, I really agree with your observations, and I love you noticed the cold soil also.



That's the thing that's kept me from sheet mulching here in Fairbanks; the soils are already quite cold, and the word around here is that sheet mulching badly exacerbates that. I should try it anyway though; lots of "it won't work here" wisdom has proven inaccurate. We also have voles; they had a recent population explosion that just crashed last fall. I refrained from killing them and believe that in the long run they're beneficial, but that's not really an option for the market gardener, because they did do a lot of damage. But the forces of balance have prevailed.
 
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I have taken extraordinary steps for a good portion of my garden because my property in the mountains are surrounded by woods and the inhabitants include voles, moles, raccoons,all manner of birds, squirrels, bears, rats as large as cats, lots of snakes, scorpions..on and on and those are the small critters.

I enclosed the entire summer garden which are raised beds due to being on bedrock..in a screened in garden room 55x16 and over 8 feet tall.

The beds which are about 30inches deep and are each 4x8 (beds are placed in the room) have sitting ledges, but most importantly the 1/4inch x 1/4 inch hardware cloth is top to bottom including screwed into the underside of each bed and each bed is also on raided cinder block.

I have not yet built all the paths but they will all be treated decking which will have (WAIT FOR IT) SANDY BOTTOMS FILLEF WITH DIATOMACEOUS earth intermixed with gravel rock.

Why such expense and going to do much trouble?

Because this particular garden will be the focus of a retired couple, one of who is disabled and phobic about snakes and scorpions..hence all the screen...and rock..

The diatomaceous earth is to limit slugs and snails, the size of the mesh will limit rabbits, mice and other vermin,,the cedar beds andulch will deter many insects and if I drape row covers, I can make the entire area a sort of cold frame and eliminate cabbage moths and other bugs who want to devour my plants.

There are no magic bullets. Because I salvage and recycle, the going is slow as I depend on found or tossed items or bartering for many items. I will have to hand pollinate or open the screen doors to bees and butterflies...the compost and teas are on the other side of the garden..despite my best efforts, I still must be vigilant for breached. On the plus side, in an area with a plethora of snakes, scorpions and rodents..the 3 foot wide paths are as perfect for trikes as they are for wheelchairs or mobility scooters.

Many people think going this far is too expensive or too much work. It does not have to be..start small by picking out a space to rehab..then source your lumber such as cedar..check Craig's list, rummage sales and flea markets to get savings. The biggest expense for me was soil..but diatomaceous earth is organic and with its weight in gold.

Please excuse the typos..my phone autocorrect is crazy
 
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For me slugs have been much, much less of a problem than voles.

When I used to garden in the UK, we had almost no rodents, but plenty of slugs even without the sheet mulch. Still, I sheet mulched all my veg beds (with straw, wood chip) and trees / shrubs (with wood chip). It was very good for the soil, or course, the plants liked it, and the impact of slugs was not too bad. I used slug pellets around freshly planted seedlings - but sometimes I didn't have to, it all depended on how wet the season was. On a couple of occasions, when I sowed / planted in the "wrong" period, they ate ALL my seedlings.

Nowadays I'm gardening in Transylvania, Romania - temperate climate, with harsh winter periods = slug populations controlled naturally. But voles seem to be less affected by harsh weather, so they can be a serious threat, especially to trees and shrubs.

As sheet mulching worked so well in my UK allotment, I thought that it would be THE solution for my current garden as well. The first year I mulched the veg garden (with straw brought in from off-site), and my trees (with hay harvested on my plot). Veg garden was great. Few or no slugs - depending on how mild the winter was the previous year. But the trees were attacked by voles, and the thick mulch around them meant that I didn't even notice that something was amiss, until the tree was already totally dead. In the veg garden I have only had carrots and beetroot eaten by voles, but in the orchard and hedge, practically any tree or shrub is at risk of being killed or crippled by voles during the first 10 years of its life.

I've learned my lessons. I keep mulching the garden beds with organic matter. For trees I use gravel mulch - no organic mulch, unless I plant them with root protection (a cylindrical wire mesh).

I do still use thick organic sheet mulch on fairly large areas (at some distance from existing trees or vegetable beds) in order to suppress the weeds and improve soil in preparation for fresh plantings / creation of new garden beds. Before planting trees I remove the mulch on the entire area, and check for vole tunnels. For creating new veg garden, I remove the mulch on the entire area, dig the beds (I have to because of the heavy clay soil), plant, and mulch again, but only with a thin layer.

 
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One thing that reduced slugs population enormously in my place was to stop watering from above and to install drip irrigation underground. This way the surface and majority of mulch is dry, which discourages slugs. I use woodchips, straw and hay as mulches. I have a snake nest in one of my hugels, it's been there for three years, since then, no mouse, voles, etc.
 
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Does the sawdust work for everyone Scott? And how long have you been implementing, what is your location?
 
Travis Schulert
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Victor Johanson wrote:

Travis Schultz wrote:Linda, I really agree with your observations, and I love you noticed the cold soil also.



That's the thing that's kept me from sheet mulching here in Fairbanks; the soils are already quite cold, and the word around here is that sheet mulching badly exacerbates that. I should try it anyway though; lots of "it won't work here" wisdom has proven inaccurate. We also have voles; they had a recent population explosion that just crashed last fall. I refrained from killing them and believe that in the long run they're beneficial, but that's not really an option for the market gardener, because they did do a lot of damage. But the forces of balance have prevailed.



Yeah I would start very small with sheet mulch in your location. As inefficient as it sounds, black plastic or a black mulch would do wonders for getting plants to finish in such a short season.
 
Travis Schulert
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My voles were eating everything. Even the onion sets I put out! Although they were just chewing the top half of the bulb off, which was enough to kill the onion.
 
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I wish I knew about the slugs... I sheet mulched just this year to start turning a patch of weeds into a garden. I have had half my plants I stuck in there eaten already. I was going to wait a year before planting anything, but I got the bug and couldn't wait. At least I know what I'm up against...
 
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Location: Cincinnati,OH Zone 6a
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In my experience, to get rid of slugs, all you have to do is put out a small bowl filed with beer. The slugs are attracted to it and will drown in the beer overnight. I have killed over 100 on the first night. Try it out, super simple and easy.
 
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Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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For slug control has anyone tried bug juice??? I know it works with grasshoppers because we have done it multiple times and I have read it works with some other bugs like Colorado Potato beetles and larva but slugs I have never seen on that list. Might be worth a try if you are hand picking lots of bugs

Take 1 cup of the bug you have a problem with and put it in the blender with about a pint of water(not chlorinated according to some directions) and blend really fine. Then strain into your sprayer with so the leftover pieces can't plug the nozzle. Add roughly 1 gallon of water and mix well. Then go spray the plants you want to protect. For 3 or 4 days the bugs will be gone from the plants. Sometimes will last a week or 10 days. Goes away if it rains. Repeat as needed.

I have heard numerous arguments why it works. Some people say it is because you are scattering illness in the bugs and that it kills them. I doubt that answer because I have never seen any carcasses. My belief is that it is somehow a repellent which matches what other people say on the issue. May not work for slugs.

If you don't have a cup of the given bug reduce the water in rough proportion to your volume of bugs and it still works. More of the final water just starts out in the blender. For grasshoppers hand picking was a tough way to catch that many but a sweep net makes that fairly easy. Go to a field or a pasture and sweep net them up. In 10 or 15 minutes work a cup of grasshoppers could be gathered when they are bad. I started to try it with Colorado potato beetles and when I found how long hand picking just 1/4 cup of then took I sort of gave up so I have never really tried that one. I didn't hardly have enough juice to prime the sprayer. Don't know if my picking had reduced the population so much or that they were herded away. It might have worked and might not. I can't honestly say.

Other question what are the predator insects that eat slug?
 
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Yikes! What I do is, whenever possible, put down the mulch after the first hard frost, applying a dusting of coarse sand first. This prevents the slugs from moving in and getting comfortable during the winter. I add a top dressing of sand around particularly vulnerable plants. Also, my chipmunks view snails and slugs as delicacies; I find neat little piles of shells here and there in the garden. I've never seen a vole here, but we have plenty of mice. There's a national park on the other side of my fence (literally), so we get a lot of critters passing through the property, including carnivores. Fortunately we don't have to rely on our crops for our livelihoods; we enjoy watching the beasties frolicking.
 
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Hi Travis,

I'm in SE Michigan as well, and have a huge slug problem. Made an asparagus bed last year and mulched with about 6" of woodchips. Even a fast growing perennial like asparagus could not keep up with the slugs mowing it down every night. The last 2 weeks of dry weather coupled with D.E. applications have helped that bed substantially.

But, another option that has worked in our garden is red clover. It seems that the slugs love to eat the clover and prefer it over other plants. I planted clover in our garden pathways last year, and we didn't have anywhere near the amount of slug damage that we have had in the past. Of course it would take a month or two to get the clover established, but once established they do seem to be attracted to it.

Of course, depending on your garden layout, the clover could become a problem by spreading into areas where you don't want it, but so far we have not had that issue. We simply chop and drop the clover before it goes to seed, while always leaving some behind for the slugs to eat.

It feels weird to be almost encouraging the slugs by giving them something to eat, but the ecosystem is so out of whack (ie a billion slugs compared to the minimal number of predators), that it seems to be worth it. It also seems that the clover provides more habitat for the predators to congregate and we have seen an increase in snake/toad/frog populations in the few years that we've had our property.
 
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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 I'm talking about is that diatomaceous earth is 90% silica, very abrasive. The reason it works on slugs is that they have slimy, soft bodies, Just Like Worms, which is like razor blades against their sikn, and the more of it there is in the soil, the worms don't want any part of it.

From Wikipedia: "Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. This powder can have an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder."

 
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Thanks Travis for throwing out a warning to universally applied techniques. I can't STAND to see people say what the right way of doing something is when every site is unique and the world so diverse. When advice is thrown down without the prerequisite info of, "I live in this zone, my soil is like this, my environmental factors are, I'm gardening for this goal, etc.," things get really tricky.

I live in sub-tropic 9b Florida, and the learning curve to successfully gardening down here has been steep because most of the US is temperate, so much of the knowledge I've sifted through doesn't apply to me. Temperatures are already in the 90's down here, and I've planted sweet potatoes and banana trees while you are still growing brassicas. I can't even grow true spinach down here in the winter because it doesn't get cold enough! If I didn't mulch, I would pretty much have to give up gardening. My soil is sand. Like, I dig down 18" and I hit layers of white sugar sand. Compost has no staying power here. The only thing that saves my garden is repetitive chop and drops, never tilling, and mulching with a thick layer of dry grass clippings every month during the summer. My garden eats mulch. In a matter of weeks during the summer, the several inches of dried grass clippings will be absorbed and leave a little bit nicer top layer of soil. And the mulch keeps the sun from cooking off the water before the plants even get a drop. Without mulch I have no earthworms either. I can dig and dig and never see them, unless I have been mulching. It took me a long time to figure some of these things out.

Anyways, thank you for sharing your cautionary tale and your hard learned lessons of 1. Don't fix it if it ain't broke (even in permaculture), and 2. Make sure the person you are taking advice from has as similar a system of growing as possible.
 
Travis Schulert
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Slugs eat dead slugs so bug juice might now work so well. I'm going to breed beneficial nematoads and take that approach. Water the nematoads in once a month, if that works its going to help out so much.
 
Travis Schulert
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It was hemenways Gaia's garden book that really turned me onto it, and I don't remember reading a whole lot of cautions. And I don't remember seeing a whole lot of anyone warning people as to the problems it could cause.

Balance is key, and the elements that make balance possible are different every mile of the earth.
 
Travis Schulert
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Erin Cross wrote:Thanks Travis for throwing out a warning to universally applied techniques. I can't STAND to see people say what the right way of doing something is when every site is unique and the world so diverse. When advice is thrown down without the prerequisite info of, "I live in this zone, my soil is like this, my environmental factors are, I'm gardening for this goal, etc.," things get really tricky.

I live in sub-tropic 9b Florida, and the learning curve to successfully gardening down here has been steep because most of the US is temperate, so much of the knowledge I've sifted through doesn't apply to me. Temperatures are already in the 90's down here, and I've planted sweet potatoes and banana trees while you are still growing brassicas. I can't even grow true spinach down here in the winter because it doesn't get cold enough! If I didn't mulch, I would pretty much have to give up gardening. My soil is sand. Like, I dig down 18" and I hit layers of white sugar sand. Compost has no staying power here. The only thing that saves my garden is repetitive chop and drops, never tilling, and mulching with a thick layer of dry grass clippings every month during the summer. My garden eats mulch. In a matter of weeks during the summer, the several inches of dried grass clippings will be absorbed and leave a little bit nicer top layer of soil. And the mulch keeps the sun from cooking off the water before the plants even get a drop. Without mulch I have no earthworms either. I can dig and dig and never see them, unless I have been mulching. It took me a long time to figure some of these things out.

Anyways, thank you for sharing your cautionary tale and your hard learned lessons of 1. Don't fix it if it ain't broke (even in permaculture), and 2. Make sure the person you are taking advice from has as similar a system of growing as possible.



Awesome post Erin. Exactly, the amount of people saying things like "here's your answer 100 percent going to work without a doubt" even on the second and third page of this thread... it's amazing to me that confidence can be turned into such a poison so quickly around here. Everyone wants to be the person with the best most perfect answer, when you will get a lot more apples and pie for being honest and informativ le rather than pretending to have all this worldwide global experience in every soil and climate the world has to offer.

Erin, just keep adding carbon to your surface, your doing the right thing by chopping and dropping in your climate, that wouldn't work as well here. I feel like sheet mulching a few feet deep would be worth a try for you, then make a pocket and fill with compost so you can put your seedling in that little pocket. Which I'm sure you know that already.

One thing I liked about hemenways idea is that he used whole flakes of hay as a layer within his sheet mulch, takes a ton of hay or stray but I have a hard time believing that would wash away in a season.

But you know your land better than me😉
 
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We have a huge population of slugs here in SE Minnesota also. Mulch can increase their habitat but that is only a piece of the puzzle. We have loads of critters that eat slugs: toads, snakes, ground beetles, lightning bugs, birds. They can't keep up with the food source. In years when it gets really out of hand (seedlings being mowed off), we use wood ash (you can sprinkle a tiny bit of ash on a slug to see how fast it works - kind of like salt but less bad for the garden). You need to apply wood ash in early morning or after dusk daily. A Dustin Mizer will spread ashes very finely so you're not over applying it on the soil (ashes need to be sifted through window screen to work in this device). For small areas, a sprout jar works - use like a salt shaker. I also like to use a piece of PVC pipe (about 30" long) with a square of aluminum window screen hose clamped onto the bottom. You can use this "shaker" while standing up. Whatever application method you use you only want a very light powder of ash, not piles of it or you can upset your soil's salt index/mineral balance. If you can get plants germinated and growing, they can mostly outrun the slugs. Of course we're not growing food for market - the feeding holes on leafy produce are tolerable for home use but a big turnoff if you're trying to sell it. For our own garden we focus on varieties that are quick growing and robust. For instance, we found that Hungarian Heart tomato fruits can tolerate slug feasting to some degree. The fruits can have holes gnawed in them and the whole fruit doesn't just rot. The damage seems to stay compartmentalized. Fast growing leaf lettuces, Cracoviensis for example, do better than any of the heading types. As counterintuitive as this may seem, in years when it's dry, and we're irrigating from our rainwater cisterns, we actually have more slug problems than in wet years. We're just creating a mini oasis around our precious plants. It helps to "waste" a bit of the irrigation water to spread it beyond the planting zone so the slugs are less concentrated in a small, moistened area.

As for voles and mice, our cat can catch about 8 a day but can't keep up with them. We do snap traps to help her out. To keep toads and birds out of the traps we make a wire "cage" of 1x2" mesh about 10-12" in diameter and about 6" high to put around each trap. Put an old plate or a bucket lid with a stone on it so it won't blow away. The cages not only keep out unwanted targets but also keep the traps from being hauled away and makes them easier to keep track of. After having caught both a toad and bird in the traps I know the corral is worth the extra work.
 
Victor Johanson
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Travis Schultz wrote:

Victor Johanson wrote:

Travis Schultz wrote:Linda, I really agree with your observations, and I love you noticed the cold soil also.



That's the thing that's kept me from sheet mulching here in Fairbanks; the soils are already quite cold, and the word around here is that sheet mulching badly exacerbates that. I should try it anyway though; lots of "it won't work here" wisdom has proven inaccurate. We also have voles; they had a recent population explosion that just crashed last fall. I refrained from killing them and believe that in the long run they're beneficial, but that's not really an option for the market gardener, because they did do a lot of damage. But the forces of balance have prevailed.



Yeah I would start very small with sheet mulch in your location. As inefficient as it sounds, black plastic or a black mulch would do wonders for getting plants to finish in such a short season.



Black plastic just gets hot itself, but doesn't transfer much heat to the soil, although it does suppress weeds. Clear plastic warms the soil dramatically, although it doesn't stop weeds germinating, so they've invented the IRT plastic mulch, which transmits infrared but blocks visible light. I don't use any though; can't stand plastic and I don't think it's a good idea to inhibit the soil's gas exchange with the atmosphere.
 
Travis Schulert
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Victor Johanson wrote:

Travis Schultz wrote:

Victor Johanson wrote:

Travis Schultz wrote:Linda, I really agree with your observations, and I love you noticed the cold soil also.



That's the thing that's kept me from sheet mulching here in Fairbanks; the soils are already quite cold, and the word around here is that sheet mulching badly exacerbates that. I should try it anyway though; lots of "it won't work here" wisdom has proven inaccurate. We also have voles; they had a recent population explosion that just crashed last fall. I refrained from killing them and believe that in the long run they're beneficial, but that's not really an option for the market gardener, because they did do a lot of damage. But the forces of balance have prevailed.



Yeah I would start very small with sheet mulch in your location. As inefficient as it sounds, black plastic or a black mulch would do wonders for getting plants to finish in such a short season.



Black plastic just gets hot itself, but doesn't transfer much heat to the soil, although it does suppress weeds. Clear plastic warms the soil dramatically, although it doesn't stop weeds germinating, so they've invented the IRT plastic mulch, which transmits infrared but blocks visible light. I don't use any though; can't stand plastic and I don't think it's a good idea to inhibit the soil's gas exchange with the atmosphere.



I actually tested that this spring, mulched beds were 46 degrees, my unmulched green cover beds were 48, my black plastic beds were 51 (I just use the plastic to keep grass from growing while I planted other areas first) and my mini hoop house beds soil was 60 degrees. So in my area the sun is strong enough to heat the soil through black plastic, idk about Alaska but at least in Michigan it is. I used a 6" electric thermometer, it's accurate, but still that's only the soil temp in the top 6 inches of soil. I took all measurements on a sunny day in spring, and took them 1 after another.
 
Cristo Balete
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There a dozens of things used in organic gardening that people aren't warned about. Somehow the standard seems to be, If It Is Natural, It's Okay To Use, and that's not the case. There are dozens of soft-bodies helpful critters in the soil that will turn away from DE. Same thing for egg shells, no matter how they break up, no matter how small the particle, they are still like razor blades to a soft-bodied creature.

Long-term use of DE builds up, it may take 3, 5, 7 years before there is a layer worms will not go through. They won't go through it up into hugel mounds, they won't go through it up into mulch. Those of us who are on the same land for 10+ years will see what happens. Those who buy property for gardening will be dealing with someone else's buildup of stuff they had no idea was there.

We tend to think in terms of what would affect a human-sized creature. When they say aerate a compost pile, they don't mean air for a human, they mean air for microbes, which isn't much air. We should be thinking in terms of a small insect, like a honey bee or a lady bug, or the microscopic pore of a plant root hair, and that's a very different perspective.

Before we add anything to the soil, spray anything on plants, cover the soil with one thing, or compost too much of one thing, we need to know the mechanism by which the thing works, and all the creatures it will be affecting, and whether we can undo what we are trying if it turns out to have long-term issues.



 
Travis Schulert
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It's just silica Cristo, plants use it, people add it to soil. Please look into some of the work done by Steiner and Chadwick on silica for plants and people.

I can entertain the idea that if you dumped massive amounts on the soil yearly for decades it could possibly cause problems, but that would be the case with any element or mineral. But like most beneficial elements and minerals plants will use them.

We're also talking about a dusting a few times a year, that shits expensive and I ain't wasting it.

It's also (if I remember correctly from one of my books) a mobile nutrient meaning it's carried with water through the soil and therefore leaches out like nitrogen does. Even if it's not mobile it would be very expensive to put enough silica in the soil to cause problems imho. Plants use silica for 100% of their growing life, so they always need it, and if you don't have sandy soil your clay may be deficient in it already.

I don't like the fact that it kills other bugs, that's why I like a bacterial approach to these things as I stated earlier. But I tried it and it didn't work for slugs so really no big loss besides a couple beetles.

Edit* I don't think silica is mobile, but I'm too busy to research it, so I take the blame for saying it if it is indeed not a mobile nutrient/mineral.
 
Travis Schulert
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Cristo Balete wrote:

We tend to think in terms of what would affect a human-sized creature. When they say aerate a compost pile, they don't mean air for a human, they mean air for microbes, which isn't much air. We should be thinking in terms of a small insect, like a honey bee or a lady bug, or the microscopic pore of a plant root hair, and that's a very different perspective.






Well I Really don't think anyone whose actually farming thinks that. To be a soil farmer you learned those basics a long time ago.
 
Victor Johanson
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Travis Schultz wrote:

Victor Johanson wrote:

Travis Schultz wrote:

Victor Johanson wrote:

Travis Schultz wrote:Linda, I really agree with your observations, and I love you noticed the cold soil also.



That's the thing that's kept me from sheet mulching here in Fairbanks; the soils are already quite cold, and the word around here is that sheet mulching badly exacerbates that. I should try it anyway though; lots of "it won't work here" wisdom has proven inaccurate. We also have voles; they had a recent population explosion that just crashed last fall. I refrained from killing them and believe that in the long run they're beneficial, but that's not really an option for the market gardener, because they did do a lot of damage. But the forces of balance have prevailed.



Yeah I would start very small with sheet mulch in your location. As inefficient as it sounds, black plastic or a black mulch would do wonders for getting plants to finish in such a short season.



Black plastic just gets hot itself, but doesn't transfer much heat to the soil, although it does suppress weeds. Clear plastic warms the soil dramatically, although it doesn't stop weeds germinating, so they've invented the IRT plastic mulch, which transmits infrared but blocks visible light. I don't use any though; can't stand plastic and I don't think it's a good idea to inhibit the soil's gas exchange with the atmosphere.



I actually tested that this spring, mulched beds were 46 degrees, my unmulched green cover beds were 48, my black plastic beds were 51 (I just use the plastic to keep grass from growing while I planted other areas first) and my mini hoop house beds soil was 60 degrees. So in my area the sun is strong enough to heat the soil through black plastic, idk about Alaska but at least in Michigan it is. I used a 6" electric thermometer, it's accurate, but still that's only the soil temp in the top 6 inches of soil. I took all measurements on a sunny day in spring, and took them 1 after another.



That's what I mean--three degrees isn't much, and up here we need more than that. It was tested it up here, and clear plastic warmed the soil double digits, which makes a big difference for us.
 
Travis Schulert
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I am not disagreeing with you at all Victor, you know way better than me what it's like to grow in Alaska, totally different story than MI
 
Victor Johanson
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Travis Schultz wrote:I am not disagreeing with you at all Victor, you know way better than me what it's like to grow in Alaska, totally different story than MI



No doubt--that's what this thread is all about, how that what works one place is a fail elsewhere.
 
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I need to try clear plastic on some of my beds too Vic - I tried the black plastic as recommended, but found it made next to no difference to soil temperatures (I didn't measure it, just by feel) and warming my cold wet soil would make a difference here!
 
Victor Johanson
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Linda Secker wrote:I need to try clear plastic on some of my beds too Vic - I tried the black plastic as recommended, but found it made next to no difference to soil temperatures (I didn't measure it, just by feel) and warming my cold wet soil would make a difference here!



IRT works about as good as clear, I hear, and will also prevent weed growth underneath. But it's probably more expensive than clear. I'm relying on hugelbeds and bathtubs for warm soil. I'm up to about 40 tubs in my yard now. I've got them in all hues, too! As long as I don't have anything growing adjacent to them, voles can't invade and the only slugs or snails we have around here are tiny things that don't create any problems. I'm thinking about trying mulch on the hugelbeds, though, since they're much warmer than the ground.
 
Travis Schulert
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Victor Johanson wrote:

Linda Secker wrote:I need to try clear plastic on some of my beds too Vic - I tried the black plastic as recommended, but found it made next to no difference to soil temperatures (I didn't measure it, just by feel) and warming my cold wet soil would make a difference here!



IRT works about as good as clear, I hear, and will also prevent weed growth underneath. But it's probably more expensive than clear. I'm relying on hugelbeds and bathtubs for warm soil. I'm up to about 40 tubs in my yard now. I've got them in all hues, too! As long as I don't have anything growing adjacent to them, voles can't invade and the only slugs or snails we have around here are tiny things that don't create any problems. I'm thinking about trying mulch on the hugelbeds, though, since they're much warmer than the ground.



Please post some pictures of your bathtub gardens man. I'm sure it could be on the cover of my redneck gardens book that I'm writing lol I'd love to see it.
 
Linda Secker
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Yeah I wanna see the bathtub gardens too!! Our allotment committee would hate it I am sure
 
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ok.... two nights ago i whacked at least 100/150 slugs... in a 400m² garden.

planks or other ground covers will work. they ll gather there for the day, there you can get them.

travis, please do not snip slugs on the pathways. save your knees, back and energy. whack them with a handled tool or stomp them.

beer: never tried it. but i use yeast with sugar and flour. a kinda watered down pizza-dough. it works, but i cant compare if it s better than beer or not. a plus is, it gets a bit thicker. so you can pour the spend stuff out onto the soil in strategic locations. that ll draw slugs, you can easily whack them in that place. the whacked slugs will attract other slugs etc.

i like the idea someone had here with the two pans as beer-trap.

there is a thing called "slug cage". it s a closed container with entry holes filled with greens. it ll be dug into the ground and attracts slugs. they ll stay there even in the day where you can get em. if you could house and breed carnivourous slugs in there and just wet it from time to time and add some greens .... if they breed down there, you could even sell the slugs or eggs... might be an idea to explore.
 
Travis Schulert
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Everybody, the problem with laying the boards down is that only a few gather under there, the vast majority go under the mulched beds and paths during the day, and I can't lift all that up and start whacking my garden beds and smashing my plants. I would still have to go out in the evening and snip because that's when they come out.
 
Travis Schulert
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Where does the breeding carnivorous slug idea come from? Is there any actual success somewhere with this? Because taking a slug that is sucking the juices out of a snipped in half slug, then somehow breeding it to attack and kill slugs seems far-fetched. Like the mouthparts of a slug take a long time to saw through plant matter, how long is it going to take saw through another slug? And wouldn't the other slug being gnawwed on just try to get away? I would think if that were a possibility, it would be a only much larger slug could eat a much smaller slug because it would be a very slow death.

 
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There's something missing here- I'd like to hear more about what "snipping" entails. Are the slugs left lying in pieces? This would be counter productive since other slugs would just eat them and get fatter quicker. I generally imprison them without trial and turn them over to the chickens for questioning. The chickens will them to cooperate. Slugs sprinkled with corn meal appeal to even reticent, pampered chickens who dislike getting their beaks slimy. Mulch does provide cover, but I've never seen bare soil prevent slugs from hiding in the slimmest cracks; my clay soil cracks very well when not mulched. If there are no cracks they will burrow. Mulch also provides habitat for ground beetles, the black guys, who think slug eggs are the best caviar. They need bark and bunch grasses (y'all got some awesome native bunch grasses in ol' Mich: check out Hidden Savannah Nursery near KZoo) That said, I don't sheet mulch everywhere every year. Nonetheless, I can't raise seedlings without slug bait. Of course, I have snails too, and they're as bad or worse than the slugs, they can camp on the plants 24/7 in their spiral RVs. I commonly see beaucoup slugs the first year of any garden, and then sometimes it tapers off. Snakes also relish stick piles with a bit of black plastic sheet to help them warm up on a cool morning. Slug hiding places can be created and then checked during the day for sleepers.
If you can get a barn owl to take up residence that will take care of the voles: raising owlets takes many voles. There's good designs online. There's cats and there's cats. My Kitty Luna (K.L.) was a vole pro, and mostly left birds alone, and she kept the garden in good order. Best to get a kitten from a momma who's a known rodent specialist, and females hold the territory better than males, even if they're broken. (why say the cat is "fixed"? Everything WORKED before the "procedure"!) Vole eating snakes are larger than garters and usually less common by far, but totally worth having if possible.
But all in all, it's hopeless, nothing can be done, gardening is for fools. Eat what the companies give you and watch what's on the screen.
 
Travis Schulert
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Pieces of slugs keep them congregated and feeding away from my seedlings. They prefer meat over veggies.




 
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Travis Schultz wrote:Where does the breeding carnivorous slug idea come from? Is there any actual success somewhere with this? Because taking a slug that is sucking the juices out of a snipped in half slug, then somehow breeding it to attack and kill slugs seems far-fetched. Like the mouthparts of a slug take a long time to saw through plant matter, how long is it going to take saw through another slug? And wouldn't the other slug being gnawwed on just try to get away? I would think if that were a possibility, it would be a only much larger slug could eat a much smaller slug because it would be a very slow death.



Well I just am taking my basic knowledge of genetics and applying it to slugs. If there is a trait you want in a given population do what you can to favor that trait. Some slugs are carnivore. I like the slugs that choose to eat other slugs. I don't really have slug problems IMO, I just plant thick and let what few slugs I have weed out the weaker plants(normally slower growing or sickly/wrong season). All my plantings are poly culture, heavily mulched in the rainy PNW. I am sure this would not work for those that don't have native predatory slugs like we do.

Permaculture site talking about predatory slugs and snails

I left 1 link for you to check out, a quick google search for "predatory slugs in YOURSTATE" should help you out too.
 
Travis Schulert
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Also, there's not been any mention of me NOT feeding my chickens slugs. I do. But it's gotten to the point that it's just way easier to snip them rather than collect all of them and walk them olacross 15 acres to where the chickens free range to feed chickens that are already eating bugs all day. Plus they only eat so many, they quickly get sick of slugs and move on to liking for yummy ants and worms.

 
Tobias Ber
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travis ... we have these: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limax_maximus

i ve seen them gnawing on or "chasing" other slugs/snails...
 
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