questions about PNW per

Dan Settles Dan_Settles at cellbio.duke.edu
Tue Jun 25 16:54:29 EDT 1996


                      RE>>questions about PNWÉ                     6/25/96

I am also trying to use deep mulch on a new garden area that has not been
tilled and have had good results so far.  I've got nice healthy plants so
far, but I'm wondering if I'm going to have some slug or insect problems
later.  A bumper crop of small crickets have appeared lately, and if they
start eating the plants rather than the decaying mulch I'll be in trouble. 
I hoped to put guineas in the garden soon to eat the bugs, but I've heard
recently that they will also eat the plants.  I've heard the same about
ducks.  I'd like to hear more from those with real experience using fowl to
control insects.  Thanks.
Dan Settles

--------------------------------------
Can't help but jump in here ...

Mulching and slugs ....

Our place is on Whidbey Island. Last year was the first year for our
garden and since we wanted a fairly large one and were impatient we got a
local farmer to help us out.  We were converting an area covered with
brush (lots of salmon berries, blackberries, etc.) and alder.  In short,
we composted the brush and tilled the land.  Results no slug problems last
year.  Also, since we don't have a well we could not even consider regular
tilling.  We observed early on that if we tilled the soil dryed out a lot
faster and failed to absorb water whereas the sections that we only cut
the weeds back at the top remained moist all summer long.  Hence, we
mulched, mostly with tons of hay.

This year its slug haven, or was.  About a month ago I started my war on
slugs.  Since then I've composted about ten gallons of them and drowned a
few thousand in beer.  They are still there, but the population is almost
under control.   

I've also had to change some of my gardening techniques. 

Very little direct seeding.  Transplant are far more likely to survive. 
Beans, peas and corn still make it, but the birds, slugs and bunnies lower
the survival rate.   Row cover can help against all three.

Because water is precious, we only prepare the holes for the plants or
stir up the top few inches of the center of the bed.  We cut back the
cover crops and then let them die back.  Because we never distrub the
sides of the beds we are don't have to worry about the sides caving in and
only have to water new transplants. 

Besides harvesting slugs for compost, I also make a point of distrubing
the mulch farily often.  This helps kill/dry out the slug eggs.  Next year
we are planning on getting some ducks to help out with the slugs.

The paths between the beds are filled with grass and other weeds.
However, this spring I harvested the main paths to make a couple new beds.
The top layer on the path made some pretty nice soil.  I then covered with
alder chips and will probably harvest them again in a year or two.  The
weedy paths I probably harvest when I have a supply of wood chips to go on
them.  Need to keep a mulch on the paths so they don't lose moisture and
the weeds should make good compost. I may cover crop the paths this fall.

We also feed the slugs.  If you keep a "clean" garden the only food the
slugs have are the plants.  If you let it grow wild there is always lots
of alternative foods for them. I leave the lettuce trimmings just outside
of the beds.  The slugs gather and I have easy pickings.  Meanwhile the
seedlings survive.

Since we are trying to market garden or lay the groundwork for a CSA the
trick is production with minimal work.  We have a second garden where a
retired organic farmer is teaching us all his tricks of the trade; 
tilling, plastic row covers, T-tape, etc.  My wife is doing this garden. 
The verdict is not yet in, but the 2nd year wild garden I described above
is competing very well with till/plastic/drip methods that a lot of
production farmers use.  My wife who is using the till method has already
decide not to repeat it next year.  I think with the help of a few ducks
and refinement of the methods described above she will be able to get the
production she wants without the extra work that the "high tech" organic
gardeners use.  However, our garden is too new and techniques still
developing to advocate one method or the other. I just happen to enjoy the
chaos of the approach described above and am finding it amazingly
productive. By finding the right patterns a lot of beatiful things happen.

Hope this helps.


Cheers,

Jeff J 	



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