questions about PNW permaculture/gardening

Jeff Jacobsen jjj at
Tue Jun 25 15:25:07 EDT 1996

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.


Jeff J 	

jjj at  

On Mon, 24 Jun 1996, Vicki Garland wrote:

> Thanks Steve!  I appreciated your reply very much.  I felt that I should
> respond with something on the subject of slugs as I lived with the slimy
> guys for so many years in the PNW but to tell you the truth, there just
> wasn't much to say about it..simply that when I would mulch, underneath
> there were always thousands of slugs hanging out waiting to munch everything
> when you weren't looking. Salt and beer saloons helped some but there were
> always more, it seemed. Also, I got pretty disgusted with slime all over
> everything and torpid bodies floating in stale beer! Having ducks did help
> alot with eating them.  Hooray for birds!
> Vicki
> At 01:54 PM 6/24/96 -0500, you wrote:
> >> I've been reading about permaculture and Fukuoka's books and have worked
> >> briefly in Aurovile, India on a farm that used these principals. I have
> >> not had the opportunity to do this on my own because of conflicting ideas
> >> says he read that the guy who started Territorial Seeds says that the
> >> northwest is not good for things like heavy mulching due to slugs. I would
> >> appreciate advice about northwest specific approaches to sustainable and
> >> 'do nothing' ways of gardening/agriculture. I would love to have contacts

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