Thursday, May 10, 2012

Trapping Slugs with Beer

The slugs are out in force right about now. You don't always see them, being the nocturnal creatures that they are. But the next morning, you certainly do see the damage done to the garden.

If you are looking for a way to rid yourself of these pests without using toxic chemicals, consider installing beer traps in your garden. Slugs love beer! If you sink a container of beer into the ground so that slugs can crawl into it, they'll eagerly drown their sorrows, and themselves, in the brew. All you have to do is come by every day or so, scoop out the dead slugs and top up the beer supply.

You probably have all the "equipment" you need for making traps in your kitchen right now. A glass jar, a large empty tuna can, a plastic margarine tub - any of these will make a fine trap. Next you'll want something to use for a lid, as shown in the drawing below, that will serve as an umbrella. Then dig holes and install the containers, sinking all but the top 1/4" into the ground. (Leaving a bit of a lip exposed at the top will keep rain from running into the trap.) Now you're ready to add the beer - the cheaper the better - slugs aren't fussy.

If plying slugs with alcohol doesn't appeal to you, there are many other non-toxic ways to protect your plants from slugs. Our friends at Eartheasy have a long list of effective methods, which feature, among other things: garlic, copper strips, seaweed, coffee, or adjusting your watering habits. Click here to read the article.
Whatever method you choose, you'll be able to protect your garden without having to use toxic slug baits.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Living Salad Wall

A neighbor of mine is interested in installing a vertical garden, or living wall, to cover a concrete wall in his back yard. As he and I have been doing research and talking about this project, I've become inspired to do a little experimenting of my own.

I bought one of Bright Green's GroVert living wall planters (Amazon affiliate link) to see see how their system works. This 10-cell, polymer panel measures 8" wide, 18" tall and 4" deep. Multiple panels can be linked together to create a solid living wall.
The cells of the planter are set at a 45 degree angle to keep water and soil from falling out once the panel is mounted on the wall. Very clever! 
At the base of each cell is a "moisture mat" - another smart idea - that holds water and keeps plant roots from drying out. 

Here's the fun part - planting! I decided to fill my panel with salad greens and a few herbs. But there are lots of other possibilities, including succulents, foliage plants and annuals for sun or shade, depending on where you plan to install your vertical garden.

For my "living salad wall" I wanted lots of color and texture, plus I wanted organic starts since I plan to make salad eventually with what I've planted. So I headed to West Seattle Nursery to see what I could find. I came away with lettuces: 'Wildfire Mix,' 'Salad Bowl Red,' 'Winter Density,' a spicy mesculun mix, and endive. I also got 4" starts of cilantro, Italian parsley, French thyme and and 'Apricot Trifle' nasturtium.

I realized as I planted these that it might have been better to have planted less in each cell, and filled in with more potting soil. It is tempting, though, to do just what I did, because a 4" pony-pack fits really nicely into each cell. But no worries, I can easily revise the planting if necessary as the season progresses.

OK, with the planting done, the next step was to water thoroughly and let the panel sit at a slight angle to drain before mounting. While the panel was draining, I installed the bracket to hold the panel onto my fence.
You'll have to furnish your own fasteners. Fortunately, I had some galvanized wood screws on hand.

And here it is - my living salad wall! 

To top it off, I added an irrigator box.
This little box mounts on top of the panel and holds a quart of water. (I'm showing it here with the lid open. After adding water, you'll want to close the lid to keep dirt from getting in.) Small holes in the bottom of the box let water slowly trickle down into the planter, keeping the plants and the moisture pads irrigated. 

It will be fun to see how this works out. As with any gardening experiment, I expect some plants to do well and others will need to be replaced. If I get a few salads out of it, I'll consider it a success. Regardless, the planter and irrigator will still be around for me to use in another season.