SLUGS ARE HAVING an absolute field day in the big tunnel this year, because of the cool and wet weather which we’ve had to endure in May and June. For the first time ever I am noticing considerable slug damage on tomato plants in the tunnel which is a nuisance.
Each night when I lock in the hens, I detour to the veg patch on the way back to the house to hunt slugs in the tunnel. Armed with either a miner’s head-lamp (good for hands-free slug hunting) or my iphone (a surprisingly effective substitute torch as it happens), I check the toms and my most vulnerable plants and seedlings for slugs. The most likely places to find them are on any of the brassicas, salad leaves, beans, courgettes, squashes, pumpkins, celery and celeriac.
Though you will hear lots of talk about effective slug remedies – copper tape, egg shells, coffee grounds, slug pellets (nasty, toxic) and more – I find the most effective of all is physically picking them off plants, particularly the more vulnerable ones (early stage seedlings and valuable plants like a courgette that will produce up to 40 courgettes in season and therefore worth protecting).
Slug hunting is a grim task and it brings out the worst in me. Mostly, in a fit of annoyance and usually accompanied by an expletive, I throw them as far as I can into the field beside our house. No doubt they make their way back to the garden eventually, but I find the act of throwing them to be quite cathartic.
Sometimes I slice them with a secateurs. Do I feel bad about dispatching them to the slug after-world like this? I should but I don’t really.
A beer trap is a good way of killing slugs too. Slugs, it turns out, are big fans of beer and a saucer of the stuff left in the soil is something they simply can’t pass. They will climb in there to imbibe their fill and drown in the process. Presumably it’s a happy enough ending for them.
I find they are not particularly concerned with the quality of the beer, and the craft beer revolution has passed them by completely. They are however concerned with freshness, so keep replacing the beer after a few days.
The Basics – Blackcurrant Gluts
Here’s a recipe to deal with those gluts of blackcurrants. This makes about 750ml of a lovely ribena-type drink that will keep for 3 weeks in the fridge. You can also freeze it in ice-cube trays and then just pop a few cubes in a glass when you need a drink.
First of all de-stalk and wash 450g of blackcurrants. Place them in a saucepan with 250g caster sugar and 260ml water. Over a low heat, melt the sugar, stirring occasionally. Bring the syrup to a gentle boil and simmer for 5 mins.
Add the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Simmer for another 5 mins. Allow to cool and then pour into a sterilised bottle through a fine sieve. Dilute to taste. Yum. You could also add this liquid to reusable popsicle sticks to make homemade ice-pops. Freeze for at least 10 hours.
Recipe of the Month – Tomato and Basil Soup
Source: Joanna Tkaczuk via Shutterstock
This recipe is incredibly easy to make and a great recipe to showcase your own fresh tomatoes and basil.
- 800g cherry or plum tomatoes cut in half
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 red onion cut into large chunks
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 10 basil leaves, torn
- 500ml chicken/ veg stock
- sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160C. Put the tomatoes, garlic and onion in an ovenproof dish, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Using clean hands massage all the ingredients together for a few minutes to enhance the flavour of the soup. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 160C for 20 minutes.
Allow the tomatoes to cool slightly once they have come out of the oven, and tip them into a large bowl with the fresh basil leaves. Allow the basil to infuse the tomatoes. I usually do this for about 1 minute.
Pour the chicken stock in a saucepan and stir in the tomatoes and basil and place over a low heat for 20 minutes. To serve, place a piece of toasted baguette on top with melted parmesan cheese.
Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ.
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