Alchemy Garden Journal Entry 12: Funny Looking Leaves?

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5/19/2020

What the hell is going on with my leaves?

With Tropical Storm Arthur brushing the coast of North Carolina, rain is battering all over the east coast, leaving all of my plants mega wet. I worry mostly about the basil because I’ve learned from experience that they don’t like wet leaves. But, right now, that seems to be the least of my concern. The muggy, cold, and humid weather brought me a new beast: slugs.

After I got home from work today, I noticed a bunch of lacy basil leaves and a tomato leaf half eaten. I wondered if they were scorched or if something was eating my plants! My heart was in my throat because the first thing I started looking for is the dreaded tomato horn worm―or, rather, the tobacco hornworm (which is more common in my region).

But as I did some more searching, I noticed that it was mainly my basil plants that were getting jacked up. I did some research into the problem, and all of the evidence pointed to slugs.

Eaten Leaves

By 10:00 pm, I was ready to take a look at my garden with a flashlight. And there they were. Piles of slugs. On my plants. On my walls. On the ground. Even on my garden hose. My garden bed is loaded with all of their favorite foods: basil, tomatoes, and marigolds. And this is the first super rainy, muggy, and humid week since I started the garden. CRAP!

Now, for the record, I liked snails and slugs… until today. I never minded them… until today. Because now they were having Thanksgiving on my plants. And I have to deal with them now because it is going to be cool and muggy for the next 4 days. I won’t have any plants left if I don’t do something.

It was too late to go to a store for some quick chemical solutions, but since I’m attempting to grow a somewhat organic crop, I decided to look for some natural remedies and try fresh coffee grinds and a beer trap.

Slughelp.com conducted an experiment that showed me that although not a 100% effective deterrent, coffee grounds are a decent repellant for slugs. Beer traps seemed also effective, granted the dish is deep enough for them to crawl into.

Since its caffeine the slugs don’t like, I used fresh coffee grinds instead of used ones. I sprinkled them liberally on all of the leaves, then filled my watering can with a mixture of coffee grinds and water. As much as I hated to water my plants after a whole day of rain, I sprinkled the strong coffee water over everything, then created a grove in the soil to place a plastic tray filled with beer.

After thirty minutes, I noticed that the slugs had migrated from my leaves to the soil and the edges of my garden bed. After another thirty minutes, they had remained on the soil and on the sides of the bed. Not one slug was on the leaves.

I checked my plants at least 4 more times before midnight, and with no slugs actively on the leaves, I felt comfortable enough to go to sleep for the night. I’m not sure how long this treatment will work, but it seems to be a start.

After a long night of scouting out slugs, I came back to my garden in the morning to see how my plants faired. My patio smelled like coffee and beer, but I was relieved to see that there was no new damage to my basil and tomatoes. I did, however, catch some leaf damage on my bay laurel since it was too dark for me to notice it the night before. I’m not sure if the slugs did it or if it was something else.

The beer trap caught nothing, but I’m going to keep it in my garden bed for another day. I decided to get to work on fishing for weakened slugs and removing all of the wood chips on the bed.

I only found one slug. He looked weak, so I threw him away. I removed the wood chips as best as I could to get rid of any hiding spots and coated the ground with more fresh coffee grinds. When the weather improves, I’ll put them back. Slugs hide and lay their eggs underneath the chips. I didn’t see anything, though. For all I know, they could be hiding under the garden bed.

I found slug trails on my new Lucious Pinkberry Blend flowers and on my dill, but fortunately no sign of slug snacking. I moved the dill and bay laurel back to my patio table, away from the ground. Hopefully they’ll be safe there until this wet spell is over.

I have to say… gardening is really testing my tolerance for creepy crawlies. I keep reminding myself that the insects are here to stay.

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