We have a frog (Napoleon) and a lizard (Alphonse) on Lollipop Farm and we hope to encourage these fellows to eat all the giant slugs that have taken a quarter of the crop so far, despite Lollipop Farm produce being barricaded like Fort Knox. We had sand around the plants, which they are not supposed to like going over, and we grew seedlings on in pots with copper scourers (the cheapest form of copper available and very easy to pop over a pot and roll down), which is supposed to give them an electric shock. I cut off the bottom of the pots and put them straight in the ground. To some extent, having left some out of pots as a control experiement, this has worked, but plants like kale droop their outer leaves down when it rains, which is when the slugs come. Gardening at a distance has it good side, as it's lovely to be out in a meadow in the heart of the Forest and get away from Oakdale from time to time, but we can't go up to Lollipop Farm every night or every time it rains to remove the pesky critturs.
Once you start talking to other gardeners, you realise just what a ruthless bunch we are. I was sharing slug control methods over afternoon tea at Lydney Parish Fayre and confessed to stabbing slugs with my fork to get rid of them and exposing them much as Romans used to get rid of unwanted babies in the days of Romulus and Remus, on top of our giant compost bins. (Incidentally, these were from Gloucestershire County Council and we got two for £8.99 each. Best bargain around.) Now all we need to do is train the pigeons to prefer slugs to cabbages. Other organic methods include releasing nemotodes, which are a parasite that invade the slug. This is an expensive treatment that lasts only 6 weeks, but my training in biology makes me worry about messing with the eco-system. I have also read that there is research that shows that the fewer slug trails there are, the more slugs will lay eggs in that area. You could end up with a much bigger and self-perpetuating problem if that's the case.
Over the summer, we visited Yorkley Court Community Farm on one of their open days and were shown kindness and hospitality and gained from their experience in growing organic veg. My son ate peas for the first time from the pod because someone from YCCF gave him one. This made me very happy, though I have grown them from seed in the garden with him myself, without success. When he was first weaned, he was so hungry (having been born at 3 lb 1 oz) that he would eat anything we gave him, starting at the equivalent of 2 months. I was staying with a friend who is a doctor and on my birthday, I was joking about trying him with baby porridge when she suddenly said, "Do you want to then? I'm going to town." She posted a request for advice on a doctor's online forum and a GP responded to say go for it, so we did. Two weeks later, I wiped the porridge off his face and took him to his consultant paediatrician at the premature baby clinic in Walsall and he said that we could begin weaning him. Brilliant. He ate everything after that until one day, age around 18 months, he suddenly became ultra fussy, overnight. The only veggies he eats now are cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower and if we are lucky, baby sweetcorn. School dinners have saved my sanity as he gets his main meal of the day there and I can do fruit and sandwiches (with cucumber usually) when he gets home. It's not my problem what he eats at lunch time, but I know that it's all locally sourced and produced and the menu is well balanced and healthy. There is always extra bread and fruit available. And now it's free for his age as well, so we stuck with it, despite occasional protests for a packed lunch. So far this term, I've had no complaints. We will work on our broccoli growing techniques. The entire crop went slug-wards this year.