Organic gardening: how to get rid of slugs.

Has anyone else noticed the gross, slimy, new neighbors that just moved in? They’re really annoying. Always asking for food and leaving their trash everywhere. Really inconsiderate if you ask me.

The problem with slugs is they affect just about everything, feeding on the soft tissue of your fruits and vegetables leaving huge gnarly holes on your leaves. When I was a kid my brother would pour salt on them and I would sit there crying, begging him to stop, wondering why someone would be so cruel. I’ve now had a change of heart and I might be just as cruel as he was.

So how do you get rid of them once you’ve caught them? There are a ton of organic and natural options out there, although they might be more work, they are completely worth it! Here are a few options:

Picking and Soaping. My preferable option of termination is handpicking them off my plants and dropping them into a soapy cup of water. I do this in the evening or in the early morning before the sun is up. Also keep in mind, that for every slug you find there are 20 more you haven’t seen, so be vigilant! I’ve also noticed they love soaker hoses, so check near those as well.

Booby Trapping. Turning over pots and wooden boards are great ways to temporarily catch slugs and snails, just make sure you check before the sun rises or after the sun sets to catch them and scoop them into some soapy water before they leave. Also, sprinkling wood ash or sawdust around the plants sucks moisture away from the slugs and deters them from crossing.

Poisoning. Wormwood tea is made from Artemisia. It’s a botanical poison that repels most bugs, snails, and slugs. If you use it in the fall it will also kill all burrowing slugs that are hiding and/or hibernating. To make this wonderful tea Steep 1 cup of Artemisia in 1 quart of warm water for 24 hours. Strain the liquid and add 1 tbs of castile soap. Add 8 ozs. of tea to 1 quart of water and spray on the soil.

Shocking. Place copper strips or foil around your garden. The copper is supposed to send an electrical shock which keeps them at bay.

Pesticiding. If you have a more serious infestation you can buy iron phosphate baits at your local gardening store. THIS IS NOT ORGANIC.

Mother Nature. The most important thing you can do is create a happy ecosystem by encouraging certain bugs into the garden. Ants, beetle grubs, earwigs , birds, snakes, toads and turtles all love snacking on slugs!

Good luck in the hunt!

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Portia Westesen

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Pancakes

I decided to introduce a little bit of garden cooking here on my blog. It probably won’t happen very often, since usually what I use my produce for is very simple, throw together meals that don’t really have a recipe. But maybe this will force me to be more creative!

So pancakes. Lets talk about pancakes. Where to start, where to start! ….I love pancakes. When I say that it’s more of a grabbing the nearest person, shaking them uncontrollably, yelling ‘DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND HOW WONDERFUL PANCAKES ARE?!’ I’m not going to deny it’s a bit of a problem. I probably make pancakes 3 times a week for breakfast. Magnolia has joined in the obsession as well. Couldn’t be more proud.

As everyone knows zucchini takes over the garden, smashing everything near it, growing tall and growing wide. Already I’ve harvested 7-8 zucchini’s, and the plant is just getting warmed up! I’m determined this growing season to not waste any produce, so we will be making lots of dishes, breads and cakes with our zucchini. I was thinking about making some zucchini bread this afternoon but opted for this AMAZING zucchini bread pancake recipe. Now don’t shut it down just yet. I know there’s a lot of people out there who turn their noses up at squash, but just give it a chance! Zucchini is so moist, and with a little sugar makes everything it touches amazing.

I got this recipe from Smittenkitchen.com, just click on the recipe below and it’ll take you right to her website. Also, I just did mine in a normal skillet on the stovetop, worked just as well with a lot less work.

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Zucchini Bread Pancakes

Makes 10 to 12 pancakes

2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown, dark brown or granulated sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk or 2 tablespoons each of milk and plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (from about 9 ounces whole, or 1 1/2 medium zucchini), heaping cups are fine
1 cup all-purpose flour (half can seamlessly be swapped with a whole wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
Butter or oil, for coating skillet

In a large bowl, combine eggs, olive oil, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in zucchini shreds. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir dry ingredients into zucchini batter, mixing until just combined.

Preheat oven to 200°F and place a tray — foil-lined if you’re into doing fewer dishes later — on a middle rack.

Heat a large, heavy skillet (my favorite for pancakes is a cast-iron) over medium heat. Once hot, melt a pat of butter in pan and swirl it around until it sizzles. Scoop scant 1/4-cup dollops of batter (mine were about 3 tablespoons each) in pan so the puddles do not touch. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook another minute or two, until golden underneath. Transfer pancakes to prepared pan to keep warm as well as ensure that they’re all cooked through when they’re served. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm. Repeat next weekend.

Enjoy!

Portia Westesen

Onions

I’ve run into some issues growing my onions this year. First year growing them and I’m definitely learning a LOT. Saying I love onions is an understatement. I remember hating fresh onions all my life until I was probably 16. I’m not really sure how it happened, somehow one sneaked into a sandwich and when I bit into it, it was like I never had an onion before! So for all you onion haters out there, just give your old potent, spicy, smelly friend a try one more time. Or maybe 15 times, I’ve heard it takes 15 or so times before your tastebuds get retrained to like something.

First lets talk about what onions love. Then we’ll dive into the many things I did wrong.

1) Make sure the soil is always moist for the first two weeks. This’ll make the difference between good and great onions.

2) Keep the weeds at bay. Onions grow so close to the surface and their roots are very shallow.

3) Sandy soil is the best for these guys. Keep it fertile and loose. 😉

4) Onions from seed take a long time to grow, so give them a head start. 8-10 weeks indoors before last frost date.

5) Like number 1, even after the first two weeks they need consistent water, if the top inch is dry give it a good water.

6) Spacing for onion plants. If you want bigger onions you need to space them 4-5 inches apart. If you want a higher yield with average size onions, 2 inches apart, and if you want scallions, 1 inch apart.

7) Spacing for onion sets: Remember, if you are buying sets of onions, smaller is better! They are already a year old and are ready to set out flowers, which isn’t what you want, so to prevent that from happening find the smallest bulbs and plant as soon as possible. If you are planting in rows, space them 6-8 inches apart.

Okay, now onto my experience this year with onions. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I started out growing from seed in February, but between my wonderful dog, and my baby girl they didn’t really make it. So I went down to our local gardening store and picked up some onion sets.

1) My first problem was I thought I should buy the biggest set of bulbs so I could produce the biggest onions. Wrong. Smaller is better. They are less likely to bolt, so look for bulbs about the size of a dime.

Everything was growing great and strong and the leaves had started falling over so I thought it was time to harvest. When I went to pull them I noticed that most of them were fairly small. I was expecting baseball size onions and instead got golfball sized onions. Major disappointment.

2) To much nitrogen. I’m not sure if this was the reason for the smaller size, but I’ve heard that to much nitrogen can produce lots of leaves with small bulbs. Next season I will test my soil just to make sure that levels are normal.

3) Spacing. I believe I was spacing for onion seeds not for sets. So instead of giving them 6-8 inches of space, I gave them 3-4. (I’m feeling a little embarrassed.)

4) Know where your plants are from. I’ve heard a rumor that sets are known to grow smaller onions anyways but also, I have no idea where my onions came from! It is best to buy plants locally, but if that is not possible find varieties that are known to grow great in your climate.

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Portia Westesen