Thursday, November 7, 2013

Food Fight! My Battle With Strawberry Pests.

My last post spoke of my battle with the shade. One of the survivors was my strawberries - apparently thriving and producing flowers and even fruit. I planted 22 plants one year ago, and I now have 140 (and I've given away a bunch). After one year, the time has arrived to finally start harvesting my produce. Having neglected my plants for about three days, with promising white to pink strawberries festooning the ground, I returned with great hope that I would find a bunch intact. I had even taken the precaution of placing the best of the strawberries on lids within bigger lids such that they were surrounded by a moat of water.

I leave you to judge the result!
Todays strawberry harvest. Yum!The 

Of my 21 ripe strawberries (I cast two into the road with snails attached), not one has survived intact. Every strawberry is either small, malformed (water or nutrient deficiency?), or rotten, or eaten by a combination of birds, snails, slugs, weevils, wood louse and millipedes. Until I started my own veggie garden, I did not even realize that wood louse and millipedes could be considered a pest. I thought they hung around mainly underground! Even my Solar Strawbs - an elevated pipe bearing strawberry plants, had one fruit that was not sufficiently hanging off the side entirely devoured by birds, and another with a millipede still chomping on it. Several entire plants have been ripped up by our friendly foraging dogs. Well, they have just been demoted to my second-best friend!

Woodlouse on a fresh organic home-grown strawberry

What is to be done about it, if The Naked Botanist cannot even grow his own strawberries in a wonderful organic setting which has never seen a pesticide in its life? I am certainly starting to have sympathy for non-organic farmers who utilize pesticide. Fortunately I am not surviving off my produce, nor making a living off them... but if I were?? Any recommendations?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Garden encounters of the Pulmatophageous kind

Giving my once promising garden the displeased eye, I decided to start rebuilding it. A long winter combined with a toxic cocktail of shade, neglect and a veritable menagerie of herbivorous pests have left my organic vegie garden a grassy and weed infested knoll. The survivors: a pitiful assortment of spindly carrots, a flowering broccoli, three snail-eaten spinach plants, and  a lone embittered beetroot. In fact the only chlorophyllous life that is thriving turns out to be strawberries and mustard. The latter which unlike the snails, I find akin to aloe juice and goose faeces on the unpalatability scale.

I attempted to beat into the soil a plank that served as a boundary to my former vegetabilian paradise. Unsuccessful, I hauled it out, revealing a small snake snoozing beneath the wood. How it survived my attempt to reseat the plank seemingly undamaged, I do not know. I scurried inside to grab my camera, and was just in time to witness a tail disappearing between the grass. Not having had time to identify the snake yet as poisonous or otherwise, I made a grab for the tale, and came up with an innocuous and unthreatening head dangling from my digitarial grip.

Having taken some photographs, I placed it on the scanner which resulted in these images showcasing its beautiful undercarriage. It turns out to be the common slug-eater, Duberria lutrix.

I've been told recently that its safe to hold a snake by the tail. Clearly this snake didn't get the message, as it quite happily lifted its head towards my hand, and as if trying out for a position at the circus - eased its way through the gap formed between my thumb and forefinger.

Oh, and in case you were wondering about the title - slugs are from the orders of Pulmonata, and phagy is latin "to eat".