Sunday, July 17, 2011

Eleven Ways to Get Rid of Slugs and Snails

1. O 01: In permaculture we say, “Got too many snails? You don't have enough ducks.” Slugs and snails are great food for ducks and chickens, much better than the processed food at most feed stores. The ducks and chickens are all over them in seconds. I personally am very fond of ducks, and good mannered ducks can come into my garden anytime and look for snails and slugs. Chickens are interesting too. I have been told they have a language of 100 sounds, and I imitate their language back to them. I like to let the chickens in the garden in the late afternoon. They go for the slugs, snails and bugs, but are ready to leave for the coop at dusk before they dig up the garden.

Tw 02: Beer traps work great for catching slugs. Place a saucer of cheap beer on the ground. The slugs are attracted to the odor of the beer, crawl in for a drink, and drown. Do several times, and soon all the slugs will be gone. Don’t let the beer become diluted with overhead sprinklers or rain.

Th 03: Non-toxic, food grade Diatomaceous Earth (Insect Dust) is very effective for slugs. Diatomaceous Earth is fossilized shells of tiny water-dwelling organisms. When ground up, they have microscopically fine, sharp edges. It is applied by sprinkling around garden beds or individual plants, or mixed with water to make a foliar spray. It is a fine powdery dust and can be irritating to the lungs and eyes, so read the application directions. Diatomaceous earth is less effective when wet, so use it during our dry Mediterranean summers. Don’t buy the D.E. used in swimming pools. Non toxic food grade D.E. is available locally and by mail order at Peaceful Valley.

Fo 04: Set half an orange or grapefruit rind round side up or overturned flowerpot or a board on the ground in the garden. Wet it good, and leave it overnight. Slugs gather underneath. This can be a hit-or-miss method, but it sometimes works really well.

Fiv 05: Encourage slug predators like birds and toads. Robins love slugs. Throw some slugs to your favorite birds, and they will keep an eye out for more. Attract toads with an upside down broken clay pot in a shady spot.

Six 06: Watering strategy. Slugs are most active at night, or when the ground is moist and they can travel easier. Change your watering schedule to water in the morning so the soil or mulch is dried out by evening, which reportedly can reduce the chances of damage by snails and slugs up to 80%.

Sev 07: Seaweed is a good soil amendment and a natural repellent for slugs. If you have access to seaweed, mulch with it around the base of plants or perimeter of bed. Seaweed is salty and slugs avoid salt. Push the seaweed away from plant stems so it's not in direct contact. During hot weather, seaweed will dry and become very rough which also deters the slugs. Don’t put lots of seaweed on already salty alkaline soil.

Eig 08: Coffee grounds. Another cheap and good way to get rid of slugs is by sprinkling coffee grounds around your garden, especially around plants that are more attractive to snails and garden slugs. The grounds will dry out in the sun, and these critters don't like to crawl over them. Using a wide, shallow strip of coffee is best. However, horticultural side effects of using strong grounds such as espresso on the garden are uncertain. When using coffee grounds, moderation is advised.

Nin 09: Sprinkle crushed egg shells around vulnerable plants. Slugs and snails will avoid crossing the sharp shells and it will enrich your soil with calcium.

Ten 10: Another dislike of snails is sand, which they do not like to cross. Put a band of fine sand about ¼” high (1cm) high around the garden edge or base of plants.

Ele 11: Serious slug control: gather 1/2 cup of slugs, 2 cups of water and a couple cloves of garlic. Blend, and spray on plants. The extra mixture can be frozen for later use.

So s If you have other good for the earth ways to get rid of slugs and snails, I'd love to hear about them. Send me an e-mail or facebook me.

Ho0 How to eat snails: capture the round snails and place in a box or basket full of finely ground non-gmo corn. After several days, the snails guts will be cleaned out. They can be boiled and dipped in butter or coconut oil. Buen provecho!

By 0 By the the way, the long skinny snails predate on the round snails.

En 0 Enough!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What to Do with Wood Ash from Woodstoves and Fireplaces

From one of my Permaculture Consultation clients

Dear Cathe’,

It was great to visit with you yesterday. I have a question. We have been collecting ashes from Kathleen's fireplace in a large trashcan in the garage. I was wondering about using them in the greenhouse or garden. Do you know of any uses for wood ash? What do you think about putting ash in the compost?

Love, Katherine

Hi, Katherine,

Take wood ash from wood stove or fireplace in a metal bucket. Never store in plastic until ash is absolutely cool. This way you avoid burning down buildings.

Use only high quality wood ash. No ashes from BBQ grills, cardboard, plywood, painted, or pressure treated wood. Hardwood ash (oak) is superior to soft wood (pine) ash.

Three Caveats
1. DO NOT USE ASH IF YOUR SOIL HAS AN ALKALINE pH of 7.5 or higher. It will make the soil too alkaline or salty. Alkaline soils are found in low rainfall areas in the West. Use wood ash only in locations where soils are acidic, like forest soils and mountain soils, or places where there is adequate rainfall in the warm season ....not in alkaline soils like the desert. If in doubt, contact your local Master Gardeners

If you have been farming or gardening with chemicals, c
heck your soil pH. Most chemicals increase the pH and will eventually salt the soil

On the pH scale, 7 is neutral like pure water, below 7 is acidic with 1 being the most acidic like battery acid; and above 7 is alkaline with 14 being the most alkaline like liquid drain cleaner. Normal garden soil is typically 5.5 to 7.5 pH. Wood ash is typically 10.4 pH

. Don't use wood ash near these and other acid lovers: azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries, mums, marigolds, mountain laurel, oak, pecan, and sweet potato

pla 3. Sprinkle wood ash before plants emerge, in winter or very early spring. Don't plant seeds or seedlings until at least two weeks after ash has been applied, or wait until new plants are a few weeks old to spread it. The smaller they are, the more dramatically plants may react to the sudden increase in pH.

Wood ash has the same composition as limestone. Use it where you would use lime. If you put a pile of wood ash outside, and it rains, it will turn to limestone.

The secret to using wood ash is to SPRINKLE IT or DUST IT.

Use wood ashes to:

1. Spread finely on the soil on your property. Use a large coffee can or a box with nail holes punched into the bottom. Spread so it looks like fine baby powder on the soil.

2. Enrich compost. Enhance compost nutrients by sprinkling in a few ashes so it looks like a fine powder. Adding too much, though, ruins compost.

3. Composting citrus rinds. In a bucket of wood ash, place rinds of citrus or anything that is hard to breakdown. Make sure to cover the bucket.

4. Calcium loving plants. For calcium-loving plants like tomatoes, sprinkle and spread out ¼ to 1/8 cup (NOT MORE) right in the hole when planting. More is not better. It should look like a powdered baby's butt.

5. Block garden pests. Spread evenly around garden beds, ash repels slugs and snails.

6. Control pond algae. One tablespoon per 1,000 gallons adds enough potassium to strengthen other aquatic plants that compete with algae, slowing its growth.

7. De-skunk pets. A handful rubbed on your dog’s coat neutralizes that familiar lingering odor.

8. Hide stains on paving. This Old House technical editor Mark Powers absorbs wet paint spatters on cement by sprinkling ash directly on the spot; it blends in with a scuff of his boot,

9. Clean glass fireplace doors. A damp sponge dipped in the dust scrubs away sooty residue.

10. Make soap. Soaking ashes in water makes lye, which can be mixed with animal fat and then boiled to produce soap. Salt makes it harden as it cools.

11. Shine silver. A paste of ash and water makes a nontoxic metal polisher.

12. Kill moss in the lawn. Sprinkle lightly over lawns that have moss problems.

13. Toothpaste. In the old days before tooth paste, ash was used to clean teeth. The potential bio-hazards in the modern world are the chemicals used in fire starters, newsprint, and magazine inks. Using baking soda instead tastes much better and is a common practice.

14. Cleaning white boards. Ashes are good for cleaning white boards that have been marked by grease pencil or marker. It even works on permanent marker that has been mis-applied to a white board.

15. Melt ice. My personal all time favorite. Keep container of ashes in car (or on the porch for sidewalks) in the icy season to add traction and de-ice without hurting soil or concrete underneath. In Alaska, we carried a shoe box of fine screened ash to get vehicles out of ice. Sprinkle handful of ashes out about a foot in front of the tires that have power (4 wheel drive -all tires; front wheel drive -front tires; rear wheel drive- rear tires). Drive right out of trouble as if you were on dry pavement. Eliminates the use of salt for icy sidewalks.

Check out the composition of elements in wood ash, below, from the University of Georgia.

Hope this gives you some ideas for what to do with all that wood ash from our unusually long and cold winter,


Composition of Elements in Wood Ash Mean and (Range) taken from analysis of 37 ash samples

Macro elements in average %, range of 37 samples, highest %

Calcium 15 (2.5-33) 31 Potassium 2.6 (0.1-13) 0.13 Aluminum 1.6 (0.5-3.2) 0.25 Magnesium 1.0 (0.1-2.5) 5.1 Iron 0.84 (0.2-2.1) 0.29 Phosphorus 0.53 (0.1-1.4) 0.06 Manganese 0.41 (0-1.3) 0.05 Sodium 0.19 (0-0.54) 0.07 Nitrogen 0.15 (0.02-0.77) 0.01

Micro elements or Trace Minerals in mg, range of 37 samples

Arsenic 6 (3-10) Boron 123 (14-290) . Cadmium 3 (0.2-26) 0.7 Chromium 57 (7-368) 6.0 Copper 70 (37-207) 10 Lead 65 (16-137) 55 Mercury 1.9 (0-5) . Molybdenum 19 (0-123) . Nickel 20 (0-63) 20 Selenium 0.9 (0-11) . Zinc 233 (35-1250) 113

Other Chemical Properties

CaCO3 Equivalent 43% (22-92%) 100% pH 10.4 (9-13.5) 9.9

% Total solids 75 (31-100) 100


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bored with your Job? Learn Permaculture and Work with the Earth

Taking a Permaculture Design Course is a powerful way to get up to speed on Permaculture. It is also an exciting experience that will be remembered for the rest of your life.

So what is Permaculture? Here’s a description from Dave from Orcas Island, Washington. “If I really had to boil permaculture down to a simple three word definition I would say “a design system”. In other words a process. Permaculture gives us a process through which we can take a piece of land. What is the goal of that process? It depends upon the goals of the person for whom you are designing.

However, since permaculture has its feet deeply rooted in ethics, part of those goals will certainly be the ability of the environment to continue to provide ecological functions and the ability of the environment to support people. So you can use permaculture design principles to design a rural homestead, a suburban cul de sac, or an abandoned urban lot. Depending on your goals you can try to make any of these into a retreat center, a single family living space, or a drive-in theater. The permaculture design principles just help you figure out ways to do it that are efficient, economical, and ecologically harmonious.

…Permaculture encompasses a lot of [different] fields. Hopefully, permaculture provides us a way of uniting those fields so they begin to work together efficiently. I remember hearing a story about a construction site where the cabinet maker was walking out of the house feeling satisfied about the beautiful cabinets he just installed. Meanwhile, at the same time, the electrician was walking into the house with a hole saw to drill a hole in the cabinets so he could run a conduit for the lighting. Sounds like an orchestra with no conductor, right? While that example is from construction, that type of thing is going on all the time when folks try to approach sustainability from within only one discipline. Hopefully, the permaculture design process gives you an overarching plan for how everything works together. Permaculture requires a bit of retraining for your mind.”

And about the Permaculture Design Course, Gary Gregory of Northern California says “It was well worth the cost. I have enduring friendships from that time. There are a lot of things on this planet that have more value than money.”

The Permaculture Design Course is 72 hours long, generally taking from 8 to 14 days to complete. It follows the syllabus created by Bill Mollison and uses his book The Permaculture Design Manual as the course text. A certificate of completion is given at the end of the course. This certificate allows the graduate to use the word Permaculture in advertising, teach Permaculture and also be a Permaculture Design Consultant.

Wouldn't you rather be playing in the moist sweet earth?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Follow up Intro to Practical Permaculture Nov 3/4, 2007

Since it is supposed to rain Saturday, I mulched the swale our class built with barley straw. The straw had been sitting around since the beginning of the summer, so it was a little wet and decomposed, (just perfect) and I am excited to tell you, there were mushrooms growing out of it. I will post photos soon on my website.

Which reminds case I didn't say this at the class.
My old permaculture partner, Bill Steen who went on to write The Straw Bale House did an experiment. He had an old rock-hard clay driveway in "the stinkin desert." He set out a bale of alfalfa (whole, just one bale sitting there). About 6 months later when I was visiting, he told me to come take a look. The "stinkin desert" under the bale had transformed and you could put your hand down 8 inches into soft sweet soil, FULL OF WORMS.

If you are not sure where to start, set out some bales of alfalfa.

As a reminder,
Hay usually refers to alfalfa, which is a nitrogen fixer, or some type of tasty grass.
Straw is the dried plant leftover after threshing the grain. Could be barley, wheat, rice, oats, etc.
Both have seeds, despite what you read. Some people say straw doesn't have seeds, but the barley straw had barley babies sprouting out of it.

In my mind, alfalfa hay is my favorite input when you working on rehabing abused soil, doing an initial sheet mulch, or starting a planting area.
Straw is great for general mulch until you get your mulch plants up and ready to be harvested.

When you get projects going, let me know. Take pictures. I would love to post them to my website.