Tips to outsmart slugs, snails POPULATION CONTROL TIPS FOR SLUGS & SNAILS
Wet nights equal speedier slime balls as slugs and snails move much more quickly over lubricated leaves and soil. That means they can also munch their way through more of your crops each night, so take action! Fill a bucket with water, add a few tablespoons of salt, power up your torch and go on patrol. It’s not a pleasant task but it’s slightly more humane than squashing them under your boots, and you can ‘‘recycle’’ their goodness in your compost heap or chook run. Our kunekunes never say no to a bucket of crunchy snails either.
If you’d prefer to lay chemical baits, cut holes in the sides of an ice cream container and put a handful of slug bait inside. Put the lid on to keep the bait dry (otherwise it disintegrates in the first shower of rain) and safely out of reach of birds and pets.
You can also ‘‘waterblast’’ (with your hose handset on a strong jet) the lower leaves of ‘Savoy’ cabbages (pictured), to flush out any pests, like caterpillars, hiding within.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR $7 LETTUCE LAST LONGER!
It’s not often that fresh veges hit the headlines not once but twice on the same day. This week we learned that, thanks to cyclone and rain damage, the cost of a fresh ‘Iceberg’ lettuce has now risen to $7.99 in some supermarkets (cauliflowers and cabbages are similarly pricey), with bagged salad greens facing a supply shortage as well. That’s depressing news for many, but makes me feel (smugly) like I’ve won the lottery. As I write this, I have 24 ‘Great Lakes’ crisphead lettuces hearting up in my garden.
That’s $168 worth of lettuce (and possibly more, as mine are organic.) Not a bad return on my investment in a $4 packet of seed.
Obviously, I store my lettuces in the garden until I’m ready to eat them, but new research from the University of Otago has revealed a few tricks to lengthen the shelf life of vegetables once they’ve been picked.
Got half an avocado in your fridge? Leave the stone in and wrap it in plastic cling film and it will last four times longer than an uncovered cut avocado. Don’t brush the exposed flesh with lemon juice or olive oil; this does more harm than good.
Store carrots in airtight containers lined with a paper towel and they’ll last 10 times longer than the wrinkly, soft ones left loose in your vege bins.
The most successful method of preserving a head of broccoli is to sprinkle it in water (run it under the tap then shake the excess water off), wrap it in paper towels and then store it in the fridge in a ziplock bag.
Bagged salad greens last two days longer if taken out of their bags and stored in an airtight container.
Six methods were trialled for storing whole heads of celery including straight in the fridge unwrapped, wrapped in tinfoil, standing in a container with 2-3cm of water, and placing cut celery in an airtight container lined with a paper towel. The best result came from wrapping the base of the celery head in a paper towel and popping it in a resealable bag in the fridge. Treat cut celery like carrots.
It makes no difference to pumpkin if you keep the seeds in or take them out once cut. Wrap it in cling film and it lasts twice as long in the fridge.
‘Iceberg lettuce’ lasted the longest when placed inside a lettuce crisper (an airtight plastic container which has a tray in the bottom to elevate the lettuce). Instead of keeping well for a week, it kept well for 28 days! (Who keeps a lettuce in the fridge for four weeks, though, seriously?)
And if you’re fretting about a salad shortage this season, sow mesclun mix in seed trays now. Keep the trays indoors until the seeds germinate, then pop them on a sunny deck or under a verandah or tunnelhouse so they can soak up as much warmth as possible for faster growth.
PACK AWAY SLOW-RELEASE FERTILISERS
There’s no benefit to be gained by sprinkling granular slow-release fertilisers around your plants from now on. In late autumn and winter, plant roots can’t take up nutrients from the cold soil, so all you will succeed in doing is flushing your money away in the rain. Use organic fertilisers such as liquid compost, blood and bone or chook poo diluted in water instead. The best time to apply slow-release fertilisers is midspring, once the soil has warmed up again, and midsummer.
NETMANDARIN TREES AGAINST STICKY BEAKS
Easy-peel Satsuma mandarins are ripening en masse now, so cover your trees with fine mesh netting to stop opportunistic birds pecking holes in the individual fruit. A single peck is enough to cause the whole fruit to start perishing and pecked fruit won’t keep once picked. When harvesting, always cut with secateurs – don’t pull – so their ‘‘belly button’’ stem stays intact. This helps them last in your fruit bowl much longer.
TAKE CUTTINGS FROM FROSTTENDER PLANTS
If you have a glasshouse or covered potting area, take cuttings of frost-tender perennials such as coleus, pelargoniums, bedding salvias and begonias before Jack Frost knocks them down. These plants all root readily (try some in jars of water on a well-lit windowsill) and, come spring, you’ll have lots of small, sturdy plants to transplant. When taking cuttings, remove at least two-thirds of the foliage and dip the cut ends in rooting hormone powder or gel.