Tips to out­smart slugs, snails POP­U­LA­TION CON­TROL TIPS FOR SLUGS & SNAILS

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - LYNDA HALLINAN

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.

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