Sluggish Start

Fifty-three of our Styrian pumpkin plants have been destroyed by the tiniest of garden pests – the common slug. The loss is profound – just under half of the entire test plot for 2012.

Peter Peter Pumpkin Stem Eater

The sudden and dramatic decline in the plants’ health was a clear indicator that there is an imbalance. The plants that got mulched well are thriving and have been left relatively untouched. The un-mulched remainder succumbed to the evening attacks at the base of their stems – essentially being girdled and left to yellow. A quick visual inspection at the leaf level would lead you to believe there is a nitrogen deficiency – but the stems of each plant show the true culprit at work. The most severely affected plants have been pulled out as there is no point in trying to coax low quality pumpkins from stressed plants.

My preferred mulch for cucurbits is discard-grade alpaca fibre. Slugs absolutely loathe sliding along a furry surface and go to great lengths to find an alternate route to the delicacy contained within the ‘lifesaver’ ring of fibre. But I usually go to equally great lengths to mound the fibre so that for the first precarious month of plant development, those slugs have to find an easier target. This summer the mulching program was cut short and I switched focus mid-stream onto what I thought were other priorities.  Besides, the snake population in the test plot seemed healthy so I figured I could take a few shortcuts and rely on my reptilian partners in cultivation to control the pest for me…

Lesson learned. Snakes don’t read the same books I do.

The intoxicating aroma of a thousand sweet pea blossoms!

In stark contrast the 10’ high wall of sweet peas helps soothe my pumpkin woes. You can’t stand amidst one thousand delicate blooms like these and not turn that frown upside down.

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