We had such a busy week that my Garden Thursday post came and went, and all I have to show for it is a few uploaded photos (some gorgeous new pansies, the compost I spread around the base of a sickly apple tree, my new lower area hard pipe watering system courtesy of my dad, and a large bale of hay with a couple of very giddy children lying on it). No words. But that's what I did this week.
We have come to the sad but unavoidable conclusion that we have too many strawberry plants. Sob. It's hard to believe that this gargantuan assortment came from 10 scrawny Totem plants I bought in Vancouver 8 years ago. We all love strawberries - it's the one plant the twins care for regularly in their gardens. Some plants get cursory love, but the strawberries? Oh, baby, they get adoring watering, patting, and even the odd love note.
But if we keep them as they are they will be far too crowded and unlikely to do well. Last year we had a mammoth crop of big fat berries and if I leave them the size differential will be significant. So I'm digging them up and splitting them. This is pretty easy: use a fork, ease them up, lift them as gently as possible, remove any grass or weeds clinging to them, replant. If you do it quickly enough and the sun isn't beating down on them you don't even need to worry about keeping the dirt on the root ball. If it's warm give them a good soak afterwards. I like to surround them with straw. Keeps the berries off the dirt, where the Dreaded Slugs can get them.
I am conducting an experiment on my transplants: usually I mix up a container of bone meal and kelp meal and toss a handful of this mixture into each hole as I replant. This time I have split the transplants into two groups - the ones that get this mixture when I transplant them and another group that get a mycorrhizal inoculant instead. I finally got us a large tub of the stuff (labelled, rather intriguingly: MYKE). The theory with this stuff is that it helps to create the right environment for the micro-flora and fauna around the rhizosphere (the biosystem around the plant's roots). It's a more complicated version of that legume inoculant you might have used on your peas and beans. What first piqued my interest in this kind of thing was watching my dad's strawberries get wiped out by a fungal infection two years ago. It swept through the whole patch. And according to the authors of Teaming With Microbes, the way to keep this from happening in an organic home garden is to keep the rhizosphere healthy. And they seem very fond of this mycorrhizal inoculant to spur growth. So I'm trying it. I notice from the label that it does not work on the brassica family.
Today was a day for cleaning up around the house, too. It's been so busy lately, and the garden has taken most of what little free time I have left, that the household chores have been wildly neglected. Wildly. As we discussed our intentions for the day this morning, Richard asked me if I saw the vacuum as more than just another item in the downstairs closet. He asked me if I knew how it worked. That it was an electrical appliance. Luckily I saw through his sarcasm and replied that OF COURSE I knew it was a working electrical appliance. Then he asked why I never use it. (it's true - I think I've only ever vacuumed once in the last 3 years) I told him that he does a much better job than I ever could. And then, for the first time ever we both sighed at the exact same time! We were made for each other, Mr Clean and I.
Another long neglected task was to bag up the cleavers and nettles I've been collecting and chop them up into little tiny pieces. Using another amazing electrical appliance, fortunately. After that I was on such a high from using electrical appliances that I even whizzed up all the eggshells from the winter. If you suffer from Spring Slug Disease like I tend to, you might find this handy.
You get a container like this green bucket (mine was a gift from my friend here). Everytime you use an egg you leave the shell to dry a bit so that they don't stink (I leave mine on top of the stove for 24 hours) then toss it in the bucket. I use any eggshell except hard boiled eggs, because they sometimes have bits of egg on them. Over the winter this bucket fills up.
This time round the container was full to the very top, and that was even with me mashing them down several times. A potato masher comes in very handy for this. After you've filled your container and you're starting to see the signs of Spring Slug Disease (chewed peas stems, and - gasp - raggedy broccoli leaves), you get out your handy dandy food processor and start pulverizing the shells into chunky crumbs.
Like this. I now have a full quart container of egg crumbs. Oddly enough if you have mostly brown eggs this mixture will be vaguely pink. But it's your Super Secret Weapon in the battle against the dreaded Spring Slug Disease.
Simply sprinkle it around the plants and the slugs will go somewhere else (like your strawberries). You might need to reapply it once or twice if it dissolves into the ground or if you get some intense rains, but by the time the summer comes the slugs will be packing up and moving on to wetter areas of your garden. And your peas and beans will be all grown up and far less likely to attract the attention of those pesky slugs.