Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Monday, May 01, 2006


The other day while looking about the garden after the down pours I couldn’t help but notice the explosion in the population of snails and slugs in the garden. The poor kowhai, only just starting to recover from the onslaught of the kowhai moth caterpillars, is now under attack from a veritable army of baby snails. Further up the up the ornamental passion vine similarly had divisions of the slowly munching beasts! I turn around, and there in the vegetable patch yet more collateral damage to the newly planted cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli. The dahlias and Dutch iris in the end of the same bed were being devastated too. It would be only a matter of very few days and I would have nothing left! In my mind there was only one course of action, slug bait. I know some people will not be keen on this path and there are other alternatives, one of which is to use beer as bait. This entails filling a saucer with beer and submerging it in the soil up to the brim. The snails consequently, in their undying thirst for the amber nectar, slide on in and drown. Alternatively a beer bottle may be placed into the soil at an angle so the mouth of the bottle is just at soil level and again the snails are lured into the waiting beverage. I have never tried this approach mainly due to the fact the beer has usually been imbibed before it has had the chance of becoming snail bait! I would be interested if people have actually had god success with this method.

In another part of the garden I have a couple of bananas with fledgling fruit bunches on them. To encourage ripening of these bunches over winter I intend to wrap them with some blue plastic. This seems to help the fruit to ripen, by what exact mechanism I am not sure but I will certainly give it a go. Another trick is to cut off the flower bud once it has finished producing ‘hands’ of fruit, this lets the plant concentrate its energies into making bigger fruit. Over our back fence is an Abyssinian banana Musa ensete, this species of banana does not set edible fruit. The plant dies once the flower is finished and unlike the edible species doesn’t produce suckers so it is important if you want to keep these plants you must save their seed. As this particular specimen is leaning right over our fence I think it may be for the chop before it brings down the fence with it!

As for the rest of the garden, it is a case of cleaning out the detritus of summer and keeping on top of the seeds, frantically growing with the extra rain of late.


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