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Monday, September 27, 2010


Every morning, one of the first things I do is go on to the patio to throw some food out for the birds.

"I'll just finish this and then clean up that poopsie one of the dogs has left," I thought, still dazed and bleary-eyed - that is ..... until I noticed the 'poopsie' was moving. :O)

"Oh! It's one of those big orange slugs," I thought to myself as I took a closer look. On googling I found that it is the orange form of the large black slug. There's some more information here.

I measured him and he was 6 inches (15.5 cm) long, but he could extend himself up to 7 3/4 inches (20 cm) if he wanted to.

I laid a fuchsia flower beside him to illustrate his proportions. He showed a little interest in the flower before heading off behind a large flower pot.

When I was googling for information on slugs, much of it comprised of methods on how to kill them. I'm horrified at many of the suggestions and wonder at the kind of people who could carry out such grisly actions.

This particular slug, I discovered, prefers to feed on rotting vegetation rather than living plants which is probably why I have since noticed him hanging out round the compost bin. As you might guess, you wont find any Hostas in our garden - though I'm considering growing one or two as a treat for 'our' sluggies! I have to say that the slugs in our garden have been kind to us and have never caused any destruction to the plants. Maybe it's because of all the frogs that live here...... or maybe it's because I'm such an untidy gardener that there is always plenty of available foodstuffs already provided for them.

I liked this.
(Taken from Hill-Stead's Nature Blog by Dianne Tucker.)
"Slugs can stretch themselves up to twenty times their original length, enabling them to fit into tight spaces. Their slime is laid down in a continuous trail that they can retrace to a satisfying food source. Their friends and relatives can follow it too. Snails have an interrupted slime line."

Your single foot it leaves no print,
It just sets down a slimy hint
For you to follow later when
You go back for a snack again.
A body-made roadmap comes in handy
When you hanker for some greenery candy!

You can read the full blog post and the rest of the poem here.

Some random facts about slugs.

* There are between 50,000 and 200,00 plus mollusc species alive in the world today. Many species have yet to be discovered and many recently discovered species are yet to be identified and named.

* It travels at a speed of 2 feet in 43 seconds.

* When slugs' teeth wear out, new rows move forward to replace them, conveyor-belt style.

* They have 25,000 teeth.

* Only 5% of the slug population appears above ground at any one time.

* Slugs have four noses!

* They can live up to 6 years.

* If a slug loses an eye or an ear stalk, it can be grown back.

* A slug's blood is green.

* A slug lays 20-100 eggs several times a year. They can lie dormant in the soil for years until conditions are right for them to hatch.

Final word because I love this. :)
"Slug slime is a natural anaesthetic. If you lick a slug enough, your tongue will go numb. In fact, some Native Americans used to put slugs in their mouths when they had toothache and let them crawl around. I don't recommend licking a slug because I'm sure it's not good for them."

I love that! A person after my own heart. :)
Taken from Tser's 'All About Slugs' which is here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tidying and pottering

I've been spending a little time today doing some tidying in the garden and greenhouse, sorting the plant pots neatly by size and planting what I can while the weather is still reasonably mild. The one thing I hate about tidying in the garden is disturbing the creatures that live there. Lift a pot and out scurries dozens of frantic little woodlice - I feel so guilty for disrupting their peace. I think of them carrying on with their lives, doing whatever it is that woodlice do, until I happen along and create chaos in their world. That's why I very rarely tidy up in the garden.

As I reached for a plant, from the side of my eyes I saw this fella in the pot next to it - he made me jump! I didn't produce the same effect in him - he didn't budge while I went for my camera and took his photograph. He was probably sleeping off his Sunday dinner of slugs.

This is one instance where I should be more careful - tidying away the seed packets. I'd left this lot stuffed in a plant pot on the floor of the potting shed and the mice have made some pretty cut-out patterns! Thankfully, they didn't feast on the seeds - they must have only wanted the paper for their nest.

After tidying up, I had a little wander round the garden and took a photograph of this beautiful sedum. It's Sedum spectabile and it's the first year I've grown it. I have it in a container where it cascades over the top. It's so pretty with its tiny starlike flowers. I hope it survives the Winter.

I don't know how I've never noticed this before. It's the main stem of a white Jasmine I have growing over one of the metal arches. While examining the plant constantly throughout the Summer for signs of flower buds, I missed the lovely pattern on its stem. I only noticed it when looking at the nasturtiums growing nearby. I don't know why it hasn't flowered yet as it's about three years old - never mind, at least it has a beautiful stem. :)

Here it is a bit closer. And if you look carefully, you'll see a white hair - one of Benji's. :O)

My tidying up in the garden is finished for this year, so any creatures that want to settle down here will be quite safe to do so.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Emergency Ward Gastropod

Horace on a runner bean leaf with raspberry

I've been looking after another casualty for the past week. Meet Horace. I found him on our kitchen door after following the silver trail he'd left behind on the carpet. We had various bits and pieces in the garden that needed to be taken to the council tip and we think he'd been brought in on them and knocked off in the process.
Part of his shell had been damaged but luckily his internal organs were intact, so I was hopeful that he would make a good recovery. I've read that snails store deposits of calcium that can be used in the event of damage. I thought at this stage it would be unwise to release him back into the garden in case he got an infection in his wound or became dried out. So into a plastic container he went along with a selection snail goodies.
Sure enough, within a couple of days a film began to grow over the damaged part of the shell. It's now quite tough and protective. Today, Horace is ready to leave intensive care and return to his natural environment. I'll take him down to the bottom of the garden where the ferns grow and it's nice and shady. He can then find a comfy spot to sleep in and rest while his body continues the healing process.
You can go here to read more about snails' shells.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Benji's Invalid Ramp

Benji's 13 years old now, the youngest of our three dogs and the least able to get around. He was having trouble managing to get up and down the steps in the garden, so I made him a ramp. There was a drop of about 3 feet at the side of the steps which I built up with soil taken from one of the compost bins. I planted self-heal, yarrow, clover and birds-foot-trefoil in it and then put down grass seed.

Here he is enjoying todays sunshine, lying on the cool grass on his ramp..... which has totally surprised me by growing so well! It took him a while to use it. In fact our other two dogs, Bob and Charlie, used it first. Eventually, Benji realised that it was much easier to saunter down the little grassy bank than tumble down the stone steps.

I've been doing a few jobs in the garden so that it will be easier for the old boys to get around..... like removing shrubs and flower borders from the centre of the garden and planting it up with grass, and disposing of gravel so that they wont lose their footing or get bits stuck in between the pads of their paws. I'm aiming to make the garden as O.A.D.-friendly (old age dog) as I can and anyway, grass is good for wildlife too..... even though I'm rubbish at maintaining lawns!