Friday, 2 November 2018

How to stop slugs eating your lettuce without using chemicals

How to stop slugs eating your lettuce without using chemicals The Green Fingered Blog
How do you grow your own lettuce without it getting eaten by slugs and snails, but without using chemicals? 

The answer is easy - grow it on top of a water butt - in a recycled car wheel! 

Here's a simple step by step guide to my ingenious, organic, chemical free method for stopping slugs and snails eating my lettuce!


How to stop slugs eating your lettuce without using chemicals

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Slugs and snails are the scourge of salad growers. There's nothing more appetising to a slug than a soft young lettuce seedling. It's vital to keep young lettuce plants safe if you want them to become decent sized plants from which you can pick leaves to eat. Even when growing in conventional containers this can be difficult.

I try and avoid using chemical controls. They can potentially harm other wildlife in the garden, and I also prefer, as far as possible, to keep chemicals away from anything me and my family are going to eat. The risk of potential harm might be low, but if it can be zero then why not make it zero?

A chance discovery at the bottom of my garden gave me the chance to grow my lettuce out of the slugs reach, avoiding the need for chemicals, and recycling some rubbish at the same time! 


Step by step guide to protecting lettuce from slugs and snails 



The wheel I'm using appeared one morning in the stream at the bottom of our garden, having been dumped somewhere further up the valley and washed downhill before getting stuck in our garden. I'm sure there are more conventional ways of acquiring one, and if you do they are perfect for growing lettuce out of reach of slugs and snails. 

If you don't have an old wheel to use, then you could try one pot sat on top of another upside down pot. Make sure they fit together snugly, or are too heavy to be knocked over easily, but this could be another way of keeping your salad leaves out of reach of hungry slugs. 

How to stop slugs eating your lettuce without using chemicals The Green Fingered Blog
Dumped by someone else, but perfect for growing lettuce!

I laid the wheel down so that the side with the deeper cavity was facing upwards. I spread an old compost bag (another piece of plastic recycled!) inside to hold compost. 

If you have just a tyre, without the metal part of the wheel, you'd need to put some wire or wood across the hole by inserting them into the hollow parts of the tyre to hold your plastic sheet from falling out.  
How to stop slugs eating your lettuce without using chemicals The Green Fingered Blog
An old compost bag can also be recycled

I pierced the plastic sheet with scissors in a couple of places to allow excess water to drain out, and then filled the wheel with compost.

How to stop slugs eating your lettuce without using chemicals The Green Fingered Blog
Pierce a hole in the bottom for drainage

Once it was full and firmed down a bit, I cut off the excess plastic, leaving a container of compost ready for planting.

How to stop slugs eating your lettuce without using chemicals The Green Fingered Blog
Filled with compost and ready to plant


I sowed some seed in a tray a few weeks earlier, and then planted the seedlings into the wheel when they were big enough to handle.

For a guide to sowing your seeds before planting them out, go here:

Related: How to sow seeds - A Beginner's Guide

How to stop slugs eating your lettuce without using chemicals The Green Fingered Blog
Lettuce seedlings planted

I put the wheel on top of a water butt to keep it out of reach. It seems to fit perfectly on the lid, sitting fairly securely in this space that was otherwise unused. It seems this is too far out of the way for slugs and snails to get to, or it's just not somewhere they would ever have thought of exploring looking for a meal! 

How to stop slugs eating your lettuce without using chemicals The Green Fingered Blog
It fits snugly on top of the water butt, seemingly too high for slugs and snails

A couple of weeks further on and the lettuces are growing well, untouched by slug or snail, and nearly ready to pick. These are lollo rossa, with their red tinged leaves. I'll pick a few leaves at a time without disturbing the base of the plants. 

They'll then simply grow more leaves so that I can keep picking for some weeks before they either start trying to flower instead of producing more leaves, (at which point they get less tasty) or the winter weather eventually takes it's toll on them and they wither and die.

How to stop slugs eating your lettuce without using chemicals The Green Fingered Blog
After a couple of weeks, the lettuce is almost ready to start picking


Until then I can enjoy fresh home grown salad leaves from just outside the back door. They can be on my plate in just a few seconds after picking. 

Once the lollo rossa has finished I will replace them with seedlings of American Land Cress, and a spicy salad mix containing Mizuno, Mustard and Rocket. These are currently growing in trays on the windowsill.

All it cost was the price of a packet of seeds and some compost, and I've managed to recycle a piece of junk and the plastic bag the compost came in!  

If you're using any unusual containers to grow things in, or have managed to recycle something by using it in your garden, let me know - I'd love to see more examples of us gardeners reducing waste and pollution.

Happy growing, 
Paul 



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