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Help and advice

Prize-winning pumpkins and wacky watering!

by Cheryl Ridgewell

My name is Cheryl Ridgewell, I have a plot roughly the size of 600 square yards on Rancliffe Allotments in Leicester.

Cheryls allotment in Leicester

In April 2019 I was lucky enough to be selected for the Nematode challenge.
I grow potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohl rabi, carrots, parsnip, beetroot, celery, tomatoes, leeks, asparagus, cucumber, chillies, pumpkins, butternut squash, other squashes, a range of beans, strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries – and there are probably a few things I have missed too! Slugs have always been an issue.

They eat/attack nearly all of the above, apart from the asparagus, raspberries, rhubarb and leeks). They decimated the celery and brassicas last year despite dry weather. They even attacked the onions, garlic and chillies in 2018. I’ve used slug pellets, wool slug pellets, beer traps and picking them off. Whilst the wool pellets were useless, the traditional slug pellets are effective, but I don't like to constantly use these as I worry for the wildlife. Picking off is fine, but you need to do that regular - in the dark sometimes to get them while they-re active, and it’s not always feasible. The last time i did this i had 145 slugs and 57 snails to dispose of! Beer traps are good but again not always feasible. I do try to encourage wildlife. I have insect friendly plants, a bird feeder and I’m hoping to build a pond soon. I have a resident toad, visiting robins and goldfinches and the usual sparrows and pigeons. I get foxes, frogs, hedgehogs, crows, magpies and thrushes. We've had a visiting heron and in 2018 a pair of partridges and woodpeckers.

At the beginning of May 2019, I applied the first lot of nematodes.
I had already planted one lot of cauliflowers and they had been somewhat nibbled on. The day after I had applied the nematodes, I noticed a lot of snail shells about – something I have not notices before, whether this was coincidence or not I’m not sure. I decided to risk planting the second batch of cauliflowers. I also planted the runner beans and butter beans as small plants. Normally I sprinkle around with slug pellets as the bean plants normally vanish overnight if I don’t. The cauliflowers survived and here they are several weeks later.

I applied the remaining packs of nematodes throughout the growing season. I am impressed with the results. Compared to previous years, when the slugs seem to chomp on most of the produce, I noticed there was a lot less slug damage. The celery, onions, garlic, chillies weren’t touched at all, there was very little damage on the strawberries and the squash / pumpkin plants survived (I went on to win the allotment’s heaviest pumpkin last year, which weighed in at a hefty 15st lbs!) The potatoes were mostly ok, just a few with slug holes, and there was a little damage to a couple of broad bean pods. After the first application, I never saw another snail and very few slugs. The slugs I did see where huge though, one about the same thickness as the hose pipe! I’d like to thank BASF for giving me the opportunity to try the nematodes. I have often looked at them and dismissed the idea because of the cost. It was hard work applying them – more so in the fact I had to water before and after in the first few applications because the ground was so dry, and later on anybody watching me would have thought I was crazy when I was wondering around seemingly watering the plot with a watering can in the pouring rain! It was time-consuming and for that reason I am not sure I would bother with them again. However, if it was in my garden at home, I would most definitely use them. To find out more about Nemaslug Slug Killer CLICK HERE.

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