Terra Viva Organics
a Quick & Easy Germination Test
Activities for January
Slugs and Snails
and Turnip Greens with Turnips
If the holidays have pretty
much wiped you out, here is a simple activity that will
not only save you money but will help organize your
garden for the upcoming year.
Like many gardeners, my
stash of seeds has accumulated over the years to the
extent that I often forget what varieties I’ve bought.
Some of these seed packets date back several years so
before I take a chance, basing my whole crop of sweet
corn on that package from 1997, I do a germination test.
A test can be done on as few as 5 seeds but a more accurate
prediction of germination percentage requires at least
I use a very low-tech
method of germinating seed: damp paper towels and plastic
bags. Moisten one towel and arrange your seed on the
sheet. If the seed is large (peas, beans, corn), apply
another moist towel on top and roll the 2 sheets together
into a tube. If the seed is small, the sheet can be
folded over and then rolled onto itself. Once rolled,
the paper towel should be placed inside a plastic bag
or Ziploc to keep it from drying out. Finally, place
the plastic bag in a warm spot (on top of the VCR, in
the kitchen, on top of the fridge).
Before rolling the sheets,
make sure the seeds are not too close to each other.
Seeds that don’t germinate can begin to mould and this
mould will infect nearby seeds if they’re too close
After about 2 days, check
the paper towel at least once a day to see if the seeds
have started to germinate. If the towels have started
to dry out, re-moisten them with a couple of drops of
water. Most seeds will germinate within 5 days at room
The majority of vegetable
seeds will keep for at least 3 years if they’ve been
kept cool & dry. The types of seed that don’t store
well include sweet corn, parsnips, Swiss chard, spinach,
and members of the Allium family (onions, leeks, scallions,
The percentage of seed
that do germinate in the towel will give you a pretty
good idea of how they’ll do in the garden. If only 50%
of the seeds germinated in the towel, you may want to
consider planting the seed closer together to compensate
for the seeds that don’t emerge. Alternatively, you
may want to peruse your favourite seed catalogue and
replace that seed package.
Finally, being the frugal
gardener that I am, I hate to see a germinated seed
go to waste. I pot-up whatever I can and keep them growing
under lights. In the case of root crops, I plant the
pre-germinated seed directly in the garden. I get a
much better stand by doing this, especially if the soil
is still slightly cold and would have caused un-germinated
seed to rot.
- Cut up your Christmas
tree and use the branches as a mulch over perennials
and around shrubs.
- Inspect perennial beds
for heaved plants during warm periods. Mulch around
heaved plants but don’t push them into the soil! Dig
and replant them in the spring.
- By mid-month, test
your onion, leek and chive seed. Start growing the
seeds that do germinate under lights.
- At the end of the month,
begin to select flowering tree & shrub branches
for forcing. Suggested plants: forsythia & vernal
Slugs and snails are molluscs
of the class Gastropoda that literally means ‘stomach
foot’. Gastropods, form the second largest class in
the animal kingdom, insects are the largest. For the
most part they are hermaphroditic. They contain both
male and female reproductive organs, allowing them
to mate with any mature animal of the same species.
Slugs are gray to
black or brown and soft-bodied, often with a soft
hump in the center; snails have a hard calcium shell.
Eggs are round, clear, and less than 1/4 in diameter,
often with a thick outer shell of calcium carbonate;
laid in clutches of three to 50, with some species
laying as many as 500 per year. Living throughout
North America, particularly in moist, temperate
climates. Snails require calcium for their shells,
so are less prevalent in areas where this mineral
content is low.
The first step is
making your yard and garden less desirable for these
creatures. Keep the garden clear of debris that
offer moist, dark hiding places and be careful about
over watering. Keep an eye on ground covers of ivy
and succulents, which are snail and slug, habitat.
Wait to mulch until the plants are well established
or the temperatures are over 70F.
Cultivating the soil
around your garden beds frequently will help destroy
snail and slug eggs before they hatch. Learn to
like ground beetles, garter snakes, moles and shrews
because they all prey on slugs. Slugs really love
Campanula carpatica, Chinese cabbage, delphinium,
gentian, hosta, lettuce, lilies, mustard greens,
petunias, marigolds, primroses, strawberries, and
trillium. This is the short list they like to eat
other things too. Here are a few ways to help discourage
slugs and snails from eating your garden:
Invite more birds
into your yard by installing a birdbath. Planting
a variety of fruit bearing shrubs is a good way
to encourage birds to stay in your garden. They
have hungry babies and slugs are a wonderful meal.
The larvae of some ground beetles and rove beetles
eat slugs. You can encourage them to set up house
in your garden by providing permanent grass pathways,
stones or planks and perennial beds that provide
shelter. A garden healthy in organic matter also
helps increase their number. Firefly larvae and
centipedes will also eat slug eggs.
Put up barriers to
slugs’ travels patterns. When slugs and snails travel
they secrete a layer of slime which protects their
foot and enables them to travel over a variety of
surfaces. Using some of the solutions below will
help you to keep the pests out of your garden.
- Crushed eggshells.
Their edges are too sharp for the slugs to pass
over. Wood ashes are caustic to slugs and snails
but in limited quantities won’t hurt your flowers.
- Coarse sand, sawdust,
human hair, coffee grounds & garden lime barriers
are difficult for slugs to cross.
- Copper strips,
10 cm/4 inches wide. Place rings around favorite
plants Slugs and snails are said to get an electric
shock when their ‘foot’ touches the metal and
they can’t cross the barriers.
- Diatomaceous earth
sprinkled 3 times a month, more if the rains are
frequent. Sand paper, cut a slit to the center
and another little circle at the center to accommodate
the plant stem. Remains of grapefruit halves turned
upside down in the garden and left overnight.
- Raise your garden
beds. The surface of a raised bed dries out more
quickly from a rainstorm making it a less attractive
place for slugs to hang out.
- Hand picking is
an excellent remedy. If the slime on the slugs
bothers you use gloves.
- The old stand by
of beer in yogurt containers works well. Cut a
rectangular opening on two sides of the yogurt
cup just below the opening. The put the lid on
and bury the container with the bottom of the
slits just above the soil line.
Varieties of plants
that are not attractive to slugs:
There are others that
slugs and snails don’t like very well especially
plants with tough ever green leaves.
Re-printed with permission
from Charlotte’s Gardens.
A wonderful resource for tips on growing a gorgeous
garden, making recipes they will rave about at your
next get together and the place to find Gourmet
Foods & Botanical Beauty Products. http://www.charlottesgardens.com/?rpol
- 2 bunches mustard
- 1 bunch turnip
greens with turnips
- 6 slices of bacon
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Soak all the greens
in salt water for 15 minutes. Any unwanted “guests”
will die, turn loose and float to the top. Rinse
3 times in fresh water.
- Place greens in
a large pot. Peel turnips and cut into 1/2-inch
cubes and add to greens. Fill with 2 1/2-inches
of water; add salt and begin heating.
- In separate skillet,
fry bacon slices (not crisp, just enough to free
most of the fat) and add both bacon and fat to
the greens. Bring greens to a boil; reduce heat
to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 2 hours
or until tender. Remove greens to a bowl and using
a knife and fork, chop them up, then pour some
of the soup (pot-liquor down South) over the greens.
Great served with pepper sauce (chili peppers