Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Things that like broccoli

One of the worst things about my garden last year had to be the slugs and worms.  Hadn't had much of a problem with them they year before, but in 2010 I decided to mix it up a bit and plant some broccoli and beets in with my flowers in the back garden.
The beets (bulls blood, golden, and chioggia)  were awesome (even if I enjoyed them lots more than Rose or my dear husband did, both of them did eat some, and I got a kick out of them, at any rate).

The broccoli (Waltham 29) tasted really good (more tender and sweet than store bought heads) the one and only time I actually ate it, but jeez was it trouble with pests!

Broccoli, mid-summer 2010--see the beginnings of slug munching?
or maybe this was the cabbage worms after slug recovery?
at any rate, see my broccoli being eaten, and not by me?

First off were the slugs (ick, slugs!)...honestly, at first I had no idea why the leaves were looking like Swiss cheese, until one day Rose and I were out in the rain and noticed some orangy brown things stuck on the wall behind the garden.  Looked a bit closer and found they were clearly and unmistakeably slugs.  Looked more and more and noticed more and more--on the walls, on the ground, on the leaves of just about everything--just about everywhere.

Rose and I plucked an killed slugs for an hour or so until we couldn't find more.  In the process we learned that they are slimy, stick hard, and stain your hands a nasty orange yellow.

That very day I made some slug traps* out of soda bottles bated with yeast-sugar-water.  Also, my husband bought us some rubber gloves for slug picking.

Maybe this was enough to scare them away, or maybe it was just the dry sunny weather that followed, but after the great slug massacre of '10, we rarely saw them again (outside of our nightmares, of course).

But...just when I thought it was finally safe to enjoy a tasty batch of broccoli, we ran into trouble #2: cabbage worms.  No point telling these nasty things that broccoli isn't cabbage--believe me, they don't care a bit.
The worst part of these is that they refuse to leave--you may think you looked over every inch of the broccoli, soaked it carefully for an hour, cut and picked and carefully examined--doesn't matter a bit.  After that first clean batch that let me know that garden broccoli is very nice, every single time after that, I opened up my pot to find steamed broccoli mixed with, yep, steamed worms.  ick, ick, ick!

I'm sure there is something good and natural I could do to control them, but I never did come up with it.  After a few more attempts all ended with chucking the broccoli and worms together into the trash, I just waived my white flag and left the broccoli alone where it grew.  Truly, I finally yanked up the bent, smelly remains of stalks just last week--bad gardening habit, but I guess that's how much I wanted to just wish the whole mess away.

At the time I was so disgusted I swore I would never grow broccoli again, but the long cold winter has softened me a bit, I guess.  This week I put a few early broccoli seeds in the dirt.  But, I put them in one of my big pots away from the free ground.  And I plan on covering them with netting the instant they show themselves (and if I think too hard about it, I'll probably be tempted to go out and cover them right now before they've even had the chance to sprout under the dirt, just to be on the safe side!).  

And if I have the same troubles again, I guess giving up fresh broccoli is going to seem like a pretty fine deal if it lets me give up on these nasty things.

* I found my slug trap design online somewhere--cut the top 1/3 off a plastic soda bottle, inverted it over the rest of the bottle, buried it nearly to the top in the garden, filled it with bait.  The idea is to lure them in and, once in, they fall into the bottom part and can't slither back up.  Of course, I did find a few hanging out at the cap part dipping their [whatever it is that slugs dip, tongue? toe?] into the bait.  Believe me, I was neither too squeemish nor too tender-hearted to help them all the way in, not after the nastiness that lead to the trap idea, at any rate.


  1. We have lots of snails and slugs around here, in fact I can't buy snail bait fast enough. Your snail bait is a great idea - I usually put out shallow saucers of beer overnight:) in my vegetable patch.

  2. Masha, I think it's similar to the beer idea (fermented yeasty stuff)--and I usually have yeast on hand but rarely beer!--it did seem to work on the slugs, so that's good. Now if I could only find something to bait those worms!