Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose
Photo: Journey Worker Productions, CC SA 3.0 (C)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

What to do with your old jars, snails and slugs

(A long, thin Bavarian Mustard jar of snails and slugs next to the head of the rusted metal spike - at bottom left - under which those marauding molluscs have been sepulchered. NB mature corn base and roots in the background)

I was thinking about the story Rick told me in December about nutrient deficiency and soil, and corn and how the American Indians used to put a dead fish under the site of a corn plant, which would then feed on the rotted fish. My thought was to think of what the obvious analogue of a dead fish was that I had to hand - the obvious thing is snails...

And to think that Ive spent a year catching snails, and dashing them on the concrete for the birds to eat...Well enough of that. What a waste!

The obvious thing is then to have a small snail sized stick? (metal rod? cork?) and put it in each pot, and consider the space underneath it as a sort of 'snail repository' or 'snail sepulchre' and when one catches a snail, put it under the stick/cork vel aliud, and let it decompose under one inch or so of dirt. 

(Or perhaps 2 inches; I will have to think it through and experiment with that is the minimum length not to have the birds/flies engaging the soil for the putrescent snails, if this is indeed a problem). 

The point of the set rod/cork is that roots etc can grow around it, and it can be removed and replaced without causing massive structural/root damage. 

Another benefit of this is that one is utilizing a species (snails) which are mostly invading ones, and competitors for produce in the garden against humans, to enrich the garden.

I have never seen this recommended in a gardening book, so I thought Id write it up. If anyone has see it recommended, and details on best technique, let me know. 

Anyway, I thought this through in mid December 2014, and got a good chance to try it with the Melbourne rains of 13th Jan. I had put a ~5 inch iron stake I found on a deserted road out near the best of the corn plants about a week ago. On Jan 13th, when we had about 15mm of rain throughout the day, I went out with the most useless mustard jar I had because of its long thin shape, and used it to collect about 15 snails & slugs. I put some water in the jar, sealed the lid and left it overnight. On returning to it the morning after, the molluscs were all dead (I tapped them on the head as they tried to get out the jar as I was collecting). I was quite pleased about that; better a quick dead.

I then took out the spike, and put 4-5 snails in it down about 1 inch; and put 4 under a rock under the tomatoes, and another 4-5 or so under another tomato plant that is quite young (about a foot) in development. You can see the jar, and the head of the spike in the photo.

It was very satisfying to get the molluscs in light rain. Applying them was grotesque, but knowing that you will so use them as fertiliser makes catching them all the more satisfying. Not only are competitors - the kale-eating snails - dead, but they are also working for me now as fertiliser.

We will see how long the putrefaction and feeding to the plants takes, and whether I've buried them deeply enough. I suspect flies and bird and arthropods might come and dig them out. If I was going to do it again, I would use a thicker stake - perhaps 1 inch diameter, rather than 1.5cm which was the stake, because a large snail is more like 1 inch in diameter, not 1.5cm. I suppose I can tinker with the best form as I go along. 

To be continued...

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