Harvest by Hillary

Blogging about my journey to living a more sustainable and organic life


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Animals in the Garden: Slugs

I am so excited to write yet another “Animals in the Garden” post!

This post will especially appeal to all the¬†entomologists out there…the small number of you that there are… But, even if insects don’t appeal to you this post will be extremely beneficial!

Slugs specifically are “animals” that are important for gardeners to be aware of.

Slugs are in a sense “shell less” snails. Slugs are a type of mollusc and have soft and smooth “squishy” bodies. There bodies are not waterproof so in order to avoid drying up to a crisp on a hot summer’s day they bury into wet, damp environments. Where’s a wet, damp environment you can think of that these animals would love? Your garden!

Slugs love to live in gardens, but this can affect your garden’s productivity and health. Slugs not only love to live in garden soil, but they love to eat the garden’s contents. Whatever your garden has growing in it, may it be flowers, vegetables, berries, or seedlings you bet these little guys will devour everything!

The other day when Emma and I were turning over some beds we spotted this little guy creeping around:

Menacing slug in the garden

Menacing slug in the garden

I know it is hard to see ,but if you look toward the center of the photo you can find him. This particular slug is a leopard slug and they are usually between 2-4 inches long. They are called Leopard Slugs because of their distinctive leopard-like color patterns. While it is not crucial to know each different type of slug, for they all will destroy your garden, It is important to know the basic general characteristics of slugs so you can spot them before they harm your plants.

Close-up of a leopard slug

Close-up of a leopard slug

Now I know you must be thinking, so what do I do if I find these little guys? While there are many conventional, strong pesticides that would do the job in a second, if you are running an organically grown garden this way is out of question. I also believe finding other ways of pest prevention is more fun and rewarding, so I researched some organic ways to deal with slugs. This is what I found!

To deal with slugs organically you can:

1. Add a super cool and fancy “water feature” to your garden like a small pond. This will attract an array of slug’s natural predators such as salamanders, snakes, toads, ducks, beetles and turtles

(This way really is not the route to go if you: a) have no space b) have no time c) have no money, but it sounded cool so, I wanted to include it!)

2. Clear you garden of damp, wet, and warm places such as random boards, large rocks, and other debris laying on the ground.

3. Stage a “slug stake-out” night and go out when slugs are active once it turns dark. You can remove them by picking up the slugs and placing individuals in a container of soapy water.

(this way seems the most fun…”late night in the garden” anyone?

4. Pour coffee over them. There have been studies by the USDA that show that caffeine can be deadly to these little rascals.

5. I also read that placing cracked egg shells around new seedlings can help repel slugs away from newly developing plants.

6. Use an organic “slugicide”. They are easy to find online!

(This is the easiest…and most boring way to attack slugs)

Those are 6 ways to help your garden combat a slug epidemic! Those are just my personal favorite ways I found to deal with slugs, but if you search online there are tons of organic recipes for slugicides and concoctions to eliminate slugs. If we notice that the slugs are eating away our plants I will let you all know how we combat our problem!

Also it is important to note that not all slugs will loop like this leopard slug. Slugs come in a shapes and sizes. So if you find something slimy looking, like a snail with no shell, you have found a slug!

To end this “Animals in the Garden” post I will leave you all with this image I found while doing my research:


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Week of Rain and Research

Hello all!

I’m almost to the end of week 3 of my internship and despite the massive amounts of rain this week Emma and I still managed to accomplished nearly everything on our to-do list.

Monday, was a pretty successful day despite the bad weather from hurricane Andrea. Emma and I went down early that morning to meet Jen to prep the upper rows for squash and cherry tomato planting. We laid down the row covers and secured with rocks, while Jen set up the irrigation system for each row. We covered every row, except for the whole first row because we were just short of the covering. So close, yet so far…

Since the weather was so bad Monday afternoon, we figured Tuesday wasn’t looking so good either so we cancelled weekly lunch in the garden. ūüė¶ We had plans to make a new vegan recipe for Swiss Chard and Garlic Scape dip, but now we have to wait until next week. For those of you interested in getting that recipe be sure to keep an eye out for the post on Emma’s blog,¬†http://eatingwithemma.tumblr.com/ .

The next day,Tuesday, was actually quite a nice day! So we could have had lunch in the garden…but better safe then sorry, I guess! With the nice weather we were able to plant an entire bed of jalapenos and another bed with some very important tomatoes.

These “very important” tomatoes are none other than the tomatoes I will be studying for my biology research project! I am so excited to start conducting research and manipulating these little guys! ¬†Right now I am only in the developing stages, caring for the newly planted seeds, but I’m ecstatic things are up and running! The question I built my project on is how can manipulating growing conditions of tomato plants affect the yield and quality of tomato fruits. In turn I want to investigate whether it is more sustainable to grow greater quantities of fruit that lack flavor and nutrient composition or to grow lower quantities of nutrient dense fruit and relate this to food security and health.

I am still in the developing stages of my investigation, but I have some time to decide where my research will go. The best part about this project is that I can take it wherever I please, so the possibilities are endless (within reason of course)!

Another task I completed Tuesday was trimming off the flowers from the herbs. After trimming, my hands smelled like rosemary for the rest of the day, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing! While, I was trimming I began thinking about how herbs have a reputation for having incredible health benefits.

With this thought, I decided to conduct a mini side research project (currently in the works) about natural grown herbs and how they can help improve athletic performance.

Last year's picture of the herb beds

Last year’s picture of the herb beds

As mentioned in my “About Me” page I talked about how I have been a runner for years. Being a runner I am very conscious about what I put in my body. Food is fuel in my mind and I want to eat whatever it is that will make me stronger and faster. Conducting this research has been very interesting and I will be posting a follow-up post about my findings in a week or two, so keep a look out!

Me running!

Me running!

Moving on from research, Wednesday was a transplant day for Emma and I and we thinned our crowded tomato sections in the demonstration beds. We moved the extra plants to a free bed and still had some extras so we planted 11 plants down at the Early Learning Center across the street. I’m sure the little kids will love picking the tomatoes once they begin fruiting!

That brings us to today, which has been nothing but dreary and rainy. I really hope tomorrow isn’t as bad so the squash and cherry tomato rows can get planted. But, for now I will continue with research and cross my fingers for the next week to be filled with sun!


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Animals in the Garden

This post is about one of my favorite things…BIRDS!

Last Wednesday, Emma and I were harvesting chamomile when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye…a baby bird! Right behind Emma at the far side of the garden was a little baby bird crying for food. He or she was adorable.

Naturally, Emma and I assumed the baby was from the song sparrow family nesting in one of the beds near the shed and we figured he got ambitious and left the nest getting lost in the process. We took pictures of the little guy and let him be while he continued to cry for help.

After sometime one of the parent song sparrows found the baby and we watched as the mother or father bird first fed and then led the baby back to the nest. Emma and I thought this was the cutest thing ever and after the baby bird was safely back home we got back to work and went on with our day.

Now, that may seem like a satisfactory nature story in itself, but just wait! Caution: PLOT TWIST APPROACHING!

The next day we were in the garden with Tod, our supervisor and my previous Ornithology professor, mowing under the fence and mowing back the chamomile. Once again Emma and I saw the baby bird lost again in the same spot. We showed Tod and told him our story from the day before. After a couple of minutes Tod broke the horrifying news.

The baby song sparrow was not in reality a song sparrow but, a baby COWBIRD. I was shocked…

So, why I am dramatizing this whole thing that is seemingly not that interesting? Well, for someone who has studied birds, I was ecstatic to see what I learned last semester playing out in the real natural world.

For some light background, a Cowbird is a bird that lives in North America that acts as a “brood parasite.” A brood parasite is an animal that uses other animals of the same or different species to raise their young. Cowbirds do this by depositing eggs in nests of other species (such as robins or SONG SPARROWS) and relies on that species to raise their young.

Brown headed Cowbird Common to Connecticut

Brown headed Cowbird
Common to Connecticut

Why do Cowbirds do this? Well, think about it…this animal behavior is an evolutionary marvel! While Song Sparrows and Robins are wasting and investing energy in an offspring that isn’t their own, the Cowbirds are using their energy to forage and produce even more offspring raising their fitness. Therefore, the Cowbirds are the species who get the upper hand!

Baby Cowbird invading a nest of other bird species

Baby Cowbird invading a nest of another bird species

This my friends is why I was so interested in the baby bird being a Cowbird, it was an act of biology at its finest!

I know you may think post didn’t have much to do with sustainability or gardening, but animals definitely do connect to gardening and sustainability in more ways than one. Birds in particular can be pests to gardens or beneficiaries to gardens by either eating crops or eating insects that can act as other pests. Everything in nature is connected and it is important to remember that your garden will be affected by nature in ways that you can and can’t control and its best to not become frustrated with natures ways but instead to appreciate and embrace it!