No-beer slug bait recipe (yeast trap).

Beer traps have long been used for slug control but there is another way to trap them that doesn’t involve you sharing your precious brews (because, really, why should slugs get the good stuff?). Try this very basic yeast trap instead:

Ingredients: 

1 cup water

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp dry yeast

Instructions:

Throw everything into a jar and mix it together.  (You can double or triple this recipe if you are attending Slimapalooza and require lots of bait. It’s best to mix up a fresh batch each time you need it).

Raid your recycling bin for some shallow containers and sink whatever you scrounge up into your garden bed so that the tops of the containers are level with the surface of the soil. In effect, you’re creating a drop of doom/swimming pool sort of scenario.  Pour the bait mixture into the containers so that they are about 3/4 full.  Then go crack that beer and enjoy the rest of your evening.  Slugs come out at night so check your traps the next morning and dispose of the contents in the garbage.

What are your tried-and-true methods to combat slugs?

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Can we grow sweet potatoes on the Prairies?

Sweet potatoes, perhaps; yams, no.  Yams (Dioscorea alata) cannot grow on the Canadian Prairies – they are native to Asia and the Caribbean (where they are a perennial vine) and require a very long growing season to be able to produce tubers.

Under certain conditions we might be able to grow sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas), which are sometimes mistakenly called yams (at least in the grocery stores, where the names seem to be interchangeable). Due to our short growing season, sweet potatoes are a tricky crop to grow, as we often run out of time to produce tubers. There are short-season types available, however. Cultivars such as ‘Covington’, ‘Beauregard’, and the Canadian-bred ‘Radiance’ can produce crops in 110-120 days, and ‘Frazier White’ supposedly only needs 105 days.  This is, of course, if conditions are suitable. Due to the time constraints of our growing season (for example – Calgary only has 117 frost free days on average), starting the slips (unrooted vine cuttings) indoors is essential.

Sweet potatoes also require a long period of hot, dry weather to produce decently-sized tubers, and we all know that the weather doesn’t always co-operate in that regard.

If you have the heat and the time, sweet potatoes aren’t massively demanding plants, as far as inputs go (they are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, however). They don’t need extremely rich soil; in fact, too much nitrogen is detrimental to tuber production. Beyond watering consistently, you don’t have to do much to make this crop happy.  Sweet potatoes fare best in full to part sun, and will produce sizeable vines that resemble those of another plant in the same genus: morning glories (I. purpurea).

Although things will likely change in the future as breeding efforts continue, sweet potatoes are considered a novelty veggie on the Prairies (although they are grown as specialty food crops in provinces such as Ontario).  You can attempt to grow sweet potatoes in-ground or in a raised bed, but your best bet is probably to try them in containers in your greenhouse and see what you end up with – at the very least, you’ll have a lovely vining plant to enjoy all summer!

Do you grow sweet potatoes in your garden (I’d love to know – whether or not you live in Canada!).  If you enjoy eating sweet potatoes, what are your favourite ways to prepare them or use them in recipes?

Botany word of the month.

Farinaceous (syn. farinose)

If a plant is farinaceous, it sports a white, flour-like bloom on the surfaces of its leaves (and sometimes fruit and other plant parts).  This white coating is epicuticular wax (occasionally referred to as farina) found on the outer surfaces of plant cuticles. Why do plants need to be waxed, you may ask?  Well…let me tell you.  The wax helps to repel water and soil particles, which prevents nasty things like bacteria and moulds from attacking the plant.  It also limits the amount of water lost by the plant through transpiration, which is valuable if the plant is stuck in a drought situation.

If you’ve ever grown cabbages, you’ve likely noticed epicuticular wax on them. You’ve undoubtedly spotted it on some apple fruit. And if you delight in succulent gardening, you’re definitely aware of the fact that these adorable and addictively collectible plants are farinaceous.

Just to be a tad more confusing, the leaves (or other plant parts) of a farinaceous plant that have a coating of epicuticular wax are described as being glaucous.  So, that’s pretty much three botany words of the month in one post – bonus!  😉

One genus of farinaceous plants is Chenopodium, which counts lamb’s quarters (C. album) as its most notable (notorious?) member.  Many years ago, I grew magentaspreen (C. giganteum) – you can see evidence of the epicuticular wax on the leaves.

Magenta spreen

Further reading: The Botanist in the Kitchen, The Most Interesting Layer of Wax in the World.

The books are here!

Picking up today’s mail was a much more delightful experience than usual….

“Over the moon” pretty much describes the feeling.  ♥

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