Slugs, Bugs and Synchronous Tugs

It never ceases to amaze me just how in tune we can naturally be, just how easily we can over-think the message, and how the Universe finds ways to amp up the message in ways we finally recognize. I wish I’d taken a photo this morning, but some of you will probably be relieved I didn’t! 😉

Something’s been eating my zinnias. And all my tender seedlings, including radishes and marigolds! And chowing my dwarf Siberian kale like it’s God’s gift to brassicas. Maybe it is, but how would I know having only eaten one cayenne peppered leaf?! Last week I “asked” what to do and got the urge to put David’s coffee grounds around some of my plants. Lo and behold, they seemed much better. No new holes.

That’s where I started over-thinking things. “What does coffee have in it? Nitrogen. Hmmm, my plants must be low nitrogen. Healthy plants don’t get eaten by garden pests. I better compost.” (Not that compost’s ever a bad idea, but the specific message when I asked was to use coffee.)

This week, I spent my odd hours and minutes between sessions adding more and more compost to my plants. With all the leaf mulch, this is no small task, because you don’t want to mix the mulch in with the compost. If you do that, you’ll actually deplete the soil instead of amending it, as the leaves or wood chips break down and rob nitrogen. Mulch stays on top so I don’t become a monocrop dandelion farmer, but to compost effectively means carefully moving the mulch and adding the compost, then replacing the mulch on top. For each and every plant. This method took awhile, but combined with some heavy rain, it had my plants growing really well.

And yet, they still had new holes! Lots and lots of holes. The dwarf Siberian kale looks downright embarrassing. I thought marigolds were a garden pest deterrent, but you’d think these things were the most delicious stuff ever. Munch, munch. And my dill? Gone. My zinnias? Gone or turned to green lace. What the heck?

Here’s where Nature put me back on the remedial program ‘cuz apparently, my mind’s so quick I’m slow.

I brought in some of my healthy Winterbor kale leaves last night and noticed a little, tiny slug on there. Ew, but nothing a little water didn’t remedy. I stared at David’s used coffee grounds (which I usually just add to our compost bin) while washing off the slug and wondering what’s eating the dwarf Siberian kale. Slow, slow, slow!

This morning, I woke up really early and while contemplating my munched out garden, I got the sudden urge to open the back door and see if the daisies had bloomed yet. They hadn’t, but guess who I saw slowly climbing our garage wall? Mama Slug. This was no 3/4″ kiddo, but a full on slimy three incher, happily sliding up the wall, probably towards my front yard zinnias. Still no lightbulbs going off in my brain yet.

I came in and opened an email about 15 reasons to have a permaculture herb spiral. In my reply, I mentioned my zinnias and tender seedlings, feeling a bit like one of the three bears: “Someone’s been eating in my garden!” Still not clicking. Finally, I received another email from Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways and read an article called “Garden with Attitude,” all about not expecting 100% germination and success in an organic garden. The author specifically mentions zinnias, slugs and … coffee as an effective slug deterrent!

Ding, ding, ding. The over-thinking slow child has finally received Nature’s original message: spread coffee grounds around the plants you want to save.

I’m sharing this because so often we do immediately receive the answer to our asking, but we can easily over-think, complicate or dismiss things that seem too simple. Nothing’s ever wasted, though. In my quest to discover how to deter leaf hoppers and grass hoppers — the ones I thought were eating my plants — I learned some valuable things, too:

1) Having a wild lawn doesn’t necessarily translate to “bugs, you eat the weeds, and I’ll eat the garden.” I ran into my permaculture teacher at the Farmers Market this weekend and she said, “Well, you’ve created this wonderful hotel for leaf hoppers, and now you’re feeding them dinner! Cut your lawn.” Doh! She then shared some of her own create-a-habitat then feed-the-critters stories.

2) Cayenne pepper deters many bugs, but don’t put it on melon leaves. They hate it! Glad she shared that with me, because I might have ruined a lot of crops that way.

3) Diatomaceous Earth really does kill aphids, but I backed off using it so much when I saw a lady bug wanting to do her job.

4) It’s not just the faery in me that’s been wanting flowers. It’s also the would be lazy gardener trying to create a positive ecosystem to attract predator bugs to do my work for me. I miss my wasps in Madison! I can now feel justified in buying some healthy starts of flowering plants even if I can’t eat those plants. Their beauty will also serve a practical purpose.

5) Organic gardening is a lesson in non-attachment and the importance of planting many seeds. Organic gardening is a potent metaphor for life, and Nature shares abundant lessons when we choose to listen.

Wishing all you gardeners and creators much growth and abundance on the ever winding journey!

5 responses to this post.

  1. About gardening please gain some more knowledge about the EM .Effective Micro-Organism,— which I mailed you the link in my comment in combination about Water …

    you may compost with the EM also your Green Rubbish — it is amazing what you can do with it … research on it …. you can even return lakes to former healthy state which are on the brink of toppling over …. ❤ and blessings from


  2. Thanks, yes, I just checked it out again. It’s on my list of possible things to explore. ❤ and blessings!


  3. Hi Laura — What a Goddess send this is for me! Thank you. I had to chuckle, as my first round of lettuce went to slugs and I throw my coffee grounds in the garbage (not even the compost) every day. Not anymore! I’ll try surrounding my “lacy” plants with the coffee and see what happens. Blessings and love for this most practical post, Alia


  4. Wonderful, Alia! Happy to pass along the help.

    @ContraMary, I would love to get our brown fields coordinator looking at the EM on a larger scale. So many layers of projects here!


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