29 May 2013

The Last Word on Slugs and Snails. Ever.

Last week began with the big bean-o that is Chelsea Press Day and ended on the edge of Wales at the Hay Festival. Both events were punctuated with the pitter patter of rain drops on canvas. The latter event was a talk between Monty Don and Lucy Boyd, daughter of the late chef Rose Gray, of River Cafe fame. She is head gardener at Petersham Nurseries and has an enviable knowledge of vegetable varieties: what to grow and how to cook.

Questions from the audience inevitably focused on Monty and had nothing to do with the guest whom he was interviewing. What do you think of the Chelsea judging row? What row. Would you like to know about my vegetable company? No I would not. What about slugs, Monty?

"I've never been anywhere without someone asking me about slugs," said Monty, not without humour. But the question did not go away. What about Lucy, what does she do about slugs, he asked?

"Me? Slugs? Nothing really..." she trailed off.

Monty filled in the gaps briskly: "My intention is to run an organic garden that's balanced, with prey as well as predators. If you get rid of slugs then there is less for their predators to eat and you upset the balance," he explained. "Slugs prefer to attack very young, diseased, damaged or stressed plants. Over-fed plants, by the way, are stressed." Monty does not have a slug problem because he has a healthy garden. "Healthy plants are not bothered by slugs." End of.

A national collection of hostas is held at Prince Charles' organic garden, Highgrove, by way of slight digression. They are proud specimens, as are Monty's.

"Now can we move on from slugs please," said Monty, ever the pro. "It's almost time for lunch."

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