The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry

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email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works as gregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
Book of Concord Selections
Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Norma A. Boeckler Author's Page

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Monday, June 1, 2015

The Despised and Little Ones of the Garden

After I read several books that included the ichneumon wasp,
they began appearing before my eyes.

The despised and little ones of the garden get little attention, and when they do, it is often to get rid of them. Last night I let Sassy outside, since we cannot have a doggy door. I noticed our nightly slug had crawled under the kitchen door  and was slowly moving inland, at breakneck speed.

We get one a night, unless it is raining hard. Then several will show up. One was so large and fat that I thought the gasket on the door was loose.

When I woke up later and turned on the lights, that same slug did a quick u-turn and began working its way back to the door.

People often rant about how much they hate slugs. A criticism against Ruth Stout's mulch gardening efforts was - "She had a lot of slugs." True, when one begins to compost and mulch, the slug population increases along with all the other soil and decomposition creatures.

Those who believe in Creation might consider God's purpose. We now realize that the lowly maggot is an excellent medical tool for treating infections, since it eats the diseased flesh and excretes an antibiotic, far better but less attractive than pills.

I thought Rodale, the Jerusalem and Mecca of organic gardening, would have some kind words about slugs, but this article dismisses slugs as annoying pests.

For every slug you see above ground, three or four are underground, foraging in the soil. Both snails and slugs possess a radula, a series of chitinous teeth not unlike a wood rasp, which allows these garden gastropods to grind their food down to very tiny particles. Many slugs and snails are capable of digesting cellulose. 

Snails and slugs have a place in the soil food web. They speed decomposition and decay by shredding their food before they consume it. Like earthworms and some of the arthropods, they open up organic matter so that fungi and bacteria can get at it. Their underground travels create pathways for air, water, and roots; the slime they produce helps bind soil. They themselves are a food source for ground and rove beetles (particularly in their larval stages), spiders, garden snakes, salamanders, lizards, and birds. Some nematodes that subsist on slugs are now available commercially; these blind worms “heat-sink” in on a hapless slug, parts of which become a meal for the successful nematode while the remainder is left to bacterial and fungal colonization and decay. 

When gastropods are part of a healthy food web, their numbers are controlled; they do not become the serious pests they can be in a garden where the use of chemicals and other damaging practices has thrown the system out of balance.

Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 1484-1491). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

Feeling sluggish? These spineless creatures
do their work in great numbers but never at high speed.

Slugs have rasping mouths, even though everything else seems to be mucous or slime, making them very vulnerable and a favorite food for ducks, garter snakes, toads, and starlings. On the negative side, they chew on living plants, leaving holes in the leaves, and prey upon those new tender shoots, like the plants just bought at the nursery - tiny leaves on tiny plants in tiny cardboard pots.

I find this kind of damage on a limited number
of young plants, sunflower seedlings and new vines.

Slugs are mostly underground and quite numerous, so battling to eliminate them is rather futile. As mentioned many times before, hosting pest eaters is a great way to have pest control for free.

I will concede that first-aid may be needed for new plants struggling to grow beyond the first few leaves. I would use diatomaceous earth as my first choice. Egg shells, beer traps, and some other green controls are in this linked article

Here our secondary consumer is the ground beetle that captures and consumes the immature slug.


Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 243-244). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

Firefly larvae live under or on the ground and are generalist predators, consuming the likes of slugs, snails, worms, and various insect larvae. Their plated, armorlike exterior affords protection from other predators.


Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 915-917). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

Rove beetles are distinguished by their short wing covers and exposed, segmented abdomen. Adult beetles like the one shown here consume the same prey as their fast-moving larvae—termites, slugs, snails, root maggots, and various other insects.


Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 1033-1034). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 



Earthworms will also travel inside, sometimes in a great migration of 20-25 in the kitchen. They are not regulars but they seem to come inside as part of a group. Peer pressure? 

Creation gardeners do their best to increase the earthworm population. Red wigglers are ideal, but they need food to do their work. Dropping them onto un-nourished soil will limit what they do best. But using them with compost and mulch will multiply their numbers beyond belief. They are not only the ultimate mixers and tunneling agents, they also multiply and make useful the chemicals needed by plants. I dropped 4,000 earthworms around the growing areas, on the compost, and around the perimeter of the yard. I have not dug anywhere this year without plenty of red wigglers already on duty.

Plants create their own mulch all the time, shedding leaves and organic matter, roots growing and rotting, so earthworms are a natural in the lawn. One section of the main rose garden has a colony of white clover growing unhindered. Some would get rid of it, but I see it as a McDonald's for bees and a nitrogen fixer for the roses.


I did not notice flower flies in the garden
until I read about them in Sharon Lovejoy's book, A Blessing of Toads.
They are not tiny bees but insects whose babies eat pests like aphids.
I see them all the time now.

If bees like a plant, other nectar and pollen creatures will also depend on it. We do not need a degree in science to know about all of them, but it is good to look for them and increase the support for them. 

To paraphrase Luther, God delights to use the despised and little ones in the garden to do His best work. A teaspoon of soil contains up to three miles of fungal tubes, which are essential in feeding and protecting plants. They even trap and kill destructive nematodes, delivering the nematode innards to the hungry plant.

The great and wise ones in the visible church are really parasites. They live off the labor of the very congregations and pastors they despise, but the little ones are doing the Gospel ministry while brief and meaningless honors go to their oppressors.



The conservative Lutheran leaders eat this up
and close traditional, liturgical congregations.
A corrupt tree (unfaith) can only bear evil fruit.

Don't ask WELS consultants what they charge.
You will have a heart attack.