Each time the sun has made an appearance this past month is cause for Squamish gardeners to celebrate. The lack of sun and cool nights are not conducive to optimal growth. These conditions can set back the bloom production of heat-sensitive perennials and veggies that like sun can turn yellow, shrivel and have stunted growth.
Our gardens are wet and some plants can thrive and look fantastic while others suffer. It seems to be the reverse law of averages every year that sends torrents of rain our way just as the peonies are blooming.
At the pool this morning, an experienced group of growers was lamenting the lack of sun. Some plants are certainly lagging behind, but if like me you are growing cruciferous vegetables, lettuces, kale and chard, these beauties are thriving.
With all the rain you will probably see an increase in the slug and snail population. They feed on tender shoots, demolish seedlings and wreak havoc on your leafy greens and lush plants like hostas.
Wet soil is like a party for slugs and snails. They travel on a large, muscle-like “foot” and secrete a slimy trail to smooth their way. They need moisture to live and will avoid dry conditions. They feed mainly at night and on wet, cloudy days, so considering the weather these past few weeks, they must be busy.
When dealing with pests in the garden, it is always helpful to understand the life cycle of the pest you are dealing with. The eggs of these Mollusca (slugs and snails) are round and transparent and you will find them in clumps in the soil and under rocks. Try not to leave garden debris, old pots, board, etc. laying about as these make wonderful laying sites and places to hide.
Handpicking is your most environmentally sensitive and easy solution. Slugs are territorial and long-lived, so regularly taking them out of the garden does help to lower the population.
Do your slug patrol late at night (with a light) or early in the morning. I just toss them into a bucket of hot soapy water and later dispose of it. There are some proponents of using beer to trap Mollusca. It does work but is time consuming and fiddly as you have to keep re-filling the little dish you put the beer in. Personally I prefer to drink my beer on the deck, not share it with slugs.
You can also try laying down half a hollowed out cantaloupe, sheets of damp newspaper, or boards on the soil and then kill any slugs you find in the morning trapped underneath.
Some people have success with repellent materials. Copper and other metals repel slugs. Try strips of copper or copper tape around the edges of the beds, but remember, this only works if the area you have enclosed is free of slugs to begin with.
The problem with repellent dusts like sharp sand, egg shells or diatomaceous earth is that the ground needs to stay dry. They are not as effective in damp conditions so this usually isn’t an effective choice for our area.
Sometimes I find an area of the garden where the slugs are enjoying a plant I don’t particularly care deeply for and use it as a sacrifice. Consider it garden stewardship that helps maintain the health of your other plants that are more vital.
Slugs and snails can coexist with humans and plants, and when you are out patrolling the garden, remind yourself that they are terrific decomposers of organic matter in the garden. Everything is good in moderation and let’s keep our fingers crossed for sun.