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Ask a Gardener: Slugs, slugs, slugs! How do I get rid of them?

Slugs are ravenous plant eaters that leave behind slimy trails of destruction. Remove any debris that gives them a place to hide during the day, to prevent their pattern of coming out to feed at night. Barriers of copper or rosemary are also reported to keep slugs at bay.
Slugs are ravenous plant eaters that leave behind slimy trails of destruction. Remove any debris that gives them a place to hide during the day, to prevent their pattern of coming out to feed at night. Barriers of copper or rosemary are also reported to keep slugs at bay. Associated Press

Question: Slugs, slugs, slugs! Besides baiting with pet- and kid-friendly baits, or attempting to drown them in beer, have you heard of any other way to safely control these monstrously destructive critters?

Answer: There’s a new player in the slug control game. It’s copper. Yes, that lovely metal that apparently works by the combination of it with the slug’s goo, produces a shock that keeps the slug from crossing the copper. Even slugs know when to call it quits!

Those who have raised beds will find this a nifty solution. Find copper foil strips used in making stained glass, the wider the better. Run the strip around the outside walls of the bed, about half way up. Attach with a staple gun or with small nails.

It will be like the Great Wall of Slug Control — it works! But for those who don’t have raised beds (you’d love them!) you can try what a reader swears by. Place rosemary twigs around beds and/or plants. My friend read about this technique, and though skeptical, tried it. Not having a large rosemary plants himself, he offered to prune one of the friends’ plants. He was astonished to find no slug activity where before he was losing every other seedling. Apparently slugs are deterred by the smell.

I predict, however, that this will be a something of a vacation for slug patrol, as our freezing winter temperatures will have done serious damage to these musillagenous pests and their eggs.

Climbing aids

Q: I’ve got so many vining plants to tie up — clematis and climbing roses. It’s a tedious job — got any suggestions?

A: Here’s a simple one that really saves time. Before you get started, cut lengths of twine and hang them around your neck. This way, you’re not bending repeatedly, groping for twine, and they’re immediately available without cutting each one separately.

Save on potting soil

Q: I bought several very large pots to put on my patio, and was blown away with what they cost. Now that it’s time to fill them with bagged soil, but I’m nearing the end of what I can afford. Any way around this problem? Could I put smaller pots in the larger ones to take up space?

A: Don’t waste the effort of putting smaller pots in the larger ones. There’s an infinitely easier way to eliminate the weight and amount of soil needed in pots.

Most plants only require 8” or so of soil. Some people fill with packing peanuts or stones, but I find that to be messy if you want to eventually empty the large pot. My suggestion for a long-lasting and less labor-intensive filler is spraying foam insulation (available in all hardware or big box stores) into the bottom of the pots.

But there’s a critically important step before you spray. Place a dowel or dowels in the drain holes of the big pot to keep the holes from plugging up with the foam. Your plants need drainage! Remove the dowels after the foam has hardened.

Tool saver

Q: I keep losing tools in my garden, no matter how hard I try to keep track of them. Any ideas that might help, other than a brain transplant?

A: I would venture to say that every single gardener has at one time or another, lost a tool. So don’t beat yourself up. I sympathize with your problem. I won’t admit to how many gardening tools I have sifted out of my compost!

The good news is, I found an easy way to keep better track of gardening hand tools. I simply spray the handles the most garish color of paint I can find. Fluorescent pink, yellow, and orange are some of the best.

Even if you inadvertently leave your tool partially under branches or clippings, the colored handle can signal you to retrieve it before it is composted or lost for all time.

Kathleen Bander of Bellingham is a life-long gardener. Her column will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you'd like answered in the column, please email it to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com. For more gardening information online, go to whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg.html.

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