Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lions, and Lambs and Slugs? Oh, My! by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family

They say ‘If March Comes in like a Lion it will go out like a Lamb’. Unfortunately I did not record the exact temperature or weather of March 1st in my journal. Yet it must have been pleasant as it was the day I first saw Mr. Mockingbird! So, lamb it was. Lamb beginnings means I must prepare for a Lion’s end. Or perhaps not!

As I write, it is Sunday afternoon and you would think the Lamb was being shorn by the size of the snow flakes floating past my window. White fluffy fleecy clumps taking their sweet time before touching ground. Most seem to just hover as if they really had no destination. I’m enjoying the nonchalance of it all. Hypnotizing actually.

Allow me to regress to another day, another window, another view, and a completely different sensation. This past Friday marked the return of the Bohemian or is it Cedar Waxwing? The exact arrival of these feathered nomads is unpredictable. Through the mists of mystery they descend.

I watched transfixed as they feasted on the bountiful berries of the Hawthorn outside my window. They flitted and flew between gluttonous gorging that could only be compared to Renaissance Revelry. It is rumored that these masked migratory birds will often become intoxicated on fermented fruit. I had hoped to witness a telltale topsy turvy turn of flight. Do they zig zag? Stagger? Do they wrap wing around feathered back of a companion and chirp ‘I love you man….?’

No “Frat Party” goings on were witnessed other than the mess left in the waxwings wake. They strip branches of berry and fruit before making their way to the next feeding ground. Plops of berry red, stems, feathers and other evidence peppered the ground below. Walking the sidewalks of the eastern most part of Munjoy Hill, the evidence was every where. The naked Hawthorns will not remain so for long. The red tinged Hawthorn blossoms will soon take hold then full foliage will offer shade and shelter for birds that decide to summer ‘on the hill’.

Gardening and wildlife truly do go hand in hand. Yet, I can not claim a Lion or a Lamb has ever found its way to one of my gardens. Live or otherwise.

Unfortunately not all wildlife is beneficial. (imagine at this moment threatening music playing slowly and hauntingly in the background)

Sooner than we can sometimes imagine one of the most dreaded, slimiest and all around despicable pests will emerge….

The SLUG. Is it a coincidence that ‘Slug’ rhymes with ‘ugh’? I think not. . No one, but no one can detest these gross gastropods more than yours truly. Even before my gardening days I would cringe at the thought of this beast. Any creature that slivers through their own slime can not be good

Now that I know of the damage these demons of dampness do inflict, I loathe them all the more. Slugs can be the most destructive and hardest garden intruder to control. Even the eggs, as they travel through the soil are harmful, especially to tender germinating seedlings. Yuck, I can not believe I used ‘tender’ and ‘slug’ in the same paragraph! (Imagine the music at a loud crescendo right about now!)

It is time we take up arms against the slug! Yes, now! Get the buggers before they get you and your Hostas, Lupines, and whatever delicacy they devour.

There are many excellent slug/snail baits and deterrents on the market today, many of which are carried by Skillin’s. As in any pesticide organic or otherwise read the manufacturers directions as printed on the label BEFORE you purchase and again each time before use. One of my favorites is diatomaceous earth. Just don’t ask me to spell it or say it more than once.

Many gardeners swear by more homegrown methods such as beer/yeast traps, copper sheeting or wire, eggshells, coffee grounds. I’ve tried almost all. I’m not a big proponent of traps that bait. I do not want to attract and once done, I do not want to deal with the remains.

Pine needles are also known to be a less than favorite ground cover for slugs. If you aren’t lucky enough to have your own, ask a neighbor. You may to do your own raking but it will be worth it.

Before you sprinkle, pour or hand pick take the time to do the prep work. Eliminate before you add.

Slugs lurk under dead leaves, remnants of spent perennials and winter die back. It could be weeks before you see your first slug yet they are there. Act before you are forced to react! The solution is simple. Keep your beds clean.

As the ground thaws and air warms start your regimen:

Tools needed: Mud Gloves, hand rake, pruners, grass clippers, knee pads (or Leg gear that is also waterproof/resistance highly recommended. The ground may seem dry but after kneeling on it for a while you’d be surprised how much moisture is present), a bucket or wheel barrow to collect debris. Save bucket for future use.

Plan: Remove any debris from your garden. This includes any dead plant material not cut back at the end of the season, fallen leaves, twigs even paper or other materials that made their way into your garden. Rake, remove and discard existing bark mulch.

Slugs hate sun. Deciduous trees and shrubs are still sans leaves so what better punishment then to expose the creature to the sun. Turn over any rocks, bricks, or other decorative elements that have over wintered in your garden. Keep a bucket of sudsy salted water close at hand. The perfect receptacle for the slugs that cross your path.

Spring clean your garden as if your mother was coming to visit! It may not pass the white glove test, but if you practice these preventative measures there will be less slugs to test your patience.

If all of this seems like work to you, there are other solutions. Many Ducks and some smaller breeds of hens find slugs a delicacy…..

Lamb or Lion, does it really matter? All I know is that March is a marvelous month, in spite of the ‘Ides’ that we were to beware of.

The flower show has passed, the boat show is history, St. Patrick’s Day is coming and going. This March finds Easter arriving much too early for most. For many, all these dates come and go. Nevertheless there is one day in March that has masses participating in a count down only to rival the number of days to Christmas. On March 20, 2008 at precisely 1:48 AM EDT the sun will cross directly over the Earth’s Equator giving us the Vernal Equinox better known as THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING. A day to celebrate be you a lion or a lamb!

for Skillin's Greenhouses
written 3/16/2008
posted 3/19/2008

1 comment:

trobertson said...

Given your current topic, I thought you might be interested in this recent press release. The SlugsAway slug fence is a safe and effective (if not humorous) way to keep slugs at bay without harming the environment, other animals, or even the slugs themselves. More information on SlugsAway can be found at

Slug Fence Protects Garden and Environment

Victoria, B.C….March 10, 2008…If the best offence really is a good defence, then the battle against destructive garden slugs is best waged early in the season--well before they start to devour valued plants and flowers. The SlugsAway™ electronic slug and snail fence from Contech Electronics is a unique, chemical-free way to protect your garden and the environment around it.

SlugsAway--a safe and effective alternative to slug and snail baits--surrounds a flower bed, raised vegetable garden, or favorite planting of new seedlings with a low, compact fence that forms a harmless, yet effective, electronic barrier. When a slug or snail attempts to climb the fence, it receives a mild static sensation (undetectable to pets and humans), causing it to change its path away from the protected area.

Left unchecked, slugs and snails can cause significant damage in little time. While feasting on seedlings, strawberries, dahlias, hostas and more, slugs can consume several times their own body weight in a single night. Eradication or control of slugs and snails can be difficult and costly, and traditional options — like pesticides containing metaldehyde — can be toxic to pets and wildlife. Also, some slug baits can prove less effective in rainy weather, and need to be reapplied throughout the season. SlugsAway is easy to set up, and can harmlessly protect your garden all season long on a single nine-volt battery.

SlugsAway’s low, attractive 24-foot long mesh fence protects up to 32 square feet (a 4 x 8 foot vegetable garden). For larger areas, an optional extension doubles the protected area. Completely harmless to pets, children, wildlife--and even slugs and snails--SlugsAway is ideal for organic gardeners who choose to keep their gardens chemical-free.

SlugsAway is available from Contech Electronics or at various retailers throughout the United States and Canada. For more information, or to find a retailer near you, visit

Established in 1987, Contech Electronics is a designer and provider of advanced animal training, control and wellness products for pet owners and gardeners around the world. Safe and effective solutions such as the ScareCrow® motion-activated sprinkler continue to reinforce the company’s reputation as a leading innovator in the pet and garden industries. For more information, visit




Tracey Robertson

Media Relations

Contech Electronics

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