Nature abhors a garden.
- Michael Pollan
Viewing entries tagged iron phosphate
The honeymoon is over. Yes, that heavenly period in early spring when all around us produces bright, perfect new growth—glossy leaves, plump buds, flawless blossoms—is at an end. Now it’s time to collect our combat gear and prepare to do battle with the myriad forces that are determined to undermine the beauty of our gardens.
Insects, slugs, rodents, fungi…they’ve all come out to feast on the sweet, tender vegetation we have nurtured. Everyone I talk to has complaints. Jill’s crabapple (Malus species) has been decimated by the winter moth caterpillar (Operophtera brumata) that is prevalent this year. Pat is inundated with snails. Bonnie and I both have lungwort (Pulmonaria) that looks like Swiss cheese thanks to the slugs. A woodchuck is nipping the tops off my coneflowers, and a squirrel is dining on my sweet potato vine (Ipomea batata).
It happens every year, and I guess I hope every year that this time it won’t. It’s only when damage has been done that I take action. For me this year, the slugs have been the worst. With several weeks of off and on rain, they are plentiful and hungry. Besides the lungwort, they’ve chewed on my day lily foliage, lamium, hostas and phlox. So off I go with a large container of Slug Magic (www.bonide.com) to sprinkle on the ground around the bases of all these plants. This is just one brand name; the key ingredient to look for is iron phosphate. Iron phosphate should take care of the snails, too, though I haven’t had them in my garden—yet. One consolation is that the lungwort foliage can be cut back and will renew itself quickly with fresh new leaves.
Tags: Malus, crabapple, late winter, early spring, fungi, rodents, insects, snails, Operophtera brumata, winter moth caterpillar, Ipomea, Sweet potato vine, Lungwort, Slug Magic, Hostas, Lamium, day lily, iron phosphate, Phlox divaricata, Critter Ridder, woodchuck, squirrel damage, squirrels, Safer, Bonide, Globe thistle, Echinops ritro, Echinacea, Coneflower, Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt, Neem oil, Spinosad, slugs
Next, I head out with Critter Ridder (www.havahart.com) to sprinkle around the coneflowers (Echinacea) and other plants favored by the woodchucks and squirrels. The woodchuck seems to like fuzzy and prickly foliage, including Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro).
As for the winter moth caterpillar, according to Jill it can be sprayed with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a biological insecticide available from Bonide, Safer and other companies) when it is newly hatched. Later, as the little “loopers” swing on their silken strands, Spinosad (from Monterey at www.montereylawngarden.com , Green Light at www.greenlightco.com and others) and Neem oil (from Monterey or from Garden Safe at www.Lowes.com) are organic options. The other approach would be to spray susceptible trees (such as crabapple, maple, oak and fruit trees) with dormant oil (from Bonide and more) in late winter to smother the eggs.
The main thing, I guess, is to accept that these challenges are business as usual in the garden and I should anticipate them every year. These remedies are effective and the key is to apply them promptly at the first sign of trouble. It's all part of nature’s plan, and gardening will never be about perfection!
Tags: Lee, Hurricane Irene, hurricane in CT, CT gardening, CT, Fairfield County, Lilyturf, Hostas, Dahlias, Lamb's Ears, sanitation in gardening, iron phosphate, Slug Magic, Sluggo, copper, diatomaceous earth, slugs
Irene brought over 6 inches of rain to our part of Fairfield County, CT, and the remnants of Lee dumped another 5-1/2 inches only a week later. Wet? You bet! And it’s party time for slugs. Although they are always around, they are more evident in wet and muggy weather. Since they live in the debris on the soil, they are especially happy now, among the soggy fallen leaves from the recent storms.
Besides seeing these shell-less “snails” and their silvery trails of slime here and there in the yard, I find the leaves and stems of certain plants laced with holes—even shredded. Slugs are especially fond of Hostas, but they attack many other plants including Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantine), Dahlias, and Lilyturf (Liriope). Since they have just about finished producing new leaves for this season, the damage done will be evident till a hard frost. The best option is to get the slugs before they get you.
Gardening organically encourages various natural predators such as toads, frogs and ground beetles. If you use beneficial nematodes in your lawn, they will also go after slugs. Sanitation is key, as always. Dead plant matter accumulating on the soil surface provides perfect camouflage for the slugs.
A traditional, earth-friendly slug solution is to set small dishes of beer at soil level around the base of susceptible plants. Do this late afternoon or early evening before the slugs become active. They will be attracted to the yeast in the beer and drown trying to drink it. (Probably happy.) I’ve used scallop shells saved from dinner to hold the beer—they look more natural and are about the right size and depth. The beer method is effective, but the next morning one is obliged to collect the dishes and dispose of the casualties.
Any product containing iron phosphate (Sluggo, Slug Magic, etc.) will kill the slimy guys if spread around the plant’s base. Again, the goal is to sprinkle this before they’ve done their chewing. Spreading diatomaceous earth on the soil around the plants is another option, thanks to its jagged texture. These do not require clean-up the day after, but they will lose effectiveness if they get too wet. So the sprinkling must be repeated depending on how rainy the weather is (similar to spraying deer repellents).
Finally, bands of copper can be set in the soil to form a ring around the plant base. The slugs will not cross the copper barrier. I have not tried this yet, but it may be a long-term solution for the most susceptible plants.
Have you tried the copper bands, or any other effective slug deterrent? Please share your experience and any tips on technique!
Tags: Sweet potato vine, slugs, bugs, insecticidal soap, Slug Magic, iron phosphate, container gardening, garden pests, CT gardening, New England gardening, organic gardening, Summer, Ipomea
I’ve used Sweet Potato Vines (Ipomea) in my summer containers for years. With their heart-shaped leaves of either lime or burgundy, they add great color with a dramatic trailing effect. They are easy to grow in sun or part shade, and, if anything, they have been too vigorous and tend to dominate the plantings. This year, however, they have had a slow start and now look more like Swiss Cheese than Sweet Potatoes!
At first, I assumed there was an insect eating the holes in their leaves; the lime color seemed to be preferred by the predator. I sprayed thoroughly with insecticidal soap which I have found to be generally very effective at stopping insect damage. When new holes continued to appear, I thought, Aha!, it’s slugs! So, I sprinkled the soil in the containers with Slug Magic, an iron phosphate-based slug control. This seems to have prevented new leaves in some of the containers from being eaten, but others are still being devoured.
Do you have Ipomea vines in your summer plantings? Have you had this problem? Have you solved it? I’d love to hear from anyone who has a solution that will turn my Swiss Cheese back into Sweet Potatoes. Thanks!