Getting Rid of Uninvited Garden Guests

So long, slugs and snails. How to deal with a host of annoying garden guests.



Getting Rid of Uninvited Garden Guests

 

So long, slugs and snails. How to deal with a host of annoying garden guests.

 

By Nancy L. Claus

 

There are evil forces out there, lying in wait to ravage your roses and decimate your day lilies. We gardeners face a constant battle with insects, critters, and, of course, those large, four-legged pests: deer (see page 92). Here’s a handy guide to help identify, eliminate, and prevent the most common garden enemies in Westchester from infiltrating your personal space.

 

The Pests: Moles

The Mug Shot

Beady eyes, a pointy snout, and big, webbed feet with claws for digging.

 

Their Dastardly Deeds

First, they get around by tunneling underground, leaving unsightly lumps through your yard that will eventually kill off grass and other vegetation. The irony is that these pests aren’t tearing up your property to get at your plants. They’re carnivores out for grub—literally. Grubs are pre-pubescent Japanese beetles (which are even nastier than grubs). Get rid of the grubs and you get rid of the moles.

 

How to Snuff ’Em Out

Fight fire with fire. Beneficial nematodes are (real tiny) good insects that eat the bad ones (available from www. norganics.com). Apply in early June or mid-September.

Better living through chemistry. Milky spore is a naturally occurring microscopic bacteria that kills Japanese beetles before they mature into adults; available in garden centers. It takes about three years for full effectiveness, which lasts for about 10 years. 

A good defense is a strong offensive smell. Moles can’t stand Mole-med (available from www.gardensalive. com), an effective repellent based on castor beans. Spread it three times during the growing season.

 

The Pests: Voles

The Mug Shot

They look like buck-toothed house mice but with dark brown coats and shorter tails.

 

Their Dastardly Deeds

Let’s just say, forget your vegetable garden.

 

How to Snuff ’Em Out

Know Your Enemy. Unlike moles, voles are vegetarians, feasting on roots, bark, and lower vegetation. They also burrow but often use mole tunnels for their dirty work. If your plants fall over or simply disappear for no apparent reason, the culprits are often voles. These critters have been known to eat mature parsley plants, sucking them down from below, leaving just a few green sprigs peeking out of the ground.

Practice safe gardening. Always use barriers. Plant your vegetable gardens in raised beds (8-to-12-inch-tall by 4-by-8-foot-wide boxes) with hardware cloth (welded metal with one quarter- to-one-half-inch openings) stapled to the bottom of the boxes. For other gardens, till Volebloc (www.volebloc.com) or PermaTil into the ground, or use it as a mulch. These products are made from course particles of natural slate and block the voles from reaching the roots.

When planting bulbs, throw a few mothballs in and mix into the soil. Voles (and squirrels, by the way) hate the smell so much that it keeps them from  burrowing and eating the bulbs. You can also scatter a few at ground level after the first year.

Get a good mouser. Carolyn DeWilde, an instructor at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, believes that a cat is the best solution. “I never had any trouble with voles when I had a good mouser around.”

 

The Pests: Snails and Slugs

The Mug Shot

Snails? Think escargot minus the garlic. Slugs? Escargot minus the garlic and the shell. During the day, they lurk under ground covers or flowerpots, but a sure sign you’ve got them are the trails of mucus they leave. Ugh!

 

Their Dastardly Deeds

Both feed on decaying and living plant material, chewing holes in leaves and stems; they can completely consume young seedlings. They’re partial to lettuce and hosta.

 

How to Snuff ’Em Out

There is no delicate way to get rid of these pests, but no one said war was pretty.

Gross: Just pick them off plants with your fingers, preferably gloved, or salt them and they will simply disappear.

Grosser: Let them drown in beer—literally. Buy slug traps with covered “beer cups” from www.gardeners.com or sink old cans in the ground and fill with beer. They love the stuff, get drunk, fall in, and drown.

Grossest: Scatter crushed eggshells around plants (the shells cut into their bodies). Diatomaceous earth, pulverized shells of fossilized sea-dwelling organisms, works the same way, but easily washes off during rain.

Don’t tell PETA: Copper tape wrapped around the stem of the plant sends an electric shock to the slug.