Last updated on May 25th, 2012
Are slugs and snails eating your hostas?
Well, if your summer has been a damp and cool one (like mine), you have probably seen a good deal of destruction by these slimy beasts. Here at A Garden for the House, slugs and snails have not only attacked my hostas, but my delphiniums and zinnias, too. So what’s the best remedy for these malevolent mollusks? Beer? Poison? Repelling strips of copper? Read on, and I’ll tell you my own, safe and simple slug-solution. (And if you have a special technique for dealing with slugs, please share it here).
Slugs and snails are physiologically acidic. This explains why they are naturually found in wooded areas. There, the soil pH is normally low (acidic). They detest alkaline, or “sweet” soils. Hostas, delphiniums and vegetables of all kinds enjoy soil with a fairly high pH. Thus, if you sweeten your soil, slugs will most definitely avoid your garden.
The best cure for slug-inviting acidic soil is lime. In your vegetable patch, hosta bed, or flower border, simply sprinkle a layer of lime there according to package directions,and water it in. The goal is to raise the soil pH to something between 7.0and 7.5. Call your county agent – he or she will leap at the chance to test your soil’s pH.
Now, what do you do when your garden features alkaline-loving hostas, along with acidic-preference ferns, astilbes and rhododendrons, all growing together in the same bed? Well, you simply restrict the addition of lime to the hostas.
And here is where the “magic circle” technique makes sense. First, water plants thoroughly. Then pour one cup of lime in a circle around each hosta. Where growth is too thick for individual circles, outline the entire hosta bed with lime. Move a few leaves aside, too, and pour a little lime between the plants.
In my Woodland Garden, early morning visits there revealed hundreds of slugs and their slimy trails on my hostas. After liming the plants three days ago, I have not seen a single one; they refuse to pass over the threshold of lime. Mercifully, they are not attracted to my ferns, astilbes and rhododendrons.
Do you have some special trick for dealing with slugs and snails? By all means, share your thoughts in the comments section below.