Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How to Control Snails and Slugs

Pre-Spring is the perfect time to begin pest control in the garden. This is the time when the snails and slugs are small and most manageable. Below are all methods I use in my own garden...

Simple Things You Can Do
When the grass and weeds first start to grow or you first see signs of snail slime trails and small holes in the leaves, the most effective pest control is a combination of methods.

1. Cut down tall grass and weeds near your vegetable garden. Snails and slugs love tall grasses and it is best to get rid of all grasses and weeds. Kill off the grasses with weed killer or pull it out. Salt and bleach will also kill off grasses. If the weeds are in an area where you will be planting, do not use this method, as it will sterilize the ground making it difficult to grow new plants. It will also kill off any plants that that you want to keep! After the weeds are removed, apply an organic seed killer. Seed killer will kill off any grass seed still in the ground. You will not be able to plant vegetable seeds or flower seeds, but you will be able to plant existing plants in the area where the seed killer is applied.

2. Sprinkle fireplace wood ash over your plants once per week. It will repell the snails and slugs, and will add beneficial nitrogen to the soil.

3. Save your egg shells. Ground up egg shell also add nitrogen to the soil. The sharp edges also irritate sensitive snail and slug bodies.

4. Paint the under side of mature leaves with a mix of 12 ounces water with one squirt Dove dish soap, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1 tablespoon tobasco sauce. The dish soap helps the concoction to stick and the hot chili mix will burn the tender under belly of the snails and slugs! Make sure to only apply to mature leaves and only on the one side of the leaf. I choose the underside, because this is also where cut worms and catapillars like to hide. They do not like hot sauce either!

5. Apply Sluggo pet safe snail bait. The drawback is that it is more expensive than the toxic bait. It can also get moldy when wet. But, it is safe and will not harm small children and pets. It is also very effective in controling snails and slugs in the garden.

6. Apply Deadline. Deadline is toxic just like the regular snail bait, but it can be applied to the edge of pots and container gardens in areas where children and pets cannot reach. I grow a lot of my potted plants up on a grow table and apply salt on the ground. This is also effective.

7. Daily Picking. Gruesome but effective, picking out and then killing slugs and snails by hand is one of the most effective ways of controling their over population. Take a garden walk and pick and kill the critters at first light in the morning, and then after dark at 9 or 10 pm, and once again late in the evening if possible.

8. Grow Mint. Because mint is an evasive plant, grow any kind of mint in pots between your garden plants. It repells the snails, but is not a cure-all at keeping them away. The areas of my garden that grows mint has far less snails than the other areas of my garden without mint.

Questions? Ask Gail the Pond Plant Girl & Artichoke Queen

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How to Grow Artichokes in Cold Climates

Fresh artichokes right off the plant are the best. The plant is also impressive looking and fun to grow too.

The Imperial Star artichoke is the most cold hardy plant. What I advise is to grow your artichoke in-ground in light fluffy soil. When it goes dormant at the end of the season, you can dig it up and then store it in your garage until the springtime. Placing a net or a burlap sack under the plant will help make it easier to pull it up when it is time. Leaving your artichoke in-ground can be a challenge and I do not guarantee that the plant will come back again if the roots freeze.

You can also grow the artichoke in a large tree container that is about 3 feet deep. These can be purchase at a nursery that sells trees, or you can build your own container... which is a lot more affordable. Then at the end of the season you will not need to dig it up, but simply roll it into storage with a hand truck.

If you choose to winter over your plants indoors as suggested, then any variety of artichoke will grow in cold regions; such as Chicago and New York for example. The sweetest is the purple Violetta. However, it does die back between fruiting and then grows back up again about 2-3 times per season.

You can learn more about growing artichokes at: