(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, April 4, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
Sitka gardeners do not struggle with a lot of pests, but the few that we do have give us plenty of trouble. The worst pests I have encountered in my garden are slugs, root maggots and aphids — and the slugs are by far the biggest problem.
I have had slugs wipe out an entire bed of young lettuce plants in one night! Large slugs eat entire plants, leaving their silvery trails behind them; and tiny slugs hide in the cracks and voids of bushy plants, riddling them with holes. The only real solution I have found for slugs is ducks.
Ducks love to eat slugs! They love the rain, they provide delicious eggs and meat and they are endlessly entertaining. My “herd” of ducks spends every waking moment foraging for slugs and other creepy crawlers in my garden! I could go on and on about the benefits of raising ducks, but I will try to focus on other solutions in this column.
Slugs thrive in damp, cool, dark areas — a perfect description of a Sitka garden! They are migratory by nature, coming out mostly at night to do their damage and slinking away before daylight. You need to think of the battle against slugs as a war that never ends. There is no permanent fix because no matter how many you kill they will continue to migrate in.
The best strategy in this war is to make your entire property a hostile environment for slugs. Cut down all brush, salmonberries and grass — TO THE GROUND. You would be surprised how many slugs live in these areas, just close enough to your garden to provide shelter during the day. Remove all piles of brush, stacks of lumber and other junk. (Compost heaps do not pose a problem if they are kept active and hot). Potted plants in the garden should be up on blocks to prevent slugs from living underneath them.
Slugs can crawl over virtually any surface but they do not prefer shells, wood chips, sand or gravel so use one of these materials to create a clear perimeter around your garden. Remove ornamental ground cover. My ducks can spend an hour in a patch of ground cover — what does that tell you? It’s the perfect environment for slugs! Finally, think about getting rid of your lawn. I loved my lawn and still miss it very much, but slugs love lawns.
One other strategy is bait, but rethink how you use it. If the theory is that slugs just happen to fall into it or eat it on their way by, then you should have hundreds of bait traps scattered around your garden. If on the other hand bait actually lures slugs in then DON’T put bait in the middle of your garden! Put it far away to draw slugs away from your vegetables.
Next week’s column — Feeding Your Plants.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Mon-Sat 11:00-6:00
747-6108 or 738-2241