My war on slugs and bugs

So now you have brought in all those plants that you brought out of doors for the summer, or at least I hope you have. And along with them, you have brought in any number of slugs, insects and insect eggs. Right now is a very important time of year in your plants’ lives. What you do in the next week or two will determine whether you will have an easy time caring for those plants that give you so much enjoyment throughout the coming wintery months.

Before doing anything, you need to clean up the foliage and get rid of any excess fertilizer in the pots that might have accumulated over the summer. Small plants are generally not a problem. Just take them to the sink. Wash both sides of each leaf with a washcloth or sponge and warm water. Now, that is a bit difficult if you are going to take care of a fern or similar plant. I think that, unless it is gigantic, you can just hold the soil in place with one hand and run a lot of water across all the undersides and then the tops of the leaves.

Now we want to bring the soil back to the proper amount of fertilizer, so we run warm water through the pot for a few minutes. That will get rid of any buildup since the last time you stabilized the soil.

Big plants? That is easy. I do the whole process by putting them in the shower for a few minutes. Be sure that the water is warm, not too hot nor too cold. All these things may sound weird, but they work.

Now for the slugs. In my mind, there is nothing worse than picking up a flowerpot and, as you lift it, realizing that your thumb has just crushed a slug. Ugh! So, I have a lot of remedies. I believe that I have told you about some of these as they relate to your garden.

To begin with, let’s look at some easy solutions. Let us use some kitchen scraps to get rid of these pests. Scratchy things like eggshells kill slugs by breaking into the slimy coating, causing the pests to dehydrate. Rinse the shells and spread them out to dry. Crush them and scatter them over the soil surface. Coffee grains are scratchy, too, and believe it or not, caffeine is toxic to them as well. An added benefit of the coffee is that it makes an effective and attractive mulch on top of the soil.

Also, among the household hacks for getting rid of them are two very common household items. Just a few drops of salt on them will dry them up and a spritz of vinegar will pretty much dissolve them.

You can also protect your foliage houseplants by adding plants like rosemary, chives and sage to the group to discourage the slugs. Speaking of mulch, I want to remind you that using outdoor types, such as wood chips, is not wise because the slugs really like the moisture they hold and the places they afford to hide.

Finally, you can resort to snail pellets. These little pieces are filled with chemicals that attract snails and the kill them. They are effective, at least for a while, but there is a lot of controversy over their use. They do attract snails and they will be poisoned. Out of doors, their strong attractants might bring visitors from a neighbor’s yard. But they may, depending on which type you use, be poisonous to pets and small children. Even worse, you might become used to their ease of use and totally rely on them, forgoing the natural methods of getting rid of slugs. To me, this would be a last resort.

Now a few words about the other pests: dust and insects. Household dust will settle on leaves, especially the undersides, clogging the pores that help regulate internal temperature and moisture. Dust with a dry cloth; a damp rag will fill more of the pores. Never wipe the leaves with oil or butter, and using teabags is also a no-no.

And if you use aerosol sprays, try for organic ones. They are available. It is important to know the insect you are trying to kill and read the label to see if that bug is on the list. Plants can be enjoyable, with just a little care.

Be well.

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