Sluggish victory for the hostas
Anyone who gardens grapples with the reality of pests. Most often, pests want to eat your garden before you get the chance to do so yourself. Or, they destroy the prettiness of plants by chewing holes in leaves and such. Pests are like a plague and a curse to gardeners everywhere.
My particular pest of choice is the common slug. Although I suppose I didn’t choose them; they chose me, or better put, my garden.
I have a host of hostas and slugs treat them like a smorgasbord. Typically, by mid-summer, my garden is a regular slugfest. I’ve tried eliminating the slugs — or at least limiting their numbers — without much success. They can be voracious (and slimy) little invertebrates.
I read up on slug removal; you’d be surprised at the number of ways to thwart a slug. There are commercial products, which in some cases could be harmful to pets and other animals. I wanted to kill the slugs, not my cats.
You can get rid of slugs the old fashioned way — by picking them off the plants, but that’s rather tedious. A similar technique involves placing a board (or other flat object) in the garden overnight. Slugs supposedly crawl under the object and you can remove the board — and slugs — in the morning. Picking slugs off the ground involves touching them. They are slimy. I’m no Ghostbuster and try to reduce the slime in my life whenever possible.
Some experts advise putting down sharp ground cover around plants to repel (and probably puncture) the slugs. Crushed eggshells, diatomaceous earth or coffee grounds all do the trick. Trouble is, I have a lot of plants, and we don’t drink that much coffee. Plus, stabbing a slug seems painful (to the slug).
Slugs can be their own worst enemy. Some species are carnivorous. My garden should be so lucky. My slugs seem more intent on breeding than eating one another. Hence my overpopulation problem.
My research took a turn for the positive when I remembered a critical and game-changing fact about common, garden-variety backyard slugs: They love beer. They love it so much they will actually crawl into a container of beer and drown not only their sorrows, but themselves.
True life can be weirder than fiction, especially if you are an inebriated slug.
As a gardening guru, I’d heard of this practice, but hadn’t ever tried it. It seemed like a waste of beer. I attempted the same technique with ginger ale once, thinking the sweet liquid might lure the slugs, but they are attracted to yeast, not sugar.
This year, I decided to tap the keg and see if an open bar would put an end to my sluggish backyard buffet. I got little plastic containers, poured in a couple ounces of beer and put them near the hostas.
What do you know? It worked. The next morning I awoke to slug-filled cups. I also managed to save the life of a beetle that was frantically treading beer when I checked one container. Maybe beer has a more universal appeal than I thought.
And, if it can help me help my hostas, well, I’ll drink to that. (I just won’t be drinking beer. I’ve got to save that for the garden.)
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.