Friday, July 15

Are the slugs allowing your hostas to grow?

We really like hostas but as everyone who grows them knows they are on the slug and snail list of most desirable delicacies. On a recent visit to Harlow Carr, hostas were one of the plants used in their slug deterrent testing area. 

Hosta leaves lose their appeal when turned into a mess of lacy, ragged leaves after being ravaged by what have to be one of (or should that be two of), the gardener's most hated garden pest.
Control of these destructive  creatures has to be one of the most discussed and written about topics amongst the gardening fraternity. For every solution that individual gardeners swear by there is someone who will assert that this hasn't worked for them.

2016 could very well be designated to be the year of the slug. The mild winter of 2015 followed by the cool, wet summer (so far - I live in hope of some improvement) of 2016 must have the slugs rubbing their antennae with glee.

We have, however, against all odds, so far, managed to keep some of our hostas relatively free of slug damage. The key word here is relatively.

One weapon in our arsenal has been a proprietary slug and snail deterrent.
We trialled this a couple of years ago and found that it did offer some protection if used regularly. It won't however, prevent damage completely. (Incidentally we sprayed the climbing beans with this when they were newly planted and I think it helped prevent them from annihilation.
All our hosta  plants have been sprayed regularly with some faring better than others so I have tried to analyse why that is the case.
Most of our hostas are planted in pots that are arranged along the raised edge of our garden pond. As can be seen above we are not purests and some plants share a pot with a different variety. The pot of hostas in this photo had no damage at all. On one side it has the pond and to the other side the pebble garden with its gritty soil and pebble mulch. Maybe the location is less hospitable to slugs and snails.
The plant above has slight damage to some leaves at the back on the left of the plant where it touches a nearby fern so does the fern provide an access point?
The hosta above is also close to the ferns and also has some slight damage to the edges of the leaves. Any slugs and snails that have gained access to the plants seem to have only had a taster so it would seem that the spray has worked in making the leaves less palatable.
The two plants above on the right of the above photo, are also positioned between a pebble garden and the pond. They have superficial damage to the leaves which are touching the pond plant at the back.

The plant on the left has a little more damage to the leaves. I wonder whether the proximity to the lawn is of relevance?
The last plant along the pond edge is a mystery. These are the hostas with the toughest leaves that are supposedly less attractive to slugs but they have the worst damage of the 'pond' hostas.  They are touching a pond plant and also have lawn to one side and paved patio to the other so is access easier or does the repellent run off the smoother leaves more readily.
Some of the damage isn't altogether typical of slug damage so is something else at work here too?

To be honest the rest of the hostas are really, "What shall we do with these?" plants. They are ones left over when we split and repotted the main plants but that we couldn't bring ourselves to discard. As such they are not in prime positions and maybe our spraying regime isn't as rigorous as for the main plants.
These plants have significantly more damage and are in less isolated positions.
The one below is enormous and situated in the middle of a very full border making spraying all the leaves difficult. Despite that the leaves are nibbled rather than devastated.
In previous, less mollusc friendly years, unprotected hosta leaves have been shredded before the plants have reached flowering stage - so much so that we have considered abandoning growing them completely. I did try to find photographs but obviously neither of us felt the urge to record the devastation.

Then there is another factor to take into account. We know that some frogs have lingered in the pond, so are these helping by having nightly forages amongst the foliage around the pond?
I know that Jessica at Rusty Duck is using a garlic spray on her hostas to try and ward off slugs but what do others find effective to keep slugs at bay? (Not necessarily only on hostas).


20 comments:

  1. Your hostas are lovely, it's clearly working quite well. I put mine in the front (gravel) garden last year in the hopes that the snails wouldn't like crossing the gravel to get to them. One has disappeared completely and one has a single tiny stump of leaf. Have you seen Monty Don's hostas by his pond? They look really good too. Maybe it is those frogs doing a good job. Perhaps I shall pop one in by my pond and see what happens.

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    1. Popping one by the pond is worth a try CJ.

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  2. This year is proving to be a real challenge. The garlic spray seemed to work really well for a while but it does need repeating after rain - something of an effort when it rains a lot (!) and I have been falling down.

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    1. It's the same with the spray we use, Jessica.

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  3. How interesting Sue. For the first year ever, I have perfect hostas, all in different places with different environments...I think the frogs are more active, there are hardly any snail trails to be seen and frogs are popping out everywhere!Maybe there has been a explosion in frog population.xxx

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    1. I guess that the blackbirds help with the snails to, Dina.

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  4. I think the isolation of the hostas, and keeping them in pots must have helped. I'm sure the expanses of shingle in my garden assist with keeping slug damage to a minimum. Presumably you have to spray that Grazers stuff fairly frequently, do you, or does it get absorbed into the leaves quickly?

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    1. You do have to spray frequently, Mark. Keeping in pots and away from other plants does help but in the past they have still managed to much the leaves. Maybe its a combination of things. They will still nibble but I think the taste is supposed to stop them enjoying the leaves so much.

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  5. I don't think any of your hostas are as bad as some I've seen, more hole than lace on some leaves sometimes. I've found that growing them in pots helps tremendously, especially when the pot is situated on the patio away from any soil.

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    1. There have been years when flowering hostas haven't had any leaves left at all, Jo.

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  6. I have tried most ideas/products to protect hostas from slugs including this one without much success. They seem to prefer the variegated ones, I tried this product last year, slugs were still on the hostas the night after application. I think snails are even more of a problem they don't seem to eat the organic approved slug pellets.

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    1. Did they reduce the leaves to a holey mess, Brian as the spray won't prevent all damage but is supposed to reduce it. Maybe your molluscs have a different palate :-) Seriously though I'd ask the manufacturers why it hasn't worked for you.

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  7. As you can well imagine the climate here in Scotland is totally hospitable to slugs and snail and like many gardeners I've tried almost all available/suggested methods to deter our slimy friends and in all honesty found that none work consistently enough to say they actually work. I've given up using anything and just hope for the best which seems to work just as well any other method. I'm glad to read this product seems to be having some success for you Sue.

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    1. It's been great for slugs here too so far this year, Angie. They are having a party on the plot.

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  8. An interesting topic Sue. I've not come across this product before but will look out for it now. The molluscs have had a field day this year :( My beans at the allotment have had a real struggle with some of them being bitten off before they could make any substantial growth. Between them and the rabbits this summer has been a challenge. Most of your hostas round the pond look to be in fine fettle. It's such a shame that molluscs are partial to them as they are such brilliant foliage plants.

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    1. We just sprayed our beans to give them a chance to get growing, Anna. Now they have to look after themselves. As the beans get larger they can cope with the slugs better.

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  9. I have heard that salt spray works on snail but not sure the effectiveness! I always go for snail poison as last resort! how evil I am....;(

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    1. Doesn't salt spray harm the plants, Malar?

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  10. I have only 3 hostas now, after leaving the rest in my previous garden – all 3 are growing in containers and have done so since I got them. I think that’s an excellent way to grow hostas.

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    1. Containers do help, Helene - in the past I have smeared Vaseline around the edge of the pots. I have also sat the pots in a saucer of water to creat a sort of moat but the problem is slugs and snails get into the pots one way or other often by abseiling from nearby plants and then it ceases to be affective,

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