Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hosta and Slug Damage

(slug damage on Hosta courtesy of University of Illinois Extenstion)

Should I remove the faded flowers from my hostas?

By August many of my hostas have tiny holes, I assume from some sort of bug or spider. I noticed this year that my new hostas in an area that in not watered as frequently are free from these "holes". Should I water less or do you have a suggestion for what to spray my plants with? It's mostly on the green/white varigated hosta.

You can definitely remove the faded flowers from your Hosta. Removing the spent flower spike by pruning back to the foliage from where it emerged will actually be a great help to the plant as you will be redirecting water and nutrients to other parts of the plants that will be eager to make use of it.

As far as the holes, I am 95% sure it is probably slug damage. The best way to tell is actually to go out and inspect your plant late-night with a flashlight, as that is when slugs are most actively chewing away. Don’t forget to look at the undersides of the leaves as well as their tops. I know there are some granular products out there that you can sprinkle on the ground that help wipe out slug populations, but once they are adults this late in the summer I am not sure how effective those products are. I am also not sure if the granular products are very organic as I do not have any of that around to check out the ingredients. To go about a more organic control, the best plan of attack for now is physical removal. Not to mention removing as much of the pests as you can means you do not have to alter your watering schedule too much. Good, deep watering helps freshly planted plants establish healthy roots quickly in your garden so I do not want to recommend cutting back on the water if you can help it. It is gross I know, but after a couple nights you will be able to get a lot of those slugs bagged up and removed from your garden. According to The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control edited by Barbara Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley, thin copper wire laid around the base of your plants or copper used as garden edging works to deter them, though I have never tried it. You might think I’m crazy but some friends of mine even swear by pans of beer laid underneath the plants used as traps. Either way it comes back to physical removal being one of the best options to prevent future damage of your Hosta. I hope you can get the situation under control so that the slugs do not eventually spread to your new plants. Luckily the one thing about slugs is that they are not nearly as fast moving as some other pests in the garden.

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