QUESTION: I have hostas in my yard that were beautiful all summer, but they are now riddled with holes. What could have happened to them?
When you find holes in your hostas, the problem most likely is snails and slugs say the experts at U.T. Extension. Hostas are shade plants, and slugs and snails are right at home in a shady, moist environment. The large, wide leaves create a shady spot, so they stay in that cozy spot all day and come out at night, climbing up on the leaves to dine.
If you want to see how active they are, try this: place a small board, about six inches wide, beside the hostas where you’ve noticed damage. In the morning, turn the board over and see how many have collected on the underside (and dispose of them as you wish). A gardening friend told me recently that she had set out an old tuna can filled with beer beside the hostas in her garden. The next morning, the can was full of slugs, and she dumped the whole thing into the trash.
The American Hosta Society suggests several solutions for protecting plants from slug dining damage, one of which is to provide something else to eat that might be just as tasty, such as lettuce. A different strategy focuses on placing a barrier around vulnerable plants. Strips of copper on the ground can be effective because slugs don’t like to cross it. Maybe that’s a way to use all those pennies that collect around the house. Table salt sprinkled around the plants also may keep them away, but you probably don’t want to add all that salt to the soil. My friend who lured slugs into a tuna can also said she has tried sprinkling diatomaceous earth around the hostas as a barrier they won’t cross.
The American Hosta Society mentions a couple of poison baits, but also suggests that a 10% solution of vinegar, sprayed on the slugs, stops them in their tracks – but you have to be out there with the spray when they are out, which is usually at night. And finally, a trap: place two boards together with a small stick between them, where the slugs can crawl in and hide in the cool shade. Then, when the slugs are between the boards, remove the stick and stomp. Ewww.
October in the garden: Early-fall tasks in the October Garden Calendar in The Tennessean.
Garden events in Middle Tennessee
Oct. 4 – 5: Tennessee Urban Forestry Conference spotlights “Urban Forestry for Healthy Living” at Ellington Agricultural Center. Landscape designer Tara Armistead leads a tour and workshop on Oct. 4 and delivers the keynote address on Oct. 5. Open to the public; details at http://tufc.com/conference_2012.html
October 6-7: The Tenarky District Convention and Rose Show is at BelmontUniversity. Events open to the public on Oct. 6 include the rose show, 1 – 5 p.m., and a lecture on rose growing basics by Ron Daniels at 2 p.m. On Aug. 7, the rose show is open 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Cecil Ward lectures on “Loving and Growing Roses in Tennessee” at 2:30 p.m. Here to learn more.
Oct. 16: Perennial Plant Society’s monthly meeting at Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall begins with refreshments and plant swap at 6:30 p.m.; program at 7 p.m. Speaker is landscaper Tina Ramsey on the topic, “Winter Gardening.” Open to the public.
Oct. 19: All About Trees at Warner Park Nature Center. Enjoy a walk in the park while you learn the different species of trees from expert Deb Beazley. 9 – 11 a.m. Call to register (adults only), 352-6299. www.nashville.gov/parks/nature/wpnc
Oct. 27: Pumpkin carving at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center’s Back Porch Picking Party, 1 – 3 p.m. Bring a pumpkin, bring a string instrument, or just plan to relax and enjoy nature while listening to music. Registration required; call 862-8539 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. www.nashville.gov/parks/nature/sbnc