Peter Dowdall sings the praises of Hostas, a powerful stimulant to our happy memories of childhood.
They’ll write about them in time you know. Kids will look back, in years to come at the ‘glorious summers’ of their childhood, the memory selecting the last two years and conveniently forgetting all the other ones that were less than remarkable.
The summers of 2013 and 2014 were exceptional; long sunny days, high temperatures and confidence.
This summer has been wet. We’ve had more than our fair share of rain already and possibly more to come.
We’ve had some pet days certainly and many nondescript days but so far 2015 has been remarkable for the days of heavy, heavy rainfall.
This time last year I was waxing eloquent about all the drought resistant plants that are available and do so well in our warm, dry Irish gardens however now I need to take a raincheck, pun intended and look at plants that enjoy our naturally wet conditions.
When choosing plants for the garden it’s always better to work with nature and what the site offers as opposed to working against the great lady and striving to change the environment.
If you have an area of the garden or indeed if the entire garden is damp and prone to holding water then you need to look at plants that like these conditions, and believe me when I tell you this is no hardship for some of the finest garden specimens are plants that thrive in wet and boggy soil.
Hostas with their lush broady leaves simply won’t do well in drier soils, and they are absolutely revelling in the damp soils after all the rain.
Of course with the rain comes slugs and one of their very favourite things to eat is your prized, perfect Hosta leaves, one munch destroying the look of the whole plant.
Please do not use the alcohol-based slug pellets to control these pests as they will also kill local birds and hedgehogs which are the very creatures you want to encourage and welcome into your patch as they are the natural predators of slugs and snails.
The more predators you have the less snails will be available to munch on the beautiful Hosta leaves and obviously the more you use the alcohol-based pellets then fewer predators will be patrolling and then the worse your pest problem will be ensuring that you need to buy more of the pellets which are in fact making the problem worse in the long term and just ensuring that you will need to continue to buy the chemical companies solution for years to come because you have interfered with the natural order.
That’s not to say you have to just accept the damaged Hostas and the cursed slugs and snails. There are many organic and environmentally sound slug barriers available both homemade and from garden centres.
Coffee grounds, egg shells and many other materials can be used as a barrier that the slugs can’t cross. However to successfully protect your plants using barriers requires a lot of time and diligence, one shower of heavy rain can completely wash away your defences and any gap that you leave will be quickly spotted by the marauding molluscs.
Far easier to use Ferrous phosphate or Ferrous sulphate slug pellets. These pellets will be just as effective as the alcohol based ones but without the unwanted effect of damaging other wildlife in the garden.
Copper tape too is a great barrier, the slugs being unable to cross the copper makes it an ideal solution for plants growing in pots and containers.
I learned of an interesting development in the war against slugs earlier this summer at the Mallow Home and Garden Show.
O’Neills quarry near Ovens have for many years now quarried and supplied their plum slate product as a stone mulch for supressing weeds and retaining moisture but what they have discovered in trials over the last few years is that their larger slate mulch has proven to be very effective in combatting slugs and snails, the little fellas unable to get over the stony surface.
I presumed when hearing about this that the finer slate would be the best product to use, thinking that the many sharp edges would be difficult to cross if you were a snail.
But no, it seems that it’s the bigger slate mulch that is proving most effective, the slugs facing big valleys and mountains and too severe a surface to attempt to traverse.
O’Neills are now supplying this by the truck load to garden centres in the Netherlands where the use of pellets and many garden insecticides is banned. I’m delighted to see something, developed locally and aesthetically enhancing proving to be so effective.
If you don’t fancy the idea of mulching your entre garden in this plum slate, though why wouldn’t you, you could look at using it around your more at risk and more choice specimens — mulching an area two to three feet in diameter with the slate will hopefully keep your Hostas and others hole free.
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