Protect Plants from Slugs & Snails

Snails and slugs are among the most bothersome pests in many garden and landscape situations. Snails and slugs move by gliding along on a muscular “foot”. This muscle constantly secretes mucus, which later dries to form the silvery “slime trail” that signals the presence of either pest; both pests have voracious appetites.

 Earth and pet friendly Sluggo! The base ingredient of Sluggo is naturally occurring Iron Phosphate that does a great job of controlling snails and slugs in the garden while not harming other creatures including pets and people; and as it breaks down it actually nourishes the plants.

Earth and pet-friendly Sluggo!
The base ingredient of Sluggo is naturally occurring Iron Phosphate that does a great job of controlling snails and slugs in the garden while not harming other creatures including pets and people; and as it breaks down it actually nourishes the plants.

Snails and slugs are most active at night and on cloudy or foggy days. On sunny days they seek hiding places out of the heat and bright light; often the only clues to their presence are their silvery trails and plant damage. During hot, dry periods or when it is cold, snails seal themselves off with a parchment-like membrane and often attach themselves to tree trunks, fences, or walls.

Damage they can do
Snails and slugs feed on a variety of living plants as well as on decaying plant matter. On plants, they chew irregular holes in leaves and flowers and can clip succulent plant parts. They can also chew fruit and young plant bark. Because they prefer succulent foliage or flowers, they are primarily pests of seedlings and herbaceous plants, but they are also serious pests of ripening fruits, such as strawberries, artichokes, and tomatoes, that are close to the ground. However, they will also feed on foliage and fruit of some trees; citrus is especially susceptible to damage. Look for the silvery mucous trails to confirm slugs or snails and not earwigs, caterpillars, or other chewing insects caused the damage.

Make your environment less snail and slug friendly
A good snail and slug management program relies on a combination of methods. The first step is to eliminate, to the extent possible, all places where snails or slugs can hide during the day. Boards, stones, debris, weedy areas around tree trunks, leafy branches growing close to the ground, and dense ground covers such as ivy are ideal sheltering spots. Reducing hiding places allows fewer snails and slugs to survive. The survivors will congregate in the remaining shelters, where they can more easily be located and eliminated.

Note, there will always be shelters that are not possible to eliminate e.g. low ledges on fences, the undersides of wooden decks, and water meter boxes. Just be sure to locate vegetable gardens or susceptible plants as far away from these areas as possible. This will not only protect your plants; it will also reduce the capacity of these pests to hide and proliferate.

Choose and locate plants carefully
Choose snail-proof plants for areas where snails and slugs are dense. Many plants resist damage from snails and slugs including begonias, California poppy, fuchsias, geraniums, impatiens, lantana, nasturtiums, and purple robe cupflower, and many plants with stiff leaves and highly scented foliage like lavender, rosemary, and sage. Most ornamental woody plants and ornamental grasses are also not seriously affected.

Check out our slug traps. These beer or yeast reservoirs are a great organic way of ridding your garden of these plant-eating pests. A penny apiece bounty is a great incentive for kids. Remember to tightly secure the bag before putting into the trash OR you could turn your catch into escargot.

Our Copper Tape is a good mechanical barrier that can be used to protect your plants. Use 2 widths of it to keep snails and slugs from devouring your plants.
Our Copper Tape is a good mechanical barrier that can be used to protect your plants. Use 2 widths of it to keep snails and slugs from devouring your plants.

Use barriers to protect susceptible plants
Snails and slugs favor seedlings and plants with succulent foliage and these plants must be vigilantly protected. Some plants that are seriously damaged include basil, beans, cabbage, dahlia, delphinium, lettuce, marigolds, strawberries, and many vegetable plants.

Copper barriers are effective because the copper reacts with the slime the snail or slug secretes, causing a flow of electricity — to take advantage of this just put 2 widths of copper tape around your planting beds.

Proper water management
An important tool in your anti-snail and slug arsenal is careful irrigation. Avoiding over-watering and/or using drip irrigation will reduce humidity and moist surfaces, making the habitat less favorable for these pests.

Snail and slug baits should be chosen carefully
Snail and slug baits can be effective when used properly in conjunction with a cultural program incorporating the other methods discussed above. However, baits alone will not effectively control snails or slugs in gardens that contain plenty of shelter, food, and moisture. Note, do not use salt to destroy snails and slugs; it will increase soil salinity – making the cure worse than the illness.

EarthBox Vegetable Gardening

earthbox-melonEarthBoxes are a smart option for container gardening. They are efficient water users allowing a plant to grow considerably larger than expected from such a small container, and all water goes to the plant.

EarthBoxes have been tested here and in the gardens of some of our staff and they work amazingly well.  The EarthBoxes produce more vegetables from a surprisingly small footprint because they are a growing system with moisture and fertilizer delivered slowly and regularly.  They have a plastic mulch cover and a water reservoir so no water is lost to evaporation or drainage; it all goes to the plant.

Essentially, EarthBoxes are a passive hydroponic growing system.  Water and nutrients are in place, and the plant pulls water and fertilizer as needed.
A water reservoir in the bottom of the box has an overflow vent so it’s impossible to over water.

Someone worked the bugs out of this system; it just works and if you are interested in container gardening with an eye toward water conservation, EarthBoxes have a few features that mean all of the water delivered to the plant is used by the plant; none is wasted to evaporation or runoff.

EarthBoxes are perfect for a new gardener. The experience will be rewarding and relatively trouble free.  They are also good for the gardener who has downsized and does not have space for a large garden, or who is not as able-bodied as they used to be.  Gardening with an EarthBox is easy on the body, especially if the EarthBox is raised up to waist level to eliminate bending.  Weeds are not a problem.  Come in and take a look.

Blooming Now

The nursery is alive with color, like a parade moving through town

wisteria on arbor
The Wisteria has popped into bloom over the greenhouse this week
Flowering Japanese Crabapple colors the landscape near our back deck.
California Lilac or Ceanothus bring true blue color into the garden
Loropetulum or Chinese Fringe Flower displays its colorful blooms in Spring and Fall
Snow Mound Spirea brings a bridal bouquet to the garden
Aloes are blooming with a spectacular display in our succulent garden
Emerald Carpet Manzanita is a popular native shrubby groundcover




Irrigation Checkup Time

With spring weather upon us it’s time to give your irrigation systems a seasonal look-through to confirm everything is in working order.

Bugs can plug nozzles, heads can shift out of alignment, calcium can accumulate and reduce flow. Turning everything on during daylight hours will let you see what’s working and what’s not.  The following charts can help with a thorough checkup.

Periodic Checklist

Task Annually Seasonally Monthly Notes
Change Batteries X Check connections for corrosion and battery leakage damage. Make sure transformers are working. Check for frayed or broken control wires. Verify fuses, circuit breakers, etc. are OK and the electrical supply circuit is functional.
Flush System X Remove line end caps and run water until clear.
Clean Filters X Clean screens. Replace filter elements and broken or torn filter screens.
Adjust Timer Settings X Adjust for changes in rain. Be sure to avoid zone time overlaps that will affect performance due to low pressure. Watering early in the morning saves water due to lower wind dispersal and reduced evaporation.
Visual Inspection Test X See monthly checklist below.

Monthly Checklist

Monthly Checklist
Monthly test run each valve during daylight hours and perform a visual
Checkpoint Yes No Notes
Is any water being sprayed on the street or sidewalk? We must conserve every drop.
Is there run-off of water? Some surfaces absorb less water than others. Sloping areas often need less water per time and more frequent watering to prevent run-off. Note: our hard clay-type soils may need a periodic application of Grow More EZ-Wet and Gypsum to solve chronic water run-off problems.
Are there excessively damp areas or standing water ? Shaded areas, hard clay-type soils, lower levels receiving run-off often need less water. Note: our hard clay-type soils may need a periodic application of Grow More EZ-Wet and Gypsum to solve chronic water run-off problems.
Are there obstructions preventing the water from reaching the
desired areas?
Be aware that changes in plant size and/or position or the addition or alteration of landscape items may require sprinkler adjustments.
Are there any observable leaks or breaks in the pipe?
Are any heads/emitters missing?
Do you need fewer or additional active heads/emitters? Be aware of changing needs due to changing landscapes. Sprinkler systems should be considered a seasonal work in progress rather than static.

Sometimes adding/activating or disabling heads/emitters will accomplish more than trying to adjust a single head/emitter.

Are any heads/emitters broken? If you have pop-ups make sure they rise and retract fully.
Are any heads/emitters clogged?
Are any heads/emitters pushed too far into the ground?
Are any heads/emitters tilted/spraying in the wrong direction?
Is the pressure too low? Spray not reaching all desired areas. Spray forming large water droplets. Presence of doughnut shaped dry areas. Rotor speed is too slow and/or rotors not rotating. See timer zone overlap note above. Note: choose a time in the
morning when competition for water is at a minimum — in other words, avoid
shower time.
Is the pressure too
Spray overshooting desired areas. Spray misting. Dry areas between heads. Rotor
speed is too fast and/or rotors not rotating. Heads/emitters/supply lines are leaking.
Is the timer working properly ? Confirm program settings are proper for the current season.

Prevent Wormy Apples – Controlling Codling Moths

damage from codling moths and larva
traps for codling moths

If you have apple trees and want to monitor codling moths to determine the best time to spray, use our Codling Moth Traps.

Periodically looking into the trap in search of captured moths will alert you as to when the moths are present and therefore when to spray.
When codling moths first appear (usually when about 3/4 of the flower petals have fallen from the tree), wait one week and spray every 10 days with Captain Jack’s, (Spinosad) for 3 applications. Some gardeners have had satisfactory results spraying only Captain Jack’s, which is organic, others start with a single application of Sevin, which is not organic, followed up with 3 sprayings of Captain Jack’s. Replace traps monthly and repeat spray regime after additional generations of moths are trapped.

Replace traps monthly and repeat spray regime after additional generations of moths are trapped.

Check out the UC Cooperative Extension Service website for more detailed options.

March Garden Checklist

checkbox Feed! Feed! Feed! It’s time to refresh your garden plants. Fertilize all of your plants to support spring growth. For landscape shrubs and trees feed with Master’s Formula 49 All Purpose Plant Food. If you have citrus or avocado trees, use Master’s Citrus Food. This is a good time to start feeding fruit trees, grapes, and berries. We recommend Master’s Fruit Tree & Vine Food for the nutrition your plants need to produce the best crop ever! Your roses will appreciate a monthly feeding of Master’s Rose & Flower Food.

checkbox Prune azaleas and camellias into shape after their blooms have faded. Feed them with Master’s Camellia, Azalea and Gardenia Food and Iron Plus monthly through October.

checkbox Place Yellow Jacket Traps out early this month to catch the queen before she starts her family. Prevention is the best cure!

checkbox Give your lawn “a meal – not a snack” with Master Green Lawn Food.

checkbox This is a good time to think about lawn renovation.

checkbox Now is the time to set out snail bait. Use Sluggo and Sluggo Plus for organic snail and slug control.

checkbox Remember to water plants under eaves and in containers.

checkbox Plant your potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day if you haven’t got them in the ground. See us for instructions and best varieties.

checkbox Start annual morning glories from seed this month and establish them in the garden or a pot by summer! Morning glories are one of the most stunning of the old-fashioned garden flowers. Flowers are huge – three to five inches across – and bright, colorful blue, purple or pink. Best of all, morning glories are easy!

checkbox Combat Citrus leafminer organically. Hang traps in your citrus to catch the flying adult. This will greatly reduce damage to any new growth of your lemons, oranges and other citrus. Supplementally spray with Captain Jack’s to minimize infestation.

Set Praying Mantis Egg Cases into Your Garden Early

Tip-Top Bio Control provides Praying Mantis, Ladybugs and Nematodes.
Tip-Top Bio Control provides Praying Mantis, Ladybugs and Nematodes.

Now is an excellent time to set praying mantis egg cases out into your garden, while they are still dormant. As the weather warms, the young will hatch and find themselves right at home in your garden.

Praying Mantis are very territorial and as they grow into larger insects, will patiently stalk their prey. They are amazing creatures and can help control garden insect pests naturally. They are also very interesting to have around. They spend days just waiting and watching for their next meal. Mantids robotically move their heads, keeping the prey always in sight. The mantis has a quick and accurate attack.

Praying Mantis is so named because, while waiting for food to come by, they hold their long front arms as if it is praying. The mantis is a very useful insect to have in your garden; it eats flies, caterpillars, grasshoppers, roaches, and other pests. But if you are a beekeeper, watch out … the praying mantis will sit at the entrance to the hive and devour bees one by one as they go in and out!

If you see a mantis, you may be startled by its aggressive behavior. It will stand up and buzz its wings at you. But that’s only because it’s trying to scare you off; the Praying Mantis is completely harmless to humans.

Praying mantis are terrific pest exterminators. They keep down the population of bugs that are a threat to plants. A master of disguise, the praying mantis can be an able assistant to farmer and gardener alike.

We have egg cases for sale, 2 cases in a cup for $10.99.

Dave’s Rose Fertilizer Program

This program, inspired by the late, David Lowell who was a local rose expert. It provides for general plant vigor and wonderful looking roses! For use on established roses only (planted for at least 6 months).
Apply in MARCH and AUGUST.

For each rose apply:
• 16-16-16 March only Application – 1/2 cup/rose (5# bag for 18 roses)
– 5-5-5 August only Application
– 1/2 cup/rose (4# box for about 9 roses)
• Bone Meal 1/2 cup per rose (4# bag for 18 roses)
• Sulfur* 1/2 cup per rose (5# bag for 18 roses)
• Gypsum 1/2 cup per rose (5# bag for 18 roses)
• Magnesium Sulfate 2 Tbs. per rose (5# bag for 70+ roses)
• Chicken Fertilizer 1 shovel per rose (1 bag for 9 roses)

daves-rose-august*to supply sulfur, use one of the following: Iron Sulfate, Iron Plus*, or Soil Sulfur. Iron ­containing products can stain. Wash off adjacent paving after ­application. (*Iron Plus is non-staining.)

Sprinkle the first 4 ingredients around each rose and mix into soil if possible. Then sprinkle the chicken fertilizer around each rose and water everything in.

Do NOT combine this recipe with systemic rose fertilizer. It poses a serious health risk to pets if ingested. Pets are attracted to the bone meal and may ingest systemic rose food if it is included in this recipe – or applied other months in the same area.

Alden Lane Nursery recommends applying Master Nursery Rose and Flower Food monthly, April through July and September (skipping August for Spring and Fall Fertilizer Program above).

A one-inch mulch layer may be put around your roses to conserve water and insulate roots from summer heat. However, to encourage early bloom, delay ­mulching until after the soil has been warmed by spring temperatures.

Beneficial Nematodes

tip-top-nematodesBeneficial nematodes are our natural go-to solution for controlling grubs and other insect larvae that overwinter in the soil.

Nematodes are microscopic worms that look rather eel-like in appearance.  Most nematodes are actually bad in the garden (attacking roots) but some species are prized for their predatory characteristics.  They parasitize soil-born grubs and insect larvae.

Nematodes come packaged within a moist sponge that prevents them from drying out.  They are packaged without chemicals, preservatives, or inhibitors so they are suitable for use in organic and conventional gardening and farming.

The sponge formulation has the advantage that the nematodes can be easily rinsed from the sponge into a bucket of water and applied using a conventional garden sprayer, a watering can, or a hose-end sprayer.

Release Rates:
5 million (one package) – 2,000 sq. ft lawn – Nematodes are best released in the evening.  For smaller areas, cut the sponge in half or quarters and apply some now, some later.  Nematodes can stay in the fridge as long as 4 weeks.

First – pre-water the area to be treated.
Second – apply nematodes.
Third – water after application.
Fourth – return to normal watering.