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Lets talk about mulch

Posted by miketropic 6B - 7 (My Page) on
Fri, Nov 29, 13 at 7:01

Last summer I got a few truckloads of black wood chips and had all my beds looking wonderful.. I also seemed to make a wonderful slug hotel and had to fight them the entire season. Since I work and can't get out to water/weed everything everyday I have to keep some type of mulch down but I'm not sure what to do. I like the look of pine needle mulch but I don't think it will keep the moisture in and weeds down as well as bark mulch. I can't leave it bare with temps easily reaching 100 every summer things will dry out in short order..What does everyone use for mulch that isnt a slug magnet and still looks good?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Lets talk about mulch

I am for sure the odd man out in this discussion.

First I am in Zone 4 ... 38C (100F) is pretty much unheard of and even 30C (86F) is considered very hot. Second, I have a sprinkler system that pumps water from the river so all hostas get a long drink every morning on top of our usually reliable rain (about 2 cm or 3/4 inch per week on average).

I tried mulches BUT ... in gardens in the sun where flowers are grown, I do use a very finely shredded bark mulch as it both retians moisture and really keeps down weeds. For hostas grown in the shade of mainly pines, I leave the ground bare with just a "sprinkling" of needles.

Slug damage seems limited solely to hostas on the perimeter - maybe slugs dislike bare ground littered with sharp pine needles. The well drained soil is so acidic and moist that moss grows readily - conditions normally associated with slugs.

I weed using an old fashioned approach ... a torch. These cane like devices with a small propane tank on them were popular 50 years ago and are making a small comeback. I walk the garden about once every 10 days and burn off any weeds that dare sprout. Between the shade and the torch, weeds have never been a problem and the work to keep weeds out is no more than an hour every 10 days..

Of course, my shade garden is not as large as many of the gardens I see pictured here - I am living rurally and have an acreage to play in but limit my shade garden to a space about 40 metres by 20 metres (140' by 65').


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What does everyone use for mulch that isnt a slug magnet

==>>> if you use the common definition of mulch.. there is no such thing ... period

ken


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When you say you got "black wood chips" what do you mean by that? Mostly dyed black mulch is bark mulch, not wood chips. While there is no mulch that prevents slug damage as Ken has said, mulch that provides air spaces for beneficial insects like ground beetles can help.

Undyed Arborist wood chips are an example of this kind of "chunky mulch." They're often free from tree work companies. Just take out the largest sticks and put them down about 2 inches thick. Another example would be shredded leaves. Leaves that are whole will mat down and create a haven for slugs. But leaves that are fully shredded and fluffy created the needed air spaces for predatory ground beetles. Pine straw may also help if it creates air spaces.

In any case, you shouldn't rely on the mulch you use to prevent slugs. You really have to use a slug bait and/or another method like Ammonia and water or hand picking.

Steve

Here is a link that might be useful: Woodchip Mulch


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Perhaps your mulch consisted of larger pieces of wood/bark under which slugs can hide at daytime. I try to use small wood/bark chips and put it down less than 1 inch thick. When you have thicker mulch you also can not see if rodents (voles) tunnel under and that would attract another disaster. I usually buy the cheapest mulch I can get to dress up the front yard, hopefully the big stores have 2 cft bags at $2 each coming spring, I need to refresh some beds. 2 weeks ago, after I was able to remove all hosta leaves, I mulched with my lawn mower tree leaves covering the hosta beds, and that is their mulch for winter, I also have it not easy to water hostas, is expensive town water. I am in zone 5. Bernd


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wasn't so much asking about my mulch, I won't be using that type again I was mr asking what others used and if it helped or hurt with the slug population. What I had were wood chips dyed black from the greenhouse.. works great to retain moisture and helps over winter but it was just slug infested. Does anyone use pine needle mulch? seems it would get attached to the slugs and they would not like that much but the moisture retention might not be great.. ooh well plenty of time to think on it.


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ALL MULCH encourages slugs.. for the same reason its beneficial to the plants ... it cools the soil .... retains moisture .... and protects from predators ...

in my experience.. mulch is ONLY applied to the edge of the canopy.. leaving bare earth from that point to the crown ... this also aids in allowing water to actually hit the soil.. rather than water the top of the mulch ....

and a proper slug bait is applied withing the ring of mulch..

along with proper hunting/spraying methods .. like 10% vinegar/ammonia ...

you can not build a slug palace ... and then complain.. that you encouraged slugs ...

i used cocoa hulls once.. very dark brown.. almost black... the heat retained by the mulch itself.. fried smaller plants.. in the heat of the day ...

to my eye.... there is something .. just right.. about a non-colored mulch.. that fades to mother nature gray ...

i just dont understand.. trying to match brick with red.. or blacktop with black.. etc ... its a vanity.. to try to outwit mother natures palette ... IMHO .. that said.. use whatever makes you happy... why should you care what i think ... eh????

ken


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mre on this vinegar/ammonia spray? possible link to thread? I always use pellets..or some type of dust that worked well but is now not avaliable


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10-15% ammonia and water will kill slugs on contact. Melts them before your eyes. I spray it after a heavy rainfall early in the morning when the slimies are still out. Does the heart good to annihilate them. Then I put down some slug bait after while the soil is still damp.

Steve


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and the spray has no ill effects on the hostas or other plants?


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When you are young, have a good back, have a lot of time, have only a few hostas, then you can hunt individual slugs with ammonia spray. It has to be direct contact. That is, have to look also under each leaf.
I do the broadcasting way with a few poison pellets, use that Buggeta Plus. I use 3 lbs (<$10) every few weeks on 300 hostas. Slugs will come across it, eat it, etc. Bernd


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Hi Mike! I also used the ammonia spray this year directly on slugs...it was very effective...I applied the solution from a watering can early spring and watered the emerging pips and each week after that until the leaves all unfurled...including adjacent soil....this would also effectively kill off any eggs that remained. I also sprayed my lupine as the aphids love it. As long as the solution isn't too strong (I stay within 10-15% range) it doesn't seem to harm any of my plants.

Pine needles as mulch has been lauded from time to time on this forum. I can see how it would deter slugs to a point as they are thin and sharp. If I had a choice, I would definitely go foraging in an evergreen area and scoop up some free mulch. Have also used cocoa bean mulch...just love the chocolate scent that lasts for weeks...as it ages it gets darker...quite attractive...had pics but lost them when CPU crashed. I coated mine thick so it developed a skin-like blanket on top of the soil...but kept it away from the plants' crowns a good 4" . Didn't have heat or slug problems back then.

I'd be interested to know if you successfully obtain any of the 'harder to find' hosta you listed recently. I looked them up - I would love a Wally's Bullfrog and Still Waters (something with the word water) regardless of cost but highly unlikely I'll find them.

Jo


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Ammonia and water at 10-15% concentration has no effect on Hosta. It does not persist in the soil. It quickly breaks down into usable nitrogen. So it acts as a fertilizer also. It only kills on contact, so you have to get down inside and down the petioles to get all the slimies. But it does work well.

Steve


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Jo, what's this about Bull Frog and Still Water....it keeps coming up in conversation.....Since you are not likely to find that hosta, why not console yourself with an alternative?

Watch the movie CANNERY ROW, a Steinbeck story in which bull frogs play a very funny part. Water was pretty still too. :)
IMDB doesn't rate it high, but I love it....Debra Winger and Nick Nolte, and a cast of down and outers and a great Bull Frog hunt. Tremendous humor.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cannery Row movie & Bull Frog


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Your best bet for Wally's Bullfrog is to get on the waiting list with Ron Williams at House of Hosta. As far as Quiet Waters, it will probably be quite a while before it becomes available since it's a slow grower and tc was unsuccessful. So you'd be better off getting a look-a-like such as Erotica (but Naylor Creek is already sold out).


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Yes, mulch does attract bugs 'n slugs, but in my experience the mulch LEAST likely to attract 'em has been pine needles. By a mile.

Don B.


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Don R. - thank you for the information! I will work on your suggestion. I also appreciate you mentioning a look alike for Quiet Waters. I find it quite beautiful and unusual...I will look up Erotica for comparison via the side-by-side picture option.

Mocc...I heard about WB while surfing the threads shortly after I joined this forum. Like Denis in Ireland I could not get enough of reading about, and seeing pictures of many, many beautiful and unusual hostas. Wally's Bullfrog caught my interest and stuck with me...Mike's post prompted the query again.
Consolation isn't a bad thing...if I can't find what I really, really want, I may have to buy a 'few' to make up for it! Thanks for the link...I've bookmarked it. :-)

Jo


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I might take the Erotica as a consolation..but I'm leaving it on my list. maybe for a long time down the road. I can find info about house of hosta but no actual website


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house of hosta is old school ... write or call .. if they even have a phone.. lol ... back in the day.. got about 500 hosta from them ... good peeps ...

right above the words HOSTA FORUM .. is a bar of links.. one is for FAQ's ... and one of those is for slug hunting... its not much.. but its a start ...

hope springs eternal.. sure.. you keep those names on your list... lol ...

ken

Here is a link that might be useful: link


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One suggestion for spraying hosta - enlist a 10 year old boy. I was stuck with one for several days last year and after he zapped his first slug, I could not keep him out of the hosta garden. I've never used such a ready and eager slugicide in my life. I had to buy another spray bottle to keep him happy.
I use ammonia and water, but at the beginning of the season, I substitute hot pepper tea with a drop of vegetable oil for the water. This deters the rabbits and deer that come out in the spring for the juicy new hosta leaves while killing slugs.


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NinaMarie, sheer inspiration what you do!
And the hot pepper tea appeals to me. A dash of cinnamon with a dash of cayenne can perk up any pot of tea, honestly.
But I have a couple of quart size containers of the cayenne, and the crushed peppers, which can when fresh deter the squirrels, much larger problem for me here. They don't eat as much as they simply dig up. And that really does bad things to the smaller hosta roots.

Just think what an impact you have on small boys who discover that gardening can be interesting for more than the flowers. If you have him there next spring, give him one particular hosta that is HIS to watch over. My grandmothers, both of them, turned me into a life long gardener.


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Same here my grandma can root a popsicle stick LOL and my mom is a wonderful gardener as well so it was passed down I guess. Good to get kids into gardening thats not a patch of wild flowers or a sun flower in a cup.

Ken you will be the first one I send pics to when I get that list knocked out ;-)


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I guess all my mulch came back to bite me...I went looking for my hosta to dig up and take with me..out of maybe 20 I found 6 or 7..Im kind of down about it. there were some of my favs in there like "remember me" and some cherry berrys I have had awhile. Not that I can't find them again but they were getting big and I really wanted to take em. I think with out so much mulch they would have been easier to find...and before anyone asks yes I raked the mulch back even got crazy and started turning the soil over..still couldnt find them


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ninamarie, our 10 year old grandson took over my small vegetable and fruit garden and has 'Empress Wu' (biggest in the world!), 'Blue Cadet' and 'Stiletto'. I got hooked that way by my grandpa 1950. Bernd


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Mike...all is not lost, yet...can you ask of the new owners if you can return in spring? Most people can understand the sentimentality regarding certain plants. Assure them you'll leave the area tidy....perhaps negotiate a win/win... I really hope you get them all. Luck! :-)

Jo

P.S. Ken, "hope springs eternal"....you nailed it! :-)


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Ken you will be the first one I send pics to when I get that list knocked out ;-)

==>>. forget about stinkin pix... when they multiply... send me divisions... lol

i will hold my breath ... lol

ken


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And Bernd, I know you think on this family tradition continuing. It is about the best kind of immortality we can expect, in my opinion.


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Well, it's a good addiction to pass on. Actually, as much as I enjoyed him, a Texan set loose in an Ontario garden, his 12-year old sister (going on 35) made me laugh even more.
For days and days, she refused to come outside because of the mosquitoes. I called her a (gasp!) girly-girl. But after several days, she joined us when it looked like her brother was having more fun than she was. I refused to change my job because of her presence and soon she joined us shovelling very dry horse manure. It wasn't until half way through that I let her know what we were putting on the gardens.
She found that very funny, decided that she wasn't a (gasp!) girly-girl after all.
I will give them each a hosta to adopt when they come back next summer.
We don't have a problem with squirrels here. Slugs, rabbits, voles and deer are the biggest challenges. I've always been surprised that we don't have more deer damage - there isn't a day that goes by when I don't see them or their tracks on the driveway. But only when they get very brave do they trespass into the gardens.
Mike, when using mulch, any mulch, it's important to keep it off the plant stems. That will help deter the slugs, which then have to slither across scratchy ground to get to the hosta.


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For what it's worth, I have never seen a slug anywhere at any time in my garden anywhere. No sign of any damage from any. I am completely surrounded by mature pines which may explain this phenomenon.
Before you assume this is paradise , I am plagued with herds of deer, hordes of rabbits and flocks of turkeys (although I think they eat mostly bugs....maybe slugs???); 18 huge ones this morning (must have known it was after Thanksgiving).

Jon


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Love your link to the wild turkeys, Ken.

Up in Mass, in a small town not far from Boston really, I saw my first residential wild turkey. A small flock was at a neighbor's bird feeder, and then meandered across the street to our place. We had fruiting blueberry bushes, and they had a great time eating them.

I was enchanted with the diversity of wildlife, including the turkeys. But not so pleasant were the groundhogs, very destructive, and the bold coyotes strolling down the middle of the street in broad daylight, and fisher cats who frequently killed pet cats, and skunks who dug up our neighbor's bulbs, rabbits who ate the tops off the perennial border, chipmunks who dug out about 15 gallons of dirt from behind the 4 foot high rock wall running down the driveway,
And of course the deer. And the deer TICKS, which scared me to death because I still believe they are attracted to the smell of diabetic blood.

We don't have much in the way of critters here except some moles, an occasional possum or some really big raccoons. I had a young red tail hawk coming to dinner at the bird feeder frequented by squirrels, saw many signs of fresh kill on the roof of the feeder but no bodies.

And then cats. They like to turn my mulched flower beds into a litter box, and then stalk the wild birds. My dachshund girls delight in chasing them away.

So far, only the squirrels mess with the hosta pots. And maybe whatever it was that hissed at me from inside a planted pot last summer. Have no idea what it was even now.


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most of that wild life sounds tasty..I would have killed the deer and turkey straight away and ate them all..thats getting back to nature for me! or maybe its living in KY that makes me want to eat critters


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You will never win. This time the mulch, then the wildlife. I have a trap outside to catch rabbits, but squirrels learned that if they get into the trap they can eat my food, and then some nice man (me) will open the trap and they can escape, so it seems (I caught 4 in 1 week). Now my neighbor's 3 pet rabbits escaped while his family was in Florida in vacation, will never win. Bernd


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I had to google fisher cat as I had never heard of it before, seems its like our pine marten which was once nearly extinct but now is back in big numbers due to legal protection. I had one in the attic last week and took a bit of persuasion to get it to leave lol.

We have squirrels too both native red and American grey, a pair greys were released by the gentry on an estate in 1910 and nearly wiped out the reds east of the river Shannon, the pine martens seem to be eating the greys and the reds are making a comeback restoring the balance a little.

Deer,Badgers and foxes are killed in huge numbers by the farming community.

We don't have a lot of truly wild land here and our 3 national parks are tiny by US standards, we have "lost" all of the top of the food chain predators, the last wolf was shot not far from here in 1799 so there is little natural balance, our wildlife has a hard time due to persecution and ignorance and a huge rural population before the famine further squeezing out nature.

The only creature I have a struggle with in the garden(apart from slugs lol) is the Hare which likes to eat the bark off my young trees but trees are easily protected.

Its interesting to hear about your wildlife.

Denis


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As far as slugs are concerned,I'm probably not the one you would talk to,as I have very few of them,and the ones I see,I spray with the ammonia solution. I have always used some type of mulch,mostly pine bark,or Cypress mulch,whatever is cheapest. I really never saw a slug until I started growing hostas. They must come into the garden with the plants! I never use colored mulch,either. It gets on your shoes,and then you track it into the house. Anyhow,that's my take on mulch,and slugs. Phil


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I use pine needles in my rose beds. Roses love acid.
In the shade, in the spring, before I lay mulch, I lay brown paper bags down. I don't cut them open but use then 'full thickness' and when I run out, I use the ream of brown paper sold to painters for protecting flooring from their drips. I fit it around the plants, then cover it with a thick 3-4" layer of cedar mulch, undyed.
Every fall i lawnmower the maple leaves to a shredded mess, then overlay it on the cedar. By spring the next year, I top dress with a layer of compost, or more shredded cedar. I don't have a huge slug issue.


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Very interesting, Unbiddenn. I'd not heard of the brown paper bag method. Thanks for the input.

Don B.


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I don't usually have big issues with slugs in my region (and for that I am very thankful), I just know what I've experienced, which is: In my main hosta bed, with liberal amounts of pine needles, I've experienced virtually zero slug damage. In some other beds I have, I use pine bark, cut into teeny-tiny bits, and I've experienced SOME slug damage (I say slugs because of their telltale little round holes they create when they feed on leaves). As I wrote, my arid climate seemingly keeps heavy invasions at bay, but I do see a difference. Is it the needles? Well, it certainly seems to be the case. LOL Jon, I don't think you're nuts, I think you're onto something!! : )

Cheers,
Don B.

P.S. These observations were made in 2012 and 2013, as I've only been addicted to hostas for a couple seasons now.


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I live all the input..I only wonder if I mulch beneath some large oak or maples with the pine needles will it look really out of place? On one side will be a big stand of bamboo to help with shade so they will leave some leaf litter mulch as well. Just don't want the pine needles to stick out real bad


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Ken, I'm sure there must be slugs around here somewhere, I never see them. No, I don't go lifting leaves early in the morning to look for them, but any damage is so minor it is ignorable (new word).

Seeing a few turkeys around here used to be very special, and deer siting was rare (not any more). The turkeys used to scatter at the sight of a human, but today have lost much of their fear. Every day they scratch through the piles of leaves. There are not as many deer hunters as there used to be around and I don't know if turkey hunting is allowed here in MA; yes, it is...just checked the website. 5,000 Black Bears now in MA as well !!!, with some that wander into neighboring towns.

All this is good, but I could do very well without rabbits and deer in my backyard. Turkeys seem to have over run the place, but do no harm that I can see. I'm sure the population will (or are) attract(ing) more fox and coyotes.

Jon


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I have areas where I do not have holes in hosta leaves, so there I must have no slugs. Most damage I have where beds are close to neighbors' woods in the back, and mostly there I throw pellets. That area is under white pines, and I do not remove the pine needles, but they are mixed with tree leaves and get mowed into mulch at the end of the season. Bernd


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When I get too many slugs in my mulch. I just .. wait for it KEN ... throw it on the driveway.

Mulch survives. Slugs don't.

˘.˘

dave -~~


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i think... i recall.. someone complaining about turkeys harming pips in early spring.. scratching about looking for food ... which MIGHT be another reason .... to have it pulled back from the crown ....

BTW.. i meant to mention.. spraying with vinegar/ammonia... involves a pump tank.. and inserting the wand into the top of the plant.. and spraying the undersides of the leaves.. and the petioles ... allowing it to run down into the crown ... contact with the beast is imperative ... try it on the sidewalk sometime...

but NEVER spray the tops of the leaves ... its pH thing.. and if drops are left.. and hit by sun... you can harm a leaf surface ... and nothing gets sprayed on top of the wax that makes hosta blue ...

i seem to recall ... that it lasts quite a few days in a spray tank.. in the garage ...

and you dont need anything fancy like balsamic vinegar or anything like that .. though some have suggested a butter and garlic spray for snails .. lol ...

for vinegar.. think pickling.. and look for one or two gallons jugs in the pickling aisle ... its cheaper than the cooking aisle..

and ammonia is found in bulk in the cleaning aisle.. or the hardware store..

i too ... bernd ... used to bait at the fence line ... why fight them at the plant .. if you can kill them before they get there .. i also used to bait at the grass line .... in the moat left from edging the grass ...

one way to verify a slug population.. is to simply lay down a small piece of scrap lumber... and check it once a week .. that way you find out.. what is hiding.. in your garden ...

ken

Here is a link that might be useful: whats hiding out there... armour slug dogs????


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Ken the TOPS of the leaves Is where I find slugs,and yes I spray them where I find them,but I don't have a lot of places where sun hits directly on hostas leaves. To date,I have never had any damage spraying slugs,(except to the slugs),so to each his own! Lately more damage has been done to hostas by bunnies nibbling the new eyes as they emerge,but these plants usually grow back and hide any damage. Mostly the rabbits nibble on plants near the paths,and they don't seem to venture into the bed any farther. That means I'll have to find something to cover the plants you gave me,because they are near the paths. Phil


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You aren't going to see me dragging large bags of mulch around each year. I only use living mulch. It grows, blooms with pretty little flowers, looks great, keeps the weeds down, complements the hostas.

I use lamium and my favorite by far is Purple Dragon. Once you get it going, that's the end of your mulch problem. Comes back every year bigger and better.


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  • Posted by Ludisia 7a Philadelphia (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 4, 13 at 22:49

First, mad props to Steve for linking Linda Chalker-Scott. This woman knows her stuff. I have read some of her other publications and found them to be very enlightened. I am going to try some of her urban soil restoration practices in my own routine since I am in the heart of suburbia. Good stuff.

Second, I will say that the only thing you will ever find any two gardeners agreeing on . . . is what the other is doing wrong. I say this not to sound like there is fault in any of the approaches mentioned here, but simply to illustrate that everyone swears by their own method, and no two ways are ever the same. But that seems kind of obvious, so I’ll move on.

Mike, you asked for an alternative mulch that would hopefully reduce the overall slug population, or at least not allow them to setup shop in your beds.

All the different approaches mentioned above will give you the benefits of mulch as far as the soil is concerned, but I must agree that if any mulch is present there will be the capacity for slugs, regardless of the medium chosen. Hunting them manually or with bait will only help the overall problem, so I second the aggressive approach. This also frees you up to decide upon a mulch that works with your soil and plants in the best way, as opposed to something chosen simply to reduce slug population. After all, isn’t that what the mulch is there for ?

With all that, I’ll step down from my soapbox and tell you how I do it (following suit here). :p

Last year I used a shredded ‘licorice root’ mulch. It was filled with all sorts of sizes and shapes and I laid it down about two inches thick. It smelled of something awful though, almost like formaldehyde, but the texture was consistent and it ‘looked’ promising.

Regardless of the havoc it wrecked on my nostrils it served its purpose and kept everything comfy over the winter. However, I found come spring it had compacted severely and with very little snowfall or agitation. The daffodils would get caught up in the ‘cake layer’ and I’d have to rescue the leaf tips.

This could have largely been my fault for laying it on ‘so thick’. But honestly, two inches is not an absurd amount of mulch … so I blame the mulch. :p

Overall, I decided I did not like it due to its severe compaction without provocation. I went back to the drawing board and decided that for my personal goals I would be better served with shredded leaves. This decision was based largely on my supply. I know arborist chips are free, but for me it’s too much of a hassle to get them home. But here is another example of personal needs. Each garden is different and each gardener as well. :)

In the end, mulch is an invaluable tool that every gardener should employ. But we need to be concerned with what we are using so as to maximize the benefits it’s providing. As for the slugs, I suppose where there is mulch there will be slugs. C’est la ammonia.

This all comes at the end of a very long discussion, but we all know I’m good for a long winded finale any day.

Best of luck,
Ludi


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"I will say that the only thing you will ever find any two gardeners agreeing on . . . is what the other is doing wrong."

LOL you hit the nail on the head there, Ludi! : )

Don B.


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Ludi.......it's in the 'finales' that we get to know you. I for one feel a bit bereft when you only have time for a quick response, lol. There is always something to think about when you post - I love your humour and approach and it is always interesting to hear your take on things.

Glad the job/promotion is going well!

Best,
Jo :-)


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