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How to keep slugs from turning your garden into a salad bar

 A light brown slug sits on green lettuce leaves in a garden.
Something has been eating your salad greens and basil and it isn't you! It's likely due to slugs and snails, who thrive in wetter, humid weather.

If your marigolds and zinnias, basil and lettuces have signs of damage, chances are - with the spate of recent wet, humid weather - it's due to slugs and snails.

The good news is that once the plants grow a bit bigger, snails and slugs won't be as much of an issue. For right now, there are some measures you can take to ensure you'll get to eat some salad and enjoy your flowers.

Slugs and snails like cool, damp and shady conditions. And they emerge at night and munch away, hiding in the soil and mulch during daytime hours.

Try removing mulch from around plants and scrape up the soil, especially around seedlings. That can help dry the soil out a bit faster, making it less friendly for snails and slugs.

Some other ways to deter the creepy-crawlies involve putting down some natural materials that they don't like to crawl over. Crushed eggshells disintegrate too quickly and aren't sharp enough. Instead, try things like crushed clam or crushed oyster shells.

Another natural material to try: sheep's wool. Slugs and snails don't like walking across scratchy surfaces. And with wool, the tannins in the natural fibers irritate them.

Beer traps also work! The snails and slugs are interested in the yeast, not the alcohol. And you can go cheap here; no need for artisan brews. Pour a bit of beer into a small container then leave a space at the top of the container. The trap works because the slugs will have to stretch to reach the liquid and then they'll fall into the liquid and drown.

Empty the traps each morning and make sure to keep kids and dogs away from the traps so they don't ingest the beer.

Some organic baits on the market also work to rid your gardens of snails and slugs. One uses iron phosphate, a naturally occurring and safe mineral. The bait attracts the slugs, but when the slugs and snails eat it, the iron phosphate kills them.

Those traps have very low toxicity, but again, best practice is to keep young kids and animals away from it.

Q: Has gout weed essentially eradicated wild phlox in Central Vermont? - Byron, via email

A: Goutweed, or Aegopodium podagrariais also called Bishop's weed. It's a non-native, creeping perennial that is very aggressive. Wild phlox is pretty aggressive, too. Both plants can crowd out native species and affect biodiversity.

If you have a lot of goutweed in your yard, the method to eradicate it is straightforward but takes some time and patience.

Begin now by mowing the goutweed repeatedly this summer. Doing so will begin to weaken it.

Next, throw a tarp over the goutweed to cover it for a year or so. Then, next year, when you pull the tarp off, dig out the root system.

Even after you've done that, more goutweed may sprout and you might have to be mowing it again for a while, depending on how aggressive it is.

Once you've gotten rid of most of the goutweed, put down deep wooden or metal edging. That should help you draw the line and hopefully goutweed won't cross it!

Q: I'm growing peas. The plants are big and lush. They look wonderful, but I would have expected to see flowers by now but not a one. Should I see flowers by now? - Michelle, in Barre

A: A lot of pea plants are late-blooming and late-maturing varieties. The flowers are on the way soon and you'll have lots of peas to enjoy.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Submit your written question via email, or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.