Tomlinson: Weather dictates what pests your garden faces

Weather is always a factor in gardening. Regardless of what the gardener does, the weather plays an important role in what thrives and what doesn’t. This is also true in what pests are prevalent.

Long hot days mean less slugs than when the weather is wet cool weather as slugs prefer damp cool areas. During sunny weather slugs hide out under low lying plants, rotting materials and in lush green lawns. The easiest way to get rid of slugs is to physically remove them from the garden. Once collected they should either be fed to fowls or placed in a closed container and put in the garbage.

Placing traps at the edge of the garden, keeping the soil free of leaves and weeds or leaving a dirt strip between the garden and lawn.

It is impossible to find the slugs in the lawn but they can be lured out with the use of traps, pieces of rotten wood, beer or commercial ones. Slugs like to spend their days under rotting wood as it is cool and moist. Place a piece of old untreated wood in the garden and check it daily for slugs. Beer works as a trap by drawing them towards the trap but it must be set up not to allow the creatures to crawl back out. Commercial traps also work on premise of either trapping or poisoning.

Removing old leaves and weeds from the garden removes places for the slugs to hide. At this time of year gardens are crowded and it is harder to keep the areas clear.

A wide dirt strip is not aesthetically pleasing for an ornamental garden but it works well in a vegetable garden. Slugs secrete a slime to move. For them it is easier to move across foliage than rough dirt.

Placing copper around the plant will deter the critters while diatomaceous earth will slit their stomachs.

Salt does not kill slugs. The slug will put out a secretion that removes the salt from their skin.

Powdery mildew grows on plants in damp areas where there is not enough air circulation. The days have been hot but evening, thundershowers provide wet, cool conditions.

Select pruning will help remove the worst of the mildew and increase air circulation for vegetable and annuals. Spraying with a mixture of 1% milk to 9% water and a pinch of baking soda about once a week will reduce the problem. Spray the plants when they are not in direct sunlight to avoid burning the leaves.

The garden is full of insects that nibble on the leaves. Each gardener will decide if it is worth the trouble of identifying and killing the insects. Remember to always read the label on any pesticide as they all, organic or not contain poisons.

Blossom end rot is a common tomatoes and zucchini. The fruit will begin to develop but without calcium the fruit cannot retain water causing the cells to collapse and rot. It could be that the soil is lacking in calcium but it is more likely that the watering is uneven.

Both plants do best in rich well aerated soil that is moist but not saturated.

Long hot days effect each type of plant differently. Some, if they receive enough water thrive and grow. Others, the ones that like cool temperatures may appear to be stunted or be more advanced than they typically are.

The only thing one can do with gardens that have received hail is to remove all the broken and battered plants before they begin to rot.

Gardeners are usually an optimistic group. Ready to adjust their methods depending whatever the weather.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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