Garden Journal

Sluggish days, flashy nights: Humid weather brings out the slugs in even the best neighborhoods. If your tender-leaved plants (basil and lettuce in particular) are looking motheaten by day with no sign of insect pests, examine your plants after dark, by flashlight. Chances are you’ll find slugs chowing down on your future pesto. Hand picking is effective but will leave you coated in excreble slime. Instead, bury a tuna or cat-food tin flush with the ground and pour in an inch of cheap beer. Slugs love a party.

Seedy goings on: Gorgeous perennials have been flowering for months now, and dry seed heads are free for the plucking. Calendula, coreopsis, foxgloves, poppies, purple cone flower (echinacea) and lots of other plants you’ve been admiring can be started as simply as snipping some tops and scattering them in your garden. It’s early enough in the season that biennials started now will likely to bloom next year. A handy trick is to start a few of each type of seed in a tray so you’ll recognize seedlings in the garden beds and avoid inadvertently weeding them out.

Ivy league: WNC grows some of the must luxuriant and glossy-leaved poison ivy in North America, which is great news for songbirds that feast on its berries before fall migration. Undigested seeds are then widely distributed by our avian friends. A useful organic solution to combat the plants is to spray them with a mixture of 1 gallon of vinegar and 1 cup of salt. Heat and stir to dissolve the salt, then cool and add a few drops of detergent. This mixture will kill almost any type of foliage, so aim carefully. It will take repeated treatments to fully exterminate your target. (And consider defoliating tree-climbing vines only as high as you can reach – leaving the tops to set fruit for the birds.)

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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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