Seasonal Gardening: Slug Control, Low-Mow Lawn and Edible Flowers

The Seasons of the Garden column shares seasonal gardening news briefs on using aluminum sulfate for slug control, new grass cultivars for low-mow lawns and a commercial grower for edible flowers.

| September/October 1987

The Seasons of the Garden column shares seasonal gardening information and tips with MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers. 

Slug it Out Safely With Slugs

You say you've been having a slugfest in your garden and the organic slug remedies (like beer in saucers) aren't working? Is it time to give up and reach for a chemical poison? No! Recent English experiments have shown that aluminum sulfate, a natural inorganic material widely used to acidify soil, works as well as — or even better than — the standard methiocarb and metaldehyde slug molluscicides (mollusk toxins). Furthermore, aluminum sulfate costs less than the synthetic substances and is quite easy to apply.

In the British tests, all the molluscicides evaluated — natural and synthetic — provided adequate protection for four days, then slug damage began to recur. Hence, frequent applications may be necessary. However, since aluminum sulfate seems to act more as a repellent than a poison, slug populations might take a long time to build resistance to it.

Aluminum sulfate powder is sold at most garden centers as a soil acidifier. Apply five to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet for slug control. (About 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet is needed to lower pH a point — and you can always add lime to bring pH back up. )

Seasonal Gardening Research Briefs

Sterile Darrows. The Darrow is perhaps the best thorny blackberry cultivar for the eastern U.S. But if yours bear poorly or not at all, they may be victims of Darrow sterility disorder. DSD seems to be genetically based (even tissue-cultured plants can be afflicted) and cannot be cured. So make sure your blackberry suppliers obtain their propagation materials only from highly fruitful plants.

Don't microwave test soil. University of South Dakota researchers report that using a microwave oven to dry soil test samples significantly alters the results for organic matter content, pH, nitrogen, potassium, sulfur and cation-exchange capacity.

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