The vampires of the garden

It comes out at night after the sun has disappeared into the horizon and searches for its next meal. After haunting the night air, leaving behind what remains of the living, it seeks once again shelter in the dark, away from the scorching rays of the sun, to rest until twilight once again arrives. Fear not, Count Dracula exists only on pages of a book or in the movies. However, there is a sinister villain that prowls at night or when the sun fails to appear due to cloud cover, devouring plants, leaving behind the ravished corpse of what was once a plant.

Turn over rocks or a forgotten piece of wood and you will find the shell-less terrestrial gastropod mollusk, commonly called a slug. Slugs love to feed on tender plants, which unfortunately are found in flower beds or vegetable gardens. Slugs are a favorite food of many mammals, snakes, toads and birds.

Yes, beer in a pie pan does work, but don’t use beer fresh out of the can or bottle — that is just a waste of good beer. Old stale beer or a mixture of one part yeast to three parts water placed in various locations will yield overnight a bounty of dead slugs.

There are many ways to eliminate or reduce the damage done by slugs. You could pretend you are a vampire (slug) hunter and instead of a stake, use a salt shaker. Salt to slugs is like water was to the wicked witch of the west in the Wizard of Oz.

BLOSSOMING CONCERNS

This year I think I have been approached at least twice about roses that once bloomed, but now only send up long canes and no roses. My first question has been where the rose was purchased. The answer is generally from a local nursery, box store or greenhouse. This tells me that more than likely the rose is grafted. The root stock is from a vigorous wild rose with a hybrid rose grafted onto the root stock. The end result is to create a more vigorous hybrid.

However, failure can and does happen when the graft for some reason fails. If the graft was planted below ground level or if the graft freezes, the root stock may send up canes from the original plant. If this happens, I would recommend removing the existing plant and planting a new rose bush.

Just a reminder to those who grow Asiatic and Oriental lilies, you should do a leaf beetle check. You are looking for a fire engine red beetle or signs of dark spots on the upper side of the leaf. If you see spots, check underneath the leaves of the plants for a dark brown glob. The glob will contain a beetle larvae covered with its own excrement. Use a tissue or some other means and destroy.

I am reminding you because I had been checking my plants and have found nothing — nothing until I checked my forgotten patch of the native Turk’s cap and lo and behold, there they were.

FATAL

TICK BITE

There is nothing like a charcoal grilled burger topped with bacon, onion, lettuce and a ripe home-grown tomato or a thick juicy steak done medium, topped off with your favorite brew. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is a slim chance that you may have to avoid all red meats.

By now you are aware that deer ticks are carriers of Lyme disease and that a rash can occur, but did you know that deer ticks are not the only ticks around? This tick’s name is the Lone Star tick. Depending on the individual, some people can be sensitive to the Lone Star tick’s saliva. An allergic reaction occurs when red meat is consumed. Eating poultry or seafood does not trigger this allergic reaction, which can be life-threatening, similar to what happens when someone has a peanut allergy. This requires immediate medical attention as death could occur. The worst scenario happens when an individual is not aware of the allergy and suffers reactions hours later.

As always, after time spent in the outdoors, a body check should be done, and if you find a tick that has attached itself to you, gently remove it and have it examined for identification. Knowing the species of ticks will alert you to look out for Lyme disease or allergic reactions to red meats.

AH, ONIONS

I’ve always said, in the spring give me a green spring onion, a little salt and a piece of buttered bread and I am in culinary heaven. So my tastes are simple, but when I was a mere youngin, green onions and buttered bread made a meal in itself. But what do you do with the onions that have aged and no longer fit the bill to be eaten raw? You allow them to grow with the idea to store them for winter use.

In order for onions to be used later, they must be cured. When can you start this process? The onion will let you know. The leaves start to show their age by turning brown and eventually start to fall over. Now starts the curing. Do not pull them out of the ground. Wait about two full weeks after the leaves fall over before you pull them. Let them lie on the ground for an additional two to three days allowing the roots to dry. You can than either allow the dried leaves to remain or you can cut them off, leaving at least an inch. Anything less could cause the bulb to rot. Once the roots have dried, move the onions to an area out of the sun, but an area that is warm and well ventilated. You do not want a cool damp place.

The onions are cured when the outer layer of skin starts to dry out. Storing in a mess bag is ideal.

IT’S NOT THAT BROKE!

There is a saying that bigger is not always better, or if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Decades ago someone had the bright idea to help with insect pest control by introducing non-native species of preying mantises to the North America continent. These new mantises are much larger than our natives and are capable of catching large non-insect prey, hummingbirds being one of the victims.

The Clinton County Fair starts the 29th of July. Take time and visit the beginnings of the Penn State Clinton County Master Gardeners’ new pollinator garden. See the start of a new garden and watch it develop.

Remember, it is easy to be green. Happy gardening!

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Quentin Stocum, former Clinton County Master Gardener Coordinator, can be reached at

570-726-0022 or qbs5000@ag.psu.edu.

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