Marianne Binetti

Marianne Binetti: Wait for rain, then go after slugs

The month of August is the time for an important garden chore — bait for slugs. This is the month when the slugs and snails are mating under the cover of darkness. Use a pet-safe slug bait such as Worry Free or Sluggo around the dark and shaded trysting spots such as groundcovers, rockeries and around uncut lawns.

Wait until just after a spell of rain when the summer dormant slugs will wake up and roam in search of a mate and hosta leaves.

Here are a few reader questions.

Q. How big should zucchini be at harvest time? Is it true that huge zucchini has no taste and no nutritional value? R.T., Maple Valley

A. Personal preference determines the size of the prize when it comes to zucchini harvest. You can harvest the yellow blossoms even before the squash forms, then dip the flowers in flour and fry them up.

You can also find a use for giant zucchini by grating the flesh to use in breads or casseroles. It is the young, but fully formed, zucchini that most gourmets prefer. Gathering squash while they are tiny and tender — no larger than a dill pickle — is best if you use them fresh. As for nutritional value, the shorter the time from harvest to table, the more nutrients available for your body to absorb. Freshly harvested vegetables also have more flavor, which is nature’s way of enticing us to eat more fresh vegetables.

Q. I want to divide my Oriental Poppies and share them with my daughter. The foliage has all turned brown and fallen off and so I know they are dormant. Is this a good time to share the poppies? A.M., Puyallup

A. Dig in and grow for it because August is a good month to share iris, poppies and daylilies. Those perennials are now done blooming, and their late-summer dormancy makes them good candidates for transplant surgery. Just use the shovel to slice off the outer sections of the poppy’s root clump and share or move them around the garden.

The very center of the poppy clump will be the oldest section and, like most things, they become weary and less productive with age. Retire any sad looking perennial roots to the compost pile, where they can rot in peace.

Q. I have Lady’s Mantle growing in my garden. This plant has reseeded all over and is taking over the flower beds and is now sprouting in the pathways. Is there a way to grow this plant but control all the babies that sprout? I don’t want to use a weed killing spray, because the baby plants are popping up amidst my other flowers in the garden. T. Email

A. Alchemilla or Lady’s Mantle can be called a tramp the way she hops into other beds so quickly to spread her seed without even an invitation. Birth control of most flowering plants is easy if you remember to deadhead or remove the faded flower clumps as soon as they begin to fade but before the seeds have formed.

If any seedlings of Lady’s Mantle do appear, make an effort to pull them while they are still young. Lady’s Mantle has very tenacious roots and is difficult to dig up once established. Despite her aggressive nature, Lady’s Mantle is a slug resistant, shade tolerant and drought resistant perennial that is worth growing not just for the citrus yellow flowers but also for the rounded, scalloped leaves. The foliage will hold drops of dew and rain atop the hairy surface of the leaf displayed like glistening jewels.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.

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