Which is less desirable, slugs or snakes?
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Mar 28, 2012 | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The balance of nature has become a bit uneven for my yard and the critters. Since the winter was so mild, I had creepy slugs leaving tracks on my porch and saw one or more every day. Recently I had someone put “slug bait” in the places where they most likely were hiding and suddenly I have no signs of slugs. In the past, the garter snakes, who eat all the slugs they find, have been keeping the slug population pretty much under control, but now there are few garter snakes so more slugs.

Which is more desirable or rather, which is more undesirable, slugs or snakes? For those of you who have not used the slug poison and need it, it comes in a pellet form and can be purchased at most any farm and garden store. You can place a board in some damp place where you have seen slugs, raise the board a fraction of an inch by putting a small pebble under each end and put the poisoned pellets under the board. They also hide in corners where dead leaves cluster and even in damp basements or cellars. Slugs especially like hostas and will eat the leaves and hide in the shade underneath.

I have wondered at the few snakes I see now when a few years ago, I would see six or more sunning on the rocks behind my back driveway. I have noticed several hawks circling over my houses and the house next door and I assumed they were looking for squirrels or birds until a friend saw one flying over her house with a snake in its talons. I also know that feral cats will catch small snakes. In conclusion, I think snakes are preferable if not in large numbers.

Since iris are getting ready to bloom, some of you may need some information in the care and transplanting of iris. First, iris are strong growers and need very little care except to be divided every two to five years. The time to divide iris is right after they finish blooming so that will be soon. Most iris fanciers only divide a part of their iris beds each year so that they have a continuous bloom because it may take a year for the newly transplanted rhizomes to bloom. After transplanting, the leaves need to be cut back to relieve stress on the roots but at no other time should you cut the leaves back on iris. Don’t forget that.

Iris do not need rich soil, will not tolerate manure, and thrive on hillsides and raised beds. They will grow well in clay soil with a little sand added. They do best in full sun but will tolerate a little shade. The old saying is that if a soil will grow corn, iris will grow well there. Use NO chemical fertilizer and DO NOT mulch. Pretty easy. And I never water mine unless there is a really dry summer. Then I might water a time or two. Some growers use a little bone meal on iris and some will use a bit of wood ashes.

Transplanting iris can take pages to describe but a few tips will help you. You want to remove all the old, weak roots and most gardeners will leave three rhizomes to a clump.

When you are working with iris, check to see if any of the rhizomes are soft and mushy and smelly and if you find any, dig them out and destroy them. Don’t put them on your compost since they are from the iris borer and will contaminate all your iris if you aren’t careful. That is about the only enemy of iris.

There are several varieties of iris but the above care is for the tall bearded iris with which we are all most familiar. If you like this beautiful old plant, consider buying some of the newer varieties in different colors.

My dear grandmother, Ma to my readers, loved iris and had them scattered all over her back garden plus many in the front yard. She called them “flags” and especially liked them to put in vases to take to the graves of the Lewis ancestors in the little cemetery near the house. She would combine them with whatever was blooming.

It might be japonica or mock orange or wild honeysuckle. Then on Memorial Day, which Ma called Decoration Day which is what it was called till later, she had many, many flowers to take to the family graveyard and to another a mile or so away where her sister was buried. Going to the family cemetery with Ma was always one of my favorite times with her, partly because I had her full attention and partly because she would tell me a little something about each person buried there.

I would be able to picture them from her description. I will always remember “Little Mary”, Pa’s three year old baby sister who was accidentally killed by her older brother who was splitting wood and she walked behind him at the wrong time. There was a tiny tombstone and a little lamb on her grave and it always made me cry to see that little grave.

Strange that she died so many, many years ago and her memory still lives in me and my sisters from going to the little cemetery with Ma. I always put a special little jar of flowers on Little Mary Lewis’s grave. Would that I could do it now.

Thanks to all of my readers who call. Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 or e-mail at ronellastagner@mediacombb.net.
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