Garden humour Gardening Slugs and snails

A Visit At The Slug Lady’s

By Larry Hodgson

I’m very naïve. I keep imagining that that every gardener would like to be a laidback one like me and spend as much time as possible relaxing in their garden rather than spending all their time working on it. But I’m finding it can be quite the opposite: there are a lot of people, whom I call “excessive gardeners,” who actually like to work ceaselessly on their yard.

There was, for example, a neighbor of mine who loved to water. She watered plants daily regardless of their needs. Once she even told my wife: “This weather is so depressing! It’s been raining non-stop for three days! How do you expect me to get out and water my gardens?”

There was another one I now call the slug lady. She’s a “prim and proper” gardener. Everything in her yard had to be impeccable. Since retiring several years earlier, she had taken to spending most of her waking hours working in her garden. She even used to vacuum the lawn after she mowed it. Yes, with a workshop-type vacuum cleaner! In the autumn, she would install nets everywhere to try to catch the fall leaves before they ended up on her oh-so-perfect lawn. That’s diligence!

A Visit and Some Friendly Advice

One day, she invited me to visit her garden. As we walked around, she explained her approach to me. In a shady area of the yard—there are a lot of tall trees in the yard—, she began to explain all about how she controlled slugs on her hostas, of which there were dozens, if not hundreds. She said she put a lot of effort into it, luring the little pests in with beer, getting up early in the morning to hand pick them, applying egg shells, wood ash and diatomaceous earth to the soil around her plants as a barrier, spraying their leaves in the evening with an ammonia solution, putting out slug traps with poisonous bait, etc. She said her dog almost died one day after eating slug bait and she wouldn’t let him leave the house off leash anymore. (He was watching us from the window, wagging his tail hopefully.) You could tell she was really serious about slug control!

As she spoke, I noticed some of the hostas that surrounded us had leaves with a few tiny holes caused by the slugs she had missed, but others that didn’t show the slightest bit of damage. I dared to point out to her that slugs don’t attack just any hosta. They have their favorites. And there are hostas they won’t even touch. I showed her a few she had already, ones with tough, thick leaves or whitish bloom that slugs loath. Why, I asked, instead of working so hard to control slugs, don’t you simply replace your slug-damaged hostas with slug-resistant hostas? Plus, she had enough slug-resistant hostas that she would be able to divide that the changeover needn’t cost her a penny! (I was not terribly surprised that she hadn’t noticed this phenomenon. It took me years of vain efforts at slug control before I myself realized that there are hostas that are good for garden use and others that are only good for the compost pile.)

Adverse Reaction

I expected her to at least consider my point, maybe even thank me for the information that was sure to save her hundreds of hours of work. Instead, she glared at me ferociously. Obviously, she was taking my remark as a criticism of her gardening style. And the visit ended abruptly.

That happened many years ago. The lady lived in her home for another ten years or so. She must have been well over 80 by then and she still worked just as hard. I would sometimes see her on my daily constitutional, hoeing, digging and weeding (she didn’t use mulch, of course: that would have made things too simple). She always stubbornly avoided my gaze. In all that time, she didn’t remove a single one of the slug-damaged hostas. And you could see just as many baited slug traps scattered around her yard. I hope she hasn’t sent too many dogs, cats and neighborhood children to the hospital.

About 5 years ago, a for sale sign went up. Within just a few months, she had left, the graceful old house had been torn down, the garden was pulled out and a brand-new condo complex had come up in their place. In the landscaping around the building (narrow lawns and a few equally narrow flower beds), there were mostly shrubs and dwarf conifers … and a few hostas. But only the kind that slugs love! Really, humans are slow learners!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

19 comments on “A Visit At The Slug Lady’s

  1. Ferne Dalton

    Such an informative article, as always. But I value my laughs just as much these days. So I especially enjoyed my first chuckle of the day when looking at that cartoon. Tells your story so precisely. Sure hit my funny bone.

  2. Why grow hostas at all? Okay, bad question.

  3. Enjoyed this immensely as I have experienced the same resistance to change. But… to each their own. Thank you for an entertaining read.

  4. Russ Clark

    This story reminds me of a neighbour two houses down who is obsessed with having the perfect lawn. My wife and I both worked in the health sector before retiring and are convinced he has a OCD. He is constantly repairing the tiniest flaw in his lawn which he waters frequently late at night so he won’t be seen, we assume.
    For about the last decade we have had a family of skunks we call the Mouffes living under our shed.The rent they pay is eating the white grubs in the lawn, at least until a few months ago when they disappeared. The neighbour beside us informed us that the afor-mentionned neighbour had convinced him to hire somebody to trap the skunks and relocate them because they made holes in his perfect lawn.
    We are hopIng that that the Mouffes have relatives who are still in the neighbourhood and who might take up residence in the now unoccupied space under our shed this coming summer. We will of course offer the same rent conditions as before.
    An evolving story.

  5. R W Watson

    Great information! I would be very much interested in a list of slug resistant varieties. We have a number of hostas, but I don’t have time for slug control and they look lousy by the end of summer and have been removing them.

  6. I did not Know some hosta was not to slug liking, do you have a list or article on this.
    I was surprised to find that hosta could be eaten like asparagus or lettuce by humans.
    If the supply chain every breaks, I may find out.

  7. Good morning. I didn’t know there are hostas that the slugs won’t bother. Do you have any specific names?

  8. We do each approach gardening in a different way, don’t we. I work a lot in my garden but still try to be smart about the ‘work.’ I do hope no one is watching when I move the same plant for the third or fourth time though. 🙂

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