Getting to grips with garden pests

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Slugs and snails are continually active in all parts of the garden and nowhere more so than among hostas. This plant can be ruined by this

pests eating holes in the leaves, writes gardening correspondent Jake Coltman.

They are even more active in damp, showery weather. Control them by hand picking and disposing of them whichever way one wishes, or scattering slug pellets among the plants but not everyone cares to use them. Alternatively, place a small container of beer among the leaves which acts as a trap (of course, some people may consider that a waste!), or surround the leaf stalks with coarse grit.

According to a recent study, researchers found that shifting snails away from a plot is just as effective at limiting damage to plants as killing them. Investigations showed snails are part of larger colonies that live in a particular area and have an in-built harming instinct. Results showed that moving these destructive little creatures by distances of 20 metres or more had a disabling effect on their ability to return to their old territory.

Of course, should readers try their own experiment, by moving them to wasteland – it does not mean moving them to a neighbour’s garden!

Getting back to hostas, they are what one could term ‘double-value’ plants as they are grown for both the attractive leaf colours and flower spikes. As well as for herbaceous and mixed borders, hostas make excellent specimens in containers for display around the house and patio.

Choose a large container as hostas will thrive, with the foliage spilling over the sides. Because the plant is up from ground level there is less chance of slugs causing damage. They thrive in partial shade; they can even be tried in deep shade (not the variegated varieties) where other types of plant would struggle to survive.

Though they die down completely in the winter months, come the spring new growth appears and soon the characteristic large leaves display their many self and variegated colours. As well as shades of green, variegated varieties are available with green foliage edged yellow or white, while others can have virtually an all-yellow leaf and there is a striking glaucous-blue type. The plant is particularly attractive following rainfall as droplets are caught among the viens of the wrinkle-leaved varieties.

It is best to remove the flower spikes when they lose their attractiveness. Large clumps can be divided in spring and, if having been leftfor a number of years in the border, can be so big that when lifted, it takes a spade, or even an axe or saw, to split the hard root system!