I returned home recently after a four-day absence to find that some bugs were having a field day in my garden. If some of you who are gardening with me find some hungry pests in your patch, don't be worried. There's usually a way to save your crop from getting eaten up by insects. What I found in my garden were slugs, rather ugly gray creatures that are like snails without shells. You'll find them in many areas of the country. They feed at night, so you can hunt for them in the early evening and early morning. I go out at these times and pick them right off the plants, and now very few of them are left. Don't forget to look for them under the leaves as well as on top.
An easy way to catch slugs is to place a flat piece of board on the surface of the soil, between your plants or alongside your garden. The slugs will go under it to find shelter from the sun. Just remove the board each day and pick up the slugs. (If you don't want to use your hands, just use a small shovel. Then toss them into a bag and throw them out.) You can also use scooped-out halves of grapefruits to attract them. Slugs love to crawl under grapefruit skins.
Another pest you may find in your garden is the cutworm. It's a plain gray worm that wraps itself around the stem of a plant at night and eats until the plant topples over, as if it has been cut off at the ground.
There are a couple of simple ways to get rid of this creature. Push a nail or short stick into the soil about 1 inch deep, right next to the stem of the plant. The stick or nail prevents the worm from curling around the stem and eating.
Another way is to slit a plastic soda straw down one side, then cut it into 2-inch pieces. Open up the straw lengthwise along the slit and place it around the stem of your seedling. The cutworm can't chew through the straw, so the plant is protected.
Many flying pests can often be eliminated by picking them off by hand. Do this work early in the morning while it's cool outside. Then you can catch them more easily, because they aren't warm enough to move fast. Just be sure you don't catch and squash a ladybug, because it's a friend. It does a great job in the garden by eating a type of pest called aphids.
Whatever happens, don't worry if you see one or two holes in a leaf. Plants quickly recover from minor insect damage; some even seem to grow better because of it.
Peter Tonge P.S. Next week we'll do some more planting in your garden.