3 Gardeners Share: How I Got Rid Of My Most Serious Plant Pest

Several readers share how they handled their most serious pests in the garden.

Plant PestsPin

Charlotte Parrish

We moved into our new village home right after the lawn had been turned over, graded, seeded, and thousands of bulbs planted in the beds.

Ground moles from miles around moved in the same day.

During the night, we could hear them licking their chops as they feasted on the bulbs that had broken our budget.

Mornings found our lawn and flower beds intricately embroidered in tunnel design.

We tried feeding them expensive poison pellets. The moles fattened on them.

We tried traps, but the moles laughed at us. We stalked their movements underground with long pointed sticks. The moles thought it was a new game.

We were standing in the yard surveying the damage and discussing the possibility of feeding our pests uranium chunks and then looking for them with Geiger counters when the village’s oldest inhabitant came.

A man with more years of gardening to his credit than he could remember.

“Why don’t you get rid of your moles?” he asked.

We just smiled weakly in reply.

“Get yourself a dime’s worth of carbide,” he said as he shifted his cane. “Follow the tunnels and stick your finger in every few feet to make a hole for a piece of the carbide.”

“Then what happens?” we asked. We were sure he had joined forces with our moles to bedevil us to distraction.

“Just pour a cup of water in each hole,” he said. “That’ll get rid of ’em.”

“Can’t hurt to try,” we decided. Armed with a bag of carbide, cup, and bucket of water, we started.

Meanwhile, the rains came. We rolled our shacks to half-mast and continued, my husband making the holes and dropping the carbide and me creeping along behind, pouring a cup of water in each.

Little volcanos began springing up all over the place, Fresh bursts of rain brought forth fresh eruptions again and again.

We felt sillier by the minute—especially when we noticed a string of cars driving around the block to observe this extreme departure from ordinary behavior patterns.

More curious than the others, one woman stopped at the curb. “May I ask what on earth you are doing?” she shouted.

“Gas chambering moles,” we answered. She lost little time driving away. Sure she had discovered two mental cases on the loose.

Then we beat a retreat to the house, pulled down the blinds, and spent the evening trying to meet one another’s eyes.

Actually, it worked. The moles left or died. We don’t know or care which.

We firmly believe they moved out. They were used to operating in a sedate and sane neighborhood, and they just couldn’t tolerate such embarrassing and unorthodox gardening methods.

Ona Cardwell

I don’t know about the other sections of the country, but here in the eastern part of Tennessee, there are many slugs.

You know those big slimy, legless blobs that crawl and leave a shiny trail behind them.

And that’s not all they do! They dearly love to eat petunias. They will eat almost any kind of plant, but they eat all the petunias first, and if that doesn’t fill them, they start on something else.

They got into my greenhouse and in one night (they feed at night) ate a couple of flats of seedling petunias right down to the ground.

For the last 2 years, our summers have been so dry that petunias (bless their hardy hearts) were about the only flowers that I could grow successfully.

When these slimy slugs started to devour my only flowers, I decided it was time to declare war.

I sneaked into the greenhouse one night and switched on the light, and there, grazing away, were at least five slugs in one flat of petunias.

I held burning matches on them, which got rid of five, but there were five more the next night.

Since I couldn’t stay up nights and burn them, I had to find something else. I started looking through all my gardening books and magazines for a remedy.

I found one: poison bran to be used as bait. So I bought some and scattered them, according to directions, around on the ground’s surface, near the petunias.

The slugs preferred the petunias: the children preferred the poison bait. So I had to find something else.

Having seen the children sprinkle salt on the slugs to watch them dissolve, I concluded that they were sensitive to salt and that it could. Therefore, he used it as a weapon.

I applied a narrow, continuous line—about the size of a pencil around the wooden edges of the flats in the greenhouse and around the edges of window and porch boxes and flower beds on the ground.

This did the trick! Even after the salt had dissolved and could no longer be seen, it still protected my petunias like an invisible fence!

Frances Drake

When we moved to our present home, I immediately began having visions of hundreds of waterlilies exhibiting their glorious array of rainbow colors in our small pond in the pasture that can be seen from the house.

I planted hardy waterlilies in the rich muddy bottom only to have them disappear before blooming time.

Our dog swims out and brings in all sticks and branches that fall into the pond, so I thought he was the villain. I even thought that the cows might be pulling them up, but I never found the plants!

One day, I read an article by a waterlily grower who stated that muskrats were especially fond of waterlilies but only ate the yellow varieties.

I bought pinks, reds, and whites and put up a chicken wire fence around where I planted them in the pond.

Old Man Muskrat went right under the fence and pulled them out. Later, I found a root lying on the shore with the heart eaten out.

One day, a friend told me that he had solved the problem by planting the roots in boxes with the plant’s crown about 4″ inches lower than the sides of the box and weighting the plant down in the box with several stones.

He then nailed a piece of 1×1-inch hardware wire over the top of the box.

The leaves and buds can easily grow through the holes, but the muskrats can’t get at the plants.

When I want to use small boxes, I nail a piece of 1×1-inch hardware wire on the bottom of an open-bottomed box, place an inch of straw on the bottom, then put the plant in and fill around it with soil.

I weigh it down with a few stones and nail a piece of hardware wire on the top. The straw holds the soil in the box until I get the box into the water, but the roots quickly grow through the bottom and down into the rich mud of the pond.

I also use this method for tropical waterlilies and have had wonderful results.

It took me 6 years and much time and expense to learn a simple way to outwit the only pest I have had in growing both the hardy and tropical waterlilies.