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DIG THIS | Slugging our way into springtime

Banana Slug - Courtesy Photo
Banana Slug
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

As the days get milder and warmer, we spend more time in our gardens. Once again we start noticing all the abundant life on our own little piece of heaven. It’s truly amazing how much wildlife (both miniature and large) calls our garden home.

Stillwaters in Kingston is embarking on a program titled “Peaceful Living with Our Wildest Neighbors.” They are asking for our help in conducting a wildlife survey of North Kitsap as part of the North Kitsap Trails Association Project. This project plans to link our communities with hiking and biking trails.

Stillwaters is asking those who live in North Kitsap to report where and when they’ve seen wildlife and what kind of wildlife was spotted. They especially want to know the general areas that are habitat for black bear, coyote, beavers, otters, deer, bobcats, mink, migrating birds, cougars and anything unusual or if you spot changes in habitat patterns.

Please report your observations to Stillwaters by noting the location by road, address or waterway. Volunteers and staff at Stillwaters will then record it on a map. E-mail your reports to info@stillwatersenviromentalcenter.org or jot a note and mail it to Stillwaters, 26059 Barber Cut-off Road, Kingston WA 98346.

Speaking of critters, many of you have followed our flicker family tales through the years. Well, guess what? We now not only have flickers but also a downy woodpecker and a red-breasted sapsucker making love music on our satellite dish mounted off the side of our deck. Each bird stakes out a different time of day and raps out a different rhythm. At least they aren’t drumming away too early in the morning, nor do they all congregate at the same time. Sometimes, though, each of the three birds line up politely at respectable distances apart on the deck’s railing awaiting their turn.

It has been quite comical to observe. The red-headed sapsucker discovered the satellite dish first, taking advantage of the opportunity to court a female impressing her with his beaky skills. After a few days the flicker arrived to observe and sidle closer and closer to the dish to have his turn at making music. Finally several days later the smallest of the three, the downy, appeared on the scene and tried out his expertise at hammering too. It’s quite comical. And, I must admit, striking their rhythms on the satellite dish doesn’t harm the house siding like the flicker’s yearly attempts have done.

Slug and snail time is approaching as the days get warmer. Iron phosphate, commonly marketed as Worry Free and Sluggo, is recommended by experts as a toxic-free way to control slug infestations. For a host of information on slug control visit http://gardening.wsu.edu and use the search words “slug control.” You’ll find tips and information on how to control slugs in your garden.

Early morning and early evening is a good time to go on slug patrol. Use the slice and dice method to give the slugs a speedy death. Their carcasses will biodegrade where you’ve left their severed segments. One slice right through their middle works quite well. My apologies to those who are reluctant to kill any creatures. I am pretty much a pacifist, but now and then I do sever a slug in half with my trowel. I used to use the “slug tossing” method of control, heaving the slugs into the woods, until I learned that the brown slugs out-compete and overtake the habitat of our native banana slug. I also try to choose plants that are unpalatable to slugs.

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