April 15 not only is tax day. It’s also the official opening of the planting season in Sonoma County, when it’s presumed that frost danger has passed. This year however, it arrives on the heels of an autumn and winter of record-breaking rainfall, changing up the landscape and the chores.
The gift of all that precipitation after years of drought means a landscape lush and emerald green. Trees will be especially happy after the generous soaking.
But Mother Nature’s open spigot has also means more work for the home gardener. For with rain come the weeds and the snails.
“We’re all going to be weeding for the rest of our natural born lives,” said Sara Malone, a Sonoma County Master Gardener from Petaluma. “We’re all weeding. And then it dumps again. And again. And again.”
And with each dousing come more weeds and more snails.
“I’m weeding like crazy,” she said. “I’m trying to get everything before it goes to seed. Because the minute it gets warm and the ground is still wet, we all might as well get goats.”
That’s her way of saying, if you don’t get on top of the weeds now, they’ll completely take over.
That is job one. But the other garden villains to be on the lookout for are slugs and snails.
“There are way more than usual. They love the wet conditions,” said Cindy Stewart, the co-manager of King’s Nursery in Santa Rosa. “The rain makes it easier for them to multiply and take over everything.”
No need to panic. If your beds are small you might be able to pick them off by hand. But this bigger rain year means larger weaponry in many cases.
Stewart recommends Sluggo, a nontoxic bait that is not harmful to animals or people.
“It makes it to where their digestive tracts don’t work anymore,” she said.
In the past the go-to slug killer contained metaldehyde, which vanquished them on contact. The critters would congregate around the bait and quickly be goners.
“You’d wake up in the morning and have shells cracking under your felt and feel vindicated, like your were really doing something,” Stewart remembered.
But the downside was that it could be harmful especially, to pets, who would walk through the poison and get it on their paws.
Sluggo, which contains iron phosphate, works differently, attacking the digestive system of the snails and slugs and leading to a slow death by starvation that can take up to 10 days. But it’s safe, and effective. You just don’t have the satisfaction and reassurance of seeing the bodies pile up, Stewart said.
She recommends being smart about where you apply it. Try putting it where they hide rather than right near the plants. For her it’s among the agapanthus.
“Put it around the area where they’re hibernating. Snails hide from the sunlight and often have trouble moving around when it’s a dry sunny day,” she said.
“They come out at night or when it’s raining. Oftentimes that might be right under the porch in the growth like ivy, or the underside of planters.”
Another effect of all of the rain is that it may have left your succulents looking pretty dirty, requiring a cleaning. And some plants that don’t like too much wetness may have suffered root rot. But Malone said natives actually should be okay because they are genetically programmed to deal with occasional years of heavy rain as well as drought.