Eugene Weekly : It’s About Time : 7.14.11

By David Wagner

Theres been a slugfest in our back yard the past few weeks and Im not talking about fisticuffs. The slugs have been getting the upper hand in my onion patch so my Walla Walla Sweets are not going to produce the way Id hoped. I just have to accept the balance of nature is not always in my favor.

The potatoes got in late this year, like so many vegetables, because of the long, cold spring. I always put a tarp over the potato bed during the winter so that the summers straw mulch will compost nicely and the bed will not be too soggy when potato planting time rolls around. During the growing season last year, I had stashed the folded tarp under some shrubbery in the corner of my yard. I had always intended to fold it tightly and store it in the shed but never got around to doing that. It stayed on the ground all summer and into the fall. When I picked it up to spread out after the potatoes had been dug, there were four or five garter snakes that slithered out. It had served as good a snake hideout as my wood pile.

So this spring I made a point of setting my tarp back in the spot where it was last summer. I want to attract garter snakes because they are one of the few natural predators of slugs. Thats right, garter snakes eat slugs! Too bad they wont swallow the snails.

David Wagner is botanist who lives and works in Eugene. He teaches moss classes and leads nature walks. He may be reached at


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