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For a garden to thrive, leave no slug alive

I ask you É what is so offensive about slugs? I've got so many fascinating tidbits to tell you about slugs, but I'm afraid you won't listen because they are, well, gross.

However, if the law of the backyard jungle is 'know your enemy,' I just might be able to help when it comes to conquering the slimy king of the garden. For instance, it's well known that slugs are easy drunks. Some people drown slugs by attracting them to beer poured in margarine containers. OK, but I bet you didn't know that slugs are cheap drunks! Save those microbrews for yourself. Oregon State entomologist and slug researcher Glenn Fisher reports that slugs prefer a light beer 2-to-1 over more expensive brands. I can see the commercial coming: Slugweiser! Budweiser frogs, move over.

What else works? Crushed eggshells slice slugs to pieces. A 5 percent solution of household ammonia in water in a sprayer works, too. Diatomaceous earth Ñ soft rock composed of the fossilized skeletons of algae Ñ can be productive but has little effect when it gets wet. So forget that for spring.

How about making your own slug traps? Slap down some flat boards, shingles, damp newspaper or even an upside-down cantaloupe rind. In the morning, check for slugs hiding underneath.

I know some of you use salt and scissors, but that's too hard-core for me. And you don't really want to work that hard, do you?

With that in mind, I should probably tell you about the results of the slug track and field trials at Oregon State University. During these Slug Olympics Ñ no, they are not an officially sanctioned athletic event Ñ slugs raced for iron phosphate pellets, such as Sluggo and Escar-go!, or metaldehyde products, such as Corey's and Deadline.

OSU's researcher found that while both formulas worked well, some worked better than others. The metaldehyde compact pellet bait was more effective, but the iron product was better than no bait at all.

But consider this: The government lists metaldehyde as highly toxic to dogs, cats, birds and children. That's why I stick with iron phosphate, even if it's only a close second. After all, when it came to the Slug Olympics, the contestants were finished as soon as they started.

Now, here's your gardening 'To Do' list for the week Ñ your mission, if you choose to accept it.

• Spring cleanup. Remove mulch or evergreen boughs covering the crowns of plants. Cut back seed heads left for winter.

• Plant bare-root roses in the garden, or in pots if you don't know where you want to plant them permanently.

• Heel in plants uprooted by frost or pests. Carefully press the edges of plants back into the ground.

• Enjoy!

Anne Jaeger's gardening program airs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KPAM (860 AM). Her 'Dig It' gardening segment is broadcast three times a week on KOIN (6).