My lesson included the familiar mollusks: snails and slugs. We know that these garden visitors are mostly nocturnal. They prefer cool, moist, slimy areas, and cloudy, rainy days in order to maintain the moisture and slime on their bodies. Mollusks avoid dry places and direct sun. In our gardens, they might be considered “bad bugs” because their favorite foods include many of our favorite garden plants. The well-known signs of their presence are a meandering silvery trail near or on the plants, chewed leaves with irregularly shaped holes, and some leaves almost completely sheared off the plant. Unless we place barriers in their way, they will enjoy a feast at our expense in our landscape.
My second lesson included an electric gate with valuable electronics enclosed in a metal box. My husband and I are happy with our gate and with the company which provides maintenance services. However, we were not prepared for the snails and slugs which apparently were not happy with the marigolds and zinnias (among other favorite plants) in the yard. They decided to seek adventure in the electronic gate panel box. Two years ago, the gate simply stopped working. It would not open or close. Luckily, we have two gates and the service person responded to our call for help. To our surprise, we encountered extensive mollusk damage in the panel box and insect damage in the gate-opening keypad. New equipment was ordered and installed and we were happy again. We paid no further attention to our gate. Naturally, a year later, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the electric gate again. During the intervening year, it had never occurred to us that the mollusks preferred the panel box over delicious flowers.
It seems contradictory that a critter who prefers slimy and damp environments would seek out a dry and sheltered area in a metal box. Research into this matter reveals that this can happen quite frequently to any electronic equipment used around residences and farms. These boxes cannot be made completely airtight; the electronics apparently need air circulation to function properly.
If we did not believe that money is the most effective motivator before, we are firm believers now. We learned our lesson. We are challenged, and we will not pay for a new motor to our gate again.
So what can we learn from this experience?
We must keep our minds open. Critters which are believed to belong outdoors only, often surprise and frustrate us by seeking shelter or adventure indoors or in other protected areas. Additionally, we must never forget that what we learn about gardening outdoors, may also come in handy in other places. The areas around our vegetable gardens and flower beds must be kept clear of weeds (hiding places for mullusks) and of plant debris which is mixed with diseases and insect pests.
So, keep the area around the metal box clean and use a variety of barriers inside and outside, all of which will discourage the slugs and snails. Gardeners know the importance of inspecting their plants almost daily. As we walk around the garden and enjoy our work, we must remember to include in our inspection tour the additional tasks related to any electronic equipment which may be at peril from snails and slugs.
Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.