Ask The Gardener: Marigolds, slugs, hydrangeas and more

Posted on: July 9, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Everybody Gardens editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

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(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)


‘Super Hero Spry’ marigolds are a beautiful cultivar of the plant.

Question 1: Multicolor marigolds

Ron: A few weeks ago you mentioned a new multicolor variety of marigolds. I believe the center of the flower was a completely different color than the outside petals ? I’ve been trying to locate this variety, but for the life of me I can’t remember a name of it. I haven’t seen it at any of the big box stores’ garden departments that sell a lot of annuals, and nobody in their garden departments knows what I’m talking about. Would you happen to remember the name of that variety?

Doug: It might be Super Hero Spry marigolds. I grew mine from seed last season and loved it.

Question 2: Slugs

Trudy: Do slugs eat the tops off green beans or would that be a rabbit?

Doug: Either pest could do that. My guess though would be rabbit or groundhog. Slugs eat at night and leave a sort of silvery trail on leaves. Usually it takes them a couple of days to defoliate a plant. Rabbits feed at night and during the day and groundhogs only during the day. The four-legged pests can be identified by sprinkling some flour around the plants and seeing what kind of tracks are left behind. We need a couple of days of dry weather to do that.

For slugs, the organic control in Sluggo (available here). For rabbits, it’s Hot Pepper Wax (available here). Groundhogs are another story. The only way I know to deal with them is trap and release somewhere else. Only leave the live trap open during the day, as you don’t want to catch what’s roaming around in the night.

Question 3: Hydrangeas

Jacki: How do I get my hydrangeas to bloom when the deer suck off the leaves and bite off the tops of the stems? I’ve tried netting and capsasin dust. I can’t get any hunters to show up. Do you think bear traps around the plants will help?

Doug: You either need to spray them religiously with something like Bobbex (available here) or surround them with deer fencing. They don’t seem to go after the Annabelle varieties too badly.

Question 4: Milpa

Christopher: I wondered if you’ve ever had any luck planting a meso-American milpa: corn, bean and squash in the same hole with the intent of using the corn as a pile for the beans and the squash as ground cover for weeds. I tried this this year and don’t seem to be having success. Any insight? Should I plant them all at the same time from seed or would you start these individually?

Doug: I’ve done the Three Sisters method before. The key is really good soil as you’re supporting three different crops in one space. It might come along though as the season progresses. I don’t plant them in the same holes though. The corn has to be grown in a way that it can be pollinated by the wind, so a big square. So you would have rows of corn, next to rows of pole beans and then squash every few feet.

The idea, as you know, is for the corn to support the pole beans and the squash acts as a living mulch. If the plants are all growing, give them a good liquid organic fertilizer like Grow to give them a boost.

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