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In the Garden

Although the newer iron-phosphate-based slug baits such as Sluggo, Worry Free and Escar-Go are significantly safer to use around pets than the ones that contain metaldehyde, there is still reason to be careful.

An Oregon State University grad student recently reviewed reports of pet exposure reported to the National Pesticide Information Center and discovered that these newer slug baits can be harmful to dogs. Dogs that eat the bait can be affected by iron toxicosis with symptoms that include lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.

In almost every case, the dog had access to where the bait was applied or stored insecurely. These new slug baits are effective tools in the battle against slugs and snails, but always use them with caution, especially if you have a pet. Read and follow the directions on the label, pay attention to the recommended amount to apply, and never create piles of it.

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Use extra caution regarding where you store the bait. There are reports of pets opening cabinets, knocking packets off high shelves, even digging up piles of pellets that were evidently buried in an effort to get rid of them.

If you can’t keep the pooches out of an area where slug and snail controls are needed, maybe it’s better to go back to using some of the traditional pest-control methods everyone used before slug baits were available.

Think twice before pruning broad-leaved evergreens

Unlike deciduous trees and shrubs, which benefit from late-summer pruning, cutting back hard on broad-leaved evergreens can put them at risk for survival. This is especially true if you’re zone-challenged like me and can’t resist trying rare, exciting broad-leaved plants that are barely hardy in our area.

Pruning broad-leaved evergreens late in the season can stimulate growth that is susceptible to winter injury. Even worse, it can delay the hardening-off process and prevent the plant from going dormant until later in the season. This can result in severe winter injury, or could even do the plant in, especially if plunging temperatures come early in the season — as they did in November 2010.

Light pruning, just to neaten the plant or to remove a few errant branches, is unlikely to do harm, but avoid hard pruning to reduce size. Of course, if a neglected plant is blocking a walkway or causing some other problem, you may have no choice other than to cut it back hard.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t survive; the nursery shelves will be filled with new and exciting broad-leaved shrubs to choose from next spring.

Ciscoe Morris: “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.

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