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‘Principal Undergardener’ Sanders addresses Spotlight

By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

On Wednesday, November 13, the Westwood Library welcomed visitors for the monthly meeting of Community Spotlight. This time around, the group welcomed author Neal Sanders of Medfield to give his talk, “Gardening is Murder.” The program, which was equal parts comedic and informative, had the audience in stitches by the end of the evening.

Once a corporate employee, Sanders has authored 13 books. A few revolve around gardening, based on the experiences of his wife, herself a Master Gardener.

After a hilarious introduction, Sanders went over the actual rule of introduction in a garden: “It takes a minimum of three holes for introducing one plant into a garden,” he said. Shortly after getting an itea plant, Sanders and his wife discovered that they had no more room in their garden, and that they would need to find a candidate for removal. After going through a long list of possible candidates, they finally found a plant that had the perfect spot for the itea and could be moved. After what can be described as a tango of gardening with careful moving, planting, and replanting, the itea was finally in its home.

Sanders then covered why Googling gardening advice is horrible for one’s garden - and wallet. He explained that spring was considered pretty rainy. With that rain came the perfect opportunity for slugs to find a brand new home: right in his wife’s garden, damaging it along the way. Turning to the internet, Sanders searched for a solution that would rid his garden of the slugs and be safe for some of their other visitors; the initial poison Sanders had picked out was too dangerous.

The first suggestion to pop up on Sanders’ Google search on slug removal was to use lava rock throughout the garden - it’s sharp, and the slugs apparently tend to kill themselves while crawling over it. “Wow, how many active volcanos are there in Massachusetts?” Sanders asked his audience rhetorically. None.

The next suggestion was to use dryer lint. “Help, I’ve encountered dryer lint, I cannot forward,” Sanders exclaimed, imitating the hapless slugs. But it would take dozens, if not hundreds of loads of laundry to be able to cover Sanders’ large garden. Quackgrass was another suggestion. Sanders’ wife reminded him that he had spent days trying to rid their garden of quackgrass before, as it is an invasive species. Chickens? Not allowed. Quassia? At 400 dollars an ounce, it’s far too expensive. Sanders had the crowd laughing as he went through every explanation as to why something wouldn’t work.

Finally, Sanders came across iron phosphate. The slugs eat it and lose their will to live. What’s wrong with it? Nothing, according to Sanders. “It’s boring.” But it took clicking on dozens of pages to even find it as a solution.

After going through the ins and outs of living with an avid gardener, Sanders’ audience had a pretty good idea. “Does this happen in your garden? No, I didn’t think so,” he said, making his audience snicker.

Following the end of his talk, Sanders stuck around to answer questions and sign some of his books. It’s unknown if anyone in attendance felt like they should take up gardening in the wake of “Gardening is Murder,” but they certainly had quite the informative - not to mention very funny - motivator in Neal Sanders.

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