Do the slugs and snails in your garden seem to have bigger appetites than you? Slugs can cause year round havoc to gardens eating foliage and weakening stems. Sometimes whole seedlings and leaves can simply disappear overnight. This utter decimation can leave you with nothing to show for all of your hard work.
Slugs can on occasions be useful. They turn plant material into compost, especially useful in compost heaps. Also they are a food source for ground beetles, blackbirds and hedgehogs.
Even is occasionally useful it can pale into insignificance when we see our plants harmed. Thus, it is no wonder many of us are left reaching for the bottles of Slug Pellets. However, as many gardeners have found these are not always successful.
Whilst no slug solution is ever going to be 100% effective, This leaflet sets out a range of options from biological, non-biological, chemical and companion planting methods. It shows a number of approaches that have proved successful for many gardeners.
- Plastic cloches that will prevent some slugs from getting access to your young crops. It does not stop slugs coming out of the soil from below ground level
- Copper tape around pots is an irritant to slug skin deterring them from crossing. However, hungry determined slugs will believe in the saying “no pain, no gain” and bypass the irritation
- The use of citrus fruit such as oranges and grapefruits cut in half and scooped out sunk side down in the ground have been said to work in some cases
- Laying a range of common items are said to be effective in some cases. The form a barrier when laid around plants. Items that have proved effective for some gardeners have included crushed egg shells, sawdust, the breakfast cereal bran flakes, sharp sand and sharp grit. The effectiveness is lessened by rain and hungry slugs will still pass over the barrier
- Beer traps – part filled traps or jam jars sunk into the ground attract and cause slugs to fall into them drowning. Rain will dilute the beers scent
- In damp weather hand picking slugs off of plants with a torch at night is successful but time consuming
- Applying boiling water can fry slugs causing them to die. Also watering salt solutions will have the same end result. Although this can in time harm the soil
- In winter raking over soil and raking up fallen leaves will deprive slugs somewhere to hide and expose their eggs for birds to eat. This is not a quick fix
- Scattering slug pellets thinly around vulnerable plants, such as your hosta, seedling and vegetables is effective. However, they can harm children, wildlife and pets if consumed in large quantities. Also their effectiveness is reduced by heavy rain. The biggest issue is that it only kills slugs on the soils surface
- Slug Gone was BBC Gardeners World Magazines “Our Choice.” The pellets are formed from pure sheep wool. They are organic and safe around pets and children and also release beneficial nutrients into the soil. The pellets work by deterring slugs because wool is an irritant that they are not overly willing to pass. However, hungry slugs will still go over them, they form a cloggy unattractive mess after rain and you need a lot to protect a small number of plants
- Slug liquids are available in a concentrated form that you have to dilute and water on to vulnerable plants. It is good value for money as it covers a greater area than the pelleted alternatives. A 250ml bottle will cover 67m2 in the garden. It is safe for use around children and pets as it is invisible to the eye meaning there is no risk of them ingesting a harmful dose. The liquid also soaks into the soil killing slugs and snails living below the soils surface. It can also be applied to plant stems to deter climbing snails. However, rain dilutes the effectiveness of this product and it is not safe to be used on edible plants.
BIOLOGICAL CONTROL NOMATODES
What is this?
Microscopic nematode that is watered into the soil. It works by entering the slug body and infecting them with a fatal bacterial disease. These can often be found naturally in garden soils although often not in large enough quantities to provide effective control
- Environmentally friendly and organic approved
- Specific to targeting molluscs with no harmful adverse effects to children, pets, birds and wildlife – suitable for use around edible crops
- Works underground, where young slugs tend to stay. This is particularly useful in targeting slugs that attack potatoes in the ground
- Unlike traditional methods and slugs retreat to die underground so you are not left with dead slugs on the soils surface.
- Treats a large area and can’t be over applied
- Lasts longer than the traditional “Slug Pellet” method only needing reapplication every 6-8 weeks
- Works well in wet conditions, where slugs are most active and where ”slug pellets” poisons are less effective
- Needs a moist soil so not effective in dry conditions or in heavy clay soils
- Needs warm soil between 5 and 20oC so only effective in late spring to early autumn. Slugs remain active all year round
- Most slug reproduction is in spring and autumn at times when this method of control is not always at its best
- Must be stored correctly, often refrigerated, to be effective
- Much higher initial cost than other methods
- Requires a few weeks to reach full effectiveness unlike “slug pellets” which start working immediately
The first defence against slugs is to try to keep you plants in the best state of health you can. The first plants to be attacked will be those that are stressed. For example those that are:
- Over or under fed
- Incorrect watered
- Weather damaged
- Moved without extra assistance
- Planted in the wrong type of conditions
- Seedling that are not hardened off
In particular over feeding is a cause of slug damage as it leads to a lot of young, juicy growth that slugs absolutely love.
Slugs in the compost heap can be great at recycling plant matter. However, they do not differentiate between plant waste and tasty young seedlings. By hardening off your seedlings well the young leaves are in the garden for a shorter period of time before growing up. Thus, reducing the risk.
Sometimes it is possible to deter slugs by placing some chopped leaves, for example comfrey, around the base of a plant. In addition, some gardeners will grow a sacrificial crop of lettuce around the edge of a vegetable plot.
There are some plants that slugs love and some they don’t. For example slugs will usually only eat herbaceous plants, vegetables and young seedlings. They are not keen on shrubs with hard stems or with hairy or waxy leaves. However, if hungry they will eat what is available.
All this means that if you do not want to be applying slug control methods on a regular basis it is best to growing the plants that slugs like least.
Slugs enjoy eating:
- Daffodil Flowers
- Sweet Pea
- Tulip Shoots
- Brussels Sprouts
- Dwarf Bean
- Potato Tubers
- Runner Bean
Plants less likely to be eaten by slugs and snails:
- Alchemilla (lady’s mantle)
- Antirrhinum (snapdragon)
- Bergenia (elephant’s ears)
- Dicentra (bleeding heart)
- Digitalis (foxglove)
- Hardy Geranium
- Hemerocallis (day lilies)
- Papaver (poppy)
- Saxifraga (London pride)
- Sempervivum (houseleeks)
- Red Cabbage
- Red Lettuce
Companion Plants to Deter Slugs
These plants scents are said to deter slugs from entering an area where they are grown:
- Scented Geranium
Although a long term solution rather than a short term fix adding a pond to your garden can help. If you can get frogs to the pond they are natural predators of the slug.
For further assistance contact
STONE CROSS GARDEN CENTRE – 01323 488188plants, slugs, suggestions, tips