As I sit outside on these beautiful warm evenings when the sky is still not black at 10.30pm, I think I’m relaxing until I hear that dreaded munching sound. It’s like a quiet, repetitive scratching scraping sound and I know what it is; slugs or snails… enjoying my young shoots that I had hoped would flourish into full plants.
Tim Hunt (rspb-images.com)
It’s not going to happen if they are left to roam and munch freely so it poses a real dilemma for the wildlife friendly gardener who wants to encourage rather than destroy.
The usual concept of watering your plants in the evening so that the leaves don’t burn in the sun is all very well, but the wetness as night falls just encourages more of them out! I’ve started watering at root level first thing in the morning.
Log piles in the garden are an attractive natural space filler as well as being a wildlife refuge for many insects and small mammals needing to hide but they are also a slug and snail magnet. It’s worth bearing this in mind; log piles in certain areas can be a great idea, but having them in the border or close to your newly planted veg /flowers can be a death sentence! Keep logs away from young, tender plants.
So, what are the “friendly” slug control options?
Whatever method is chosen, it is unfortunately not possible to completely eradicate them, it is more a case of trying to keep them away from your most vulnerable plants.
There have been mixed reviews about the effectiveness of surface barriers such as: broken egg shells, grit and coffee grounds. All of these have been suggested as slugs don’t like caffeine or rough surfaces but they’re worth a try, especially if combined with other methods.
They’re reputed to stay away from garlic so some people make their own garlic spray, you literally spray the plants with it in the evening and there are some eco-friendly sprays available to buy that won’t actually kill them. Copper bands and tapes may help as barriers around plants on the ground or around pots.
A well known effective measure is to attract them to something: a beer trap / left over bird food/ oats on the ground / hosta or salad leaves, or a raised wooden plank that they’ll hide beneath, then collect them up. The choice then is whether to humanely destroy them (by drowning) or relocate them to a wild area away from your precious plants, which needs to be at least 20 meters away.
Planting additional plants that they would actually prefer to eat could deter them away from your young plants like hostas, cucumbers, beans, salad leaves and strawberries.
Complete protection from the outside world is likely to be the most effective such as cloches and cold frames, keep plants covered until they are big and robust enough to weather a bit of leaf damage outside from slugs. Alternatively keep plants in pots. When they’re not at ground level, it’s more effort for the slugs to get to the greenery and if you use copper tape round the pot, grit on top and a spray, you’re making the whole journey to the plant an obstacle course so there should be fewer slugs if any.
There are more ideas online on slug control from Gardener's World and the RHS.
It seems to be a case of experimenting to find out what’s the most effective in your own garden. Come on hedgehogs, here’s a feast out here waiting to be had!
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