Thursday, 25 April 2019

Slug deterrents

It's got to that time of year where seeds are being sowed and new flowers are being planted. Add in a little wet weather and you have the perfect conditions for slugs and snails to come out. Before you know it you've got a trail of goo across your garden and all your beautiful greenery has been chomped. What can you do about slugs and what effect will they do to your garden?

Copper tape – This method is designed for plants that are in pots. You wrap the copper tape around the pot and then it forms a barrier that slugs apparently don't like to cross over. It's reckoned that the combination of the copper and slime produce a static charge that deter the slugs from going any further. Copper is a much sought out material so a roll of copper tape doesn't come cheap if you want to try it out.

Horticultural grit, pine bark mulch, egg shells – All of these work on the basis that the sharp texture of the material makes it impossible or at least hard for the slug to make its way across. It seems that slugs have got wise to these methods so you may need to find something else much sharper.

Wool pellets – These react when they are wet so either wait for the rain or water them yourself. The water makes them swell and then the pellets form a barrier that they slugs find difficult to cross.

Natural predators – A good gardener will be a wildlife friendly one as well. Encourage wildlife with bug hotels, ponds, leaf and wood piles and also bird boxes. Ground beetles, frogs, toads, hedgehogs and birds all like slugs and snails to eat and so form part of the natural food chain.

Cloche it – Young plants are particularly prone to slug attacks. If they are close to the ground try to keep the slugs out by covering them with a cloche. For small plants you can make your own by cutting off the bottom of a plastic bottle.

Eviction – You need to be dedicated for this method. Once it gets dark up an down the country gardeners will be grabbing their torches and going out to look for slugs. Once spotted they will pick them out and off their plants. What happens next is up to you but I have heard of many people chucking them over the fence into their neighbours' garden...

Beer traps – Slugs love a drop of beer and can soon sense when the brown liquid is about. If you sink a pot into the ground with the rim above the soil and then fill it with beer and the slugs will come. They will then end up having a rather drunken death. Do bear in mind that if it rains your beer will turn into a very week mix of water and beer and the slugs won't be too bothered for coming for a drink and you will have wasted your beer.

Nematodes – These are a type of biological rather than chemical control of slugs. They are essentially a type of microscopic worms. You must get the right type of nematodes as some can be harmful to crops. For slugs the type of nematodes you require you mix them with water and then water the soil with the mixture. Once active the nematodes hunt down the slug larvae and kills it. 

Slug pellets – They are a common sight in many gardens but the 'blue death' pellets are popular because they are effective. This does come at a cost. If they contain the chemical methaldehyde they will be banned next year. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has stated that they pose an unacceptable risk to birds and mammals. Not only could the birds and mammals eat the pellets directly they could also eat the slugs that have ingested the pellets.

Slug pellets labelled as 'organic' contain Ferric Phosphate however many still contain the warning 'Dangerous to children and pets'. Rather than killing the slugs on the spot the slugs crawl away and die underground. My presumption is that if they harmful to Fido and Kitty then they won't be doing much good to hedgehogs and frogs. 

Both of these methods are designed to kill slugs which is the intention of the gardener using the method. However, by using any method that kills slugs you are depriving many creatures of a natural source of food.

Do you have trouble with slugs? What method do you use to get rid of them?

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