We chatted about slugs and how we might control them on our FromeFM radio show back in June. You can listen to that again here:
Like all of us we've always struggled to manage slugs and the damage they cause to our seedlings and plants.
This though is what we spoke about then:
Our gardens attract a variety of wildlife, from bees and birds to less welcome animals or ‘pests’ such as aphids, slugs and snails. Some pests, in large numbers, can damage our plants by eating leaves and flower buds, which can distort new growth.
It’s important to remember that all pests are part of the garden ecosystem and food chain, and that many are an important source of food for birds and other wildlife. For example, house sparrows feed aphids to their chicks, while blue tits and great tits feed caterpillars to their young.
Sometimes, however, you need to control garden pests yourself. But what’s the best way to deter them? And are there organic pest control options? Well lets look at one of the most common pests that we all probably encounter.
Slugs and snails.
Slugs and snails are most gardeners’ enemy number one. The tender leaves of seedlings and fresh new growth on established garden plants are mollusc magnets, which make holes in leaves and leave tell-tale trails of slime. The good news is, you can control slugs organically. Make hunting for slugs and snails part of your evening routine and you’ll soon reduce their numbers. Choose slug resistant plants or make a homemade garlic spray to repel them.
Use organic slug pellets
Pellets made from ferric phosphate are approved for use by organic growers and are just as effective as non-organic ones but less harmful to birds and other wildlife. Scatter the pellets on the soil as soon as you can before tender young growth appears.
Water in biological control
Microscopic nematodes that infect slugs with bacteria and then kill them, are an effective biological control which is watered into the soil. Apply in the evenings when the soil is warm and moist, from spring onwards.
Use copper barriers
Copper barriers are effective slug deterrents – if a slug tries to cross one it receives an ‘electric shock’, forcing it back. Put copper rings around vulnerable plants, or stick copper tape around the rim of pots.
Mulch with grit
Slugs find horticultural grit uncomfortable to travel over. Mulch around the base of plants in the ground and in pots – it looks attractive and helps keep compost moist and weeds down.
Get rid of slugs with beer traps
Make a slug trap using cheap beer – they’re attracted to the smell. Do this by sinking a beer trap or container into the ground, with the rim just above soil level. Half fill with beer and the cover with a loose lid to stop other creatures falling in. Check and empty regularly.
We’ve tried all of these at different times up at our allotment at Muriel Jones and we’ve found that, if we’re completely honest, there’s not a single sure fire way of deterring them! A combination of everything is what we’ve found tends to work the best – perhaps that keeps the slugs and snails guessing! And the beer traps are always a good thing to try – if only to drown your own sorrows if you find your hostas have been munched the previous night!
We often sink a couple of cans of Frome Brewing Company’s Funky Monkey – one for the slug traps and two for us! And when he gets his export licence sorted out we’ll be trying some of Savoie’s finest beer – Scott’s Artisan Ales based deep in the French Alps is to die for – and we reckon there might well be something in snails drowned in a beer trap that’s been filled to le brim with French Ale.