Friday, 30 May 2008

Top 10 tips for getting rid of slugs.

Picture courtesy of this site.

I have been asked about how to deal with slugs in the vegetable garden. Now, I don't profess to be an expert but I have never EVER encountered so many slugs as I have living here. So, thanks for the query, and here is my answer.

The best advice I can give is kill the buggers!

Seriously, there are several options, depending on how drastic/ organic you want to be.

1. Eggs shells. Crushed egg shells all around your tender greens is supposed to stop the slugs from getting to them, because they don't like the sharpness. Personally, this has never worked for me but then Welsh slugs may be particularly hardy.

2. Copper. Apparently, slugs don't like the feeling of copper either. It's a bit like putting a battery on your tongue - so they say. A barrier of copper around your pots or plants stops them. Again, I have had limited success here.

3. Beer. Bury deep dishes in the soil, up to the rim and half fill with beer. The slugs will be lured into the pot, but will be too drunk to climb back out again and will drown. I haven't tried this one because it seems like a waste of beer that I could drink, but I guess it's not such a bad way to go.

4. Raised beds. These help a lot actually. We built up our vegetable beds with timber and then filled with our own compost. The slugs find it more difficult to get in. But this is a lot of work and you will still get some slug damage from determined pests.

5. Companion planting. Plant things that slugs LOVE to eat close to - but not right next to- your greens. Hostas are good for this. The idea is that the slugs will eat the other plants and not your veggies. On the other hand, you might just encourage lots of slugs to come to your 'all you can eat garden buffet'!

6. Hedgehogs. These are great for gardens because they eat slugs and other creepies. Encourage them into your garden by leaving piles of leaves/ twigs for them to hide in, and put out food at night (pet food, meat scraps, peanut butter or muesli, NOT bread and milk). Of course, you should not leave food lying out during the day as this will encourage flies. The other problem with leaving food is that you might inadvertently attract unwanted pests like rats and foxes.

7. Poison. I must admit that, although I try to be organic, I DO use slug pellets. Quite a lot. We just get so many slugs it's impossible to control them otherwise. Follow instructions carefully, usually you are safe to sprinkle pretty liberally around greens but take special care that they don't become lodged in salad leaves etc. They are usually bright blue and contain a chemical which makes them highly un-appealing to domestic pets, but there is always a chance that your dog/cat/child will have a little nibble and that is not good news. Also, if you are trying to get hedgehogs into the garden, you don't want them eating slugs that have poison in their system. Tricky one.

9. Sprinkle salt on them when you see them. Of course, this means that you have to actually be vigilant and also that you have to pick up dessicated slug bits. It might also adversely affect your soil balance.

8. By hand. This is probably the best way to dispose of slugs, IMO, although it's pretty gross. I used this method when we were over run in the conservatory a couple of years ago - seriously, it was so bad the cat wouldn't go near them! Slugs like it best on warm, damp evenings. Usually dusk is the best time when the ground is still warm (and when there has been recent rainfall). Go out with a torch and scoop them up by hand (wear gloves, because slug slime is particularly nasty), putting them into a bucket filled with water and LOADS of salt. Like, a cup of salt to 2 litres of water. Then, tip the slug-water away somewhere safe. You need to put enough salt in to kill them otherwise they crawl out again. Repeat for several evenings. Slugs are experts at hiding during the day, you must do this at night.

9. Get rid of eggs. Slugs lay frothy frog-spawny type eggs. Get rid of it if you see it.

10. Ducks. At the end of your growing season, let a couple of ducks rummage around in your vegetable garden. They will clear up old vegetable debris and any hiding slugs and snails. Of course, they will also eat anything else you leave around so move your prize flowers. Also, take care to remove any potentially poisonous plants (eg foxglove, lupins).
Incidentally, never plant potatoes in soil that has been very recently fertilised with manure, as this ecourages keeled slugs (the kind that live underground and lurk inside your potatoes, blurgh).
So, there you have it. I'd love to hear any other suggestions.
Giveaway is coming up soon (ish).


Indigo Blue said...

I have had an ongoing battle with slugs ever since I moved to my present house 10 years ago. Nothings seems to work and I am convinced that they are SAS trained! My best weapon was having a very hungery hedgehog move into my garden! The slug population has dwindled significantly!!

JuliaB said...

I'm with you on the slug pellets! There's just no other option ... they seem to be invincible!! The other thing is nematodes but you have to keep planting them which is expensive.

Marie said...

I salted the steps in our back garden the week before last. Not a good idea to leave the little dessicated slug bodies there too long though, doesn't nothing for your pathing. I always feel a little cruel doing that though, must be a terrible way to go.


April said...

Up until a couple of years ago I never had any problems with slugs, mainly because the garden next door was completely wild with buddleia and the little buggers could gorge themselves on that - now however that garden has been obliterated!

Last year slugs completely massacred my sweet peas and I had to resort to slug pellets, having tried everything else! This year I planted sweet peas in a raised wooden trellis planter with copper wire stapled round the edges and this seems to have worked (so far!)

My only other suggestion would be plant some copper coins in the beds round the plants you are trying to protect - I had some success with this and my strawberries last year

Sometimes you just have to go with the pellets.

April xx


I found lots of scrap copper piping from old plumbing jobs - the larger 'bore' pipes are better, then hubby P took a great big hammer and flattened the pipes into strips, we made these 'strips' into rings, joining with nut and bolt, and some into largeish squares. I put the rings around particularly vunerable plants like delphiniums, and laying the squares on top of the soil,just sow salad crops in it.
It work well at keeping the slugs off - I find I do have to use slug pellets, although I do scatter Lime sparingly over the brassicas, this helps combat the acidity of the soil, keeps the cabbage white off and slugs somewhat at bay.
Its an ongoing battle!!
x Vicky x

Anonymous said...

Saw your creations on Fiskers Blog...and Wow you have some fabulous creations...TFS!!!
Have a great week:)x

Anonymous said...

I wish i had known you six yeara agon in my old house we had hundreds and hundreds of them. Luckily here so far we have been lucky

Lola said...

I have a 4 year old boy that likes to put slugs on our stepping stones and squish them with a baseball!! It looks diwgusting...but it gets rid of the buggers!!

Lesley said...

Yeuch! Slugs are my pet hate - I can't understand why we need them. My Mum used to collect them in a bucket of water and washing-up liquid.

They've munched all my salad leaves during the past wet week. When we get our chickens I will be happily feeding them fat juicy slugs :)


nikki/WhiMSy love said...

Slugs are nasty. The first time I saw a slug I didn't know what it was. So, I ran away from it screaming, "SNAKE! THERE'S A SNAKE!!!!!"
My cousins & I always sprinkled salt on them. They were all over my grandma's place. I don't miss them at all. They are yucky.