To paraphrase John Lennon the slug has loomed large in my legend. Five years ago I wrote The Little Book of Slugs and ever since I’ve received endless enquiries about what to do about slugs if you don’t want to use chemical slug pellets. Yesterday I got a call from BBC Radio York following an article in The Times saying that thanks to a warm rainy season the number of slugs in the UK has never been so huge.
So what can we do about them?
• Grow crops in pots in protected areas and plant out when bigger and more able to defend themselves.
• Keep your beds tidy and hoe as much as possible between rows. This breaks up the slug trails which slugs use to find there way back to tasty crops. It also disturbs slug eggs.
• Go out at night with a torch and a bucket and hand pick slugs off your plants. Use a pair of gloves though as its very difficult to get the slime off your hands.
• Encourage wildlife. Slugs do have a use – they are food for numerous other animals including frogs, toads, hedgehogs and slow worms. A boom in slugs is also a boon for wildlife. Don’t put down chemicals as this is likely to harm the predators of pests.
• Use barriers to stop the slugs attacking precious plants – copper bands, egg shells, commercial barrier products etc
• Use slug baits to trap slugs so that they can be removed to another area – slab wood and comfrey are both useful.
• Use slug traps to kill slugs. I prefer not to kill in preference to killing but if things get really desperate you could use slug traps laced with beer to trap and kill slugs.
• Buy a commercial slug defence product. Nemaslug is a nematode that burrows its way into the slug and destroys it from the inside out. Its actually pretty gruesome but hey that’s nature for you. You can also now buy a slug pellet that is approved for use by Garden Organic (formerly HDRA). The primary ingredient is ferrous phosphate which breaks down to iron and phosphate – both beneficial soil nutrients. This is called Advanced Slug Killer and is available from http://www.organiccatalog.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=61_179
• Give up and plant plants that slugs don’t like – rosemary, lavender, chives, lemon balm, mint, tansy, golden marjoram, sage, thyme, fennel, foxgloves, fuschias, daisies, alyssum, evening primrose, fox and cubs, wild garlic…This year they didn’t go for my rocket or my lambs lettuce. They also prefer green leaves to red so you could try planting red lettuce varieties.
• Don’t give up it will be better next year. Slug populations do go up and down. Last year I didn’t lose a single thing to slugs. It was too darn hot. A long hot summer will reduce slug numbers and things will find a balance again.
Feel free to ask me a slug related question. I’ll try and answer it.