BEWARE OF SLUGS. 8 ways to deal with these chomping, guzzling gastropods
Have you noticed that there hasnt (yet) been too much damage in the garden by slugs and snails? This can be attributed to the weather. The warm spells havent been quite warm enough for all the eggs to hatch. So its too early to feel smug about the lack of these creatures! In fact, the warm, damp spring that most people experienced until the cold snap at the end of April, has created a fertile breeding ground. Wise gardeners might want to gear up for a slimy invasion of leaf-chomping mayhem.
Everyone recognises a slug. Did you know that there are around 30 species in the UK, but only four are considered garden pests?
Slugs are basically nocturnal snails without the shell. Some would assume that they dont have much appeal. When, for example, did you see a drawing of a slug? They dont make particularly attractive subjects for a portrait. But if you were a hedgehog, however, you might feel differently. Slime included, these make a great snack. A full, three-course meal, in fact. They are packed full of tasty nutrients if you like that sort of thing.
Hedgehogs are welcome garden visitors. Why? because they are cute. And because they eat slugs!
If you are a dog, slugs can be dangerous. They often carry certain worm-like parasites which are typically found in diseased rat lungs. Dogs can get lungworm from eating the pesky creatures, or even from licking the trail left by a slug. And people have been known to contract meningitis as a result of eating lettuce covered in slug slime.
Protect your dog. he could contract lungworm if he eats slugs infected by certain parasites.
Feeling queasy? The gastropods do have an important role to play in the ecosystem, so lets forgive them for being ugly and even for making us ill. They contribute towards breaking down vegetation and waste matter, thereby creating compost. A world without slugs would be a poorer place. Not everyone picks up their dog deposits using one of those fragrant plastic bags. And who do we have to thank for breaking down the excrement? You've guessed the answer. Together with bacteria, flies and various enzymes, these garden pests chomp their way through lots of unsavoury matter, so its no wonder they end up with parasites.
Slugs eat all sorts of things that we would rather not think about.
Most importantly, perhaps, they end up on the dinner plates of a whole host of garden creatures such as the aforementioned hedgehogs; frogs; toads; birds; snakes; badgers; moles and certain beetles. The larder for creatures that we generally love to see would be severely depleted if we exterminated all the slugs.
Welcome birds to your garden. They love eating slugs and other pests!
Keeping them under control, however, is another matter. If you like Hostas, you will want to limit the amount of leaf-chompers that inhabit your garden. Did you know that the average garden houses around 20,000 slugs? There are approximately 30 species of slug in the UK. If you imagine all those mouth parts snacking on seedlings you might think it a miracle that any plant ever reaches maturity.
Keep your hostas safe! Use a slug-barrier. Raise pots off the ground.
Sadly, many people turn towards those rather evil-looking blue granules and wage war on the slug and snail population with metaldehyde or, even worse, methiocarb. These also attract other wildlife and therefore other animals will probably perish too. There are other options for control, and planting things that slugs hate is just one way to ensure your foliage looks fantastic all year long.
Lavender is a plant that isn't attractive to slugs. They dislike highly aromatic species.
What are these slug-resistant choices? Things that are bitter; waxy or aromatic, for example. They dont fancy lavender, sedum
, begonias, roses
, ferns, Alchemilla mollis
things. They find ornamental grasses
too dry and things like Astrantias
too spiky. They dont enjoy leaves that have hairs either.
Foliage which is hairy isn't attractive to slugs
Eight Tips for keeping slugs at bay
Batten down the hatches, the enemy is coming! Tiny slugs are already hatching and these little slithering squishy things have a voracious appetite! Here's eight tips which might help to keep slugs away from your patch:
These are the eggs of slugs. They can make a good snack for a reptile but you might want to remove any you find near your plants!
- Use a slug trap. Some of these can be ornamental too. For example, theres a ceramic snail which acts as a slug pub, housing a reservoir for beer.
- Invest in some copper tape. Put it round your pots, it works like magic! Why? Because the slime on a slug causes a chemical reaction that creates a mild electric shock.
Egg shells, ash and fine gravel can act as a slug deterrent
- Create a barrier that slugs and snails don't like to traverse. Ash dries out the slug's precious slime; gravel and crushed egg shells are uncomfortable to cross. Remember to keep renewing these as the season progresses.
Create a slug haven so you can collect them and move them away from your plants!
- Create a haven for unwanted garden pests away from your plants. Upturned flower pots or loose pieces of paving are ideal. You can bait these places with some soft juicy greenery such as lettuce. Then remove the slugs once you know where to find them.
Hanging baskets are out of the reach of slugs!
- Don't toss your slugs over the fence into next door's garden! Why? It's not kind! The slugs wont mind, but the neighbours probably will! Its a waste of energy anyway because slugs and snails can cover up to 25m per 24 hour period and they will return! Take them far away to woodland or hedgerows if you want to release them.
- Raise your precious plants off the ground. Use feet under pots. This allows air to circulate which means there are fewer damp hiding places for slugs.
The red lily beetle. Find him at night and pick him off by hand
- Do a night-patrol! Picking off your slugs as you find them is a slimy task (wear gloves) but an effective way to keep numbers down. The same applies to lily beetles!
- Use a natural method of control such as nematodes. These micro-organisms invade the skin of the slug, infecting it and eventually killing it.
Finally: if you think that slugs, snails and chemicals are the only dangers that lurk in the garden, think again! Many plants are poisonous too. Find out which should be avoided HERE.