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There are at least 8 ways to deal with the chomping, guzzling gastropods that are SLUGS. Some years there are only a few, but other springs and summers there are oodles. It all depends on the weather. Slug and snail eggs need warmth in order to hatch. They also need moisture. Wise gardeners might want to gear up for a slimy invasion of leaf-chomping mayhem.
Slugs are basically nocturnal snails without the shell. Did you know that there are around 30 species in the UK, but only four are considered to be garden pests? Most people assume that slugs don't have much appeal. When, for example, did you see a drawing of a slug? They don't 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.
But hedgehogs are another kettle of fish altogether. They are welcomed by many people, and especially by gardening enthusiasts. Why? Because they eat slugs! And snails.
Beware of slugs
Slugs and dogs don't mix. Because slugs 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.
The good stuff about slugs and snails
The gastropods do have an important role to play in the ecosystem, so let's 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 it's no wonder they end up with parasites.
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.
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? If you imagine all those mouth parts snacking on seedlings you might think it a miracle that any plant ever reaches maturity.
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.
Here are a few options within the various families of plants disliked by slugs:
Lavender, sedum, euphorbias, begonias, roses, penstemons, ferns, Alchemilla mollis, hydrangeas and prickly things. They find ornamental grasses too dry and things like Astrantias too spiky. They don't enjoy leaves that have hairs either.
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:
- Use a slug trap. Some of these can be ornamental too. For example, this ceramic snail which acts as a slug pub, houses 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.
- 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 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.
- Don't toss your slugs over the fence into next door's garden! Why? It's not kind! The slugs won't mind, but the neighbours probably will! It's 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. Hanging baskets are out of reach.
- 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.