Monday, 26 March 2007


Photo: Attracting birds into the garden will help to keep the slugs down.

A few years ago, when I lived in a housing estate I had a small garden that I planted up with an herbaceous border and a rockery. These were easily maintained, but slugs were a real pest. My eldest was just a toddler and I did not want to use slug pellets. My favoured approach was to go out after dark with my torch (usually about midnight) and pick the slugs off my plants, then disposing of them in various barbaric means. For example, stabbing with a pointy stick, snipping them in half or shaking them in salt bags. My neighbour initially thought I had lost my senses, wandering around the garden at such a late hour, but after an explanation, he was at it too. Unfortunately I forgot to mention to him that it is best to kill them, and so he decided to put them, still alive, into his wheelie bin. He kept his bin in his garage that was attached to his kitchen. Yes you’ve guessed it, his wife, who wasn’t best fond of things slimy, got up to find a mass invasion of her kitchen!

Slugs and Snails
There are about 30 types of slugs and snails. Not all of them are pests, although I wouldn’t be able to spot a friendly slug myself! The largest ones seem to be the least harmful to plants as they mainly live on dead organic matter. It’s the small slugs that do the most damage, some of which live underground and eat the plant roots.

So how can we keep slugs at bay?

My lad just collects them and keeps them as pets in a jam jar on the bookcase. As I cant see this being a popular option what about my mother in laws concentration camp. She collects slugs in a large tub with a lettuce leaf and once a week takes them to her friend who keeps ducks.

Other methods include:

Keep the area near vulnerable plants clear of dead foliage. Check in damp places nearby, under pots and stones etc destroying any slugs you find.

Attract wildlife into your garden such as birds and frogs. They will happily do the work for you.
With slug pellets, always follow the instructions carefully. Traditional pellets are not ecologically friendly as they are poisonous to birds as well as people (be careful if small children are around). There are some eco-friendly products around if you can find them. Those containing aluminium sulphate are less harmful although they are only effective until it rains (or you water).

Beer traps are set by sinking containers filled with flat beer around the garden. The slugs fall in and drown (not a bad way to go some might say). Clean them out regularly.

Divert the slugs from your favourite plants by putting bran in a terracotta pot and lay it on its side.
For plants in containers, try putting Vaseline around the rim of the pot. This tends to get a bit dirty after a while so try winding thin copper wire around the pot. The slugs and snails feel a shock from the naturally occurring electrical current and turn back.

Crush and bake egg shells to scatter around the plants. Sharp gravel or soot would also be effective.

Introduce biological control in the form of parasitic slug nematodes in spring. These work well on the root-eating slugs.


I’ve been extremely lucky this summer with slugs, or lack of them I should say. For some reason they have decided to go elsewhere for their meals and most of my plants seem unaffected by the little slimy visitors. I think it might be something to do with the fact that it is a new garden and most of it is covered with wood chip and webbing. I have had a few e-mails recently from people who claim that they have found humane solutions to the imminent invasion every year. Most of them are good and generally effective. I have my doubts about keeping in with the neighbours though if you were to throw them over the fence at night as someone suggested! Here are the pick of the rest.

Fill a jar with cheap beer and sink it into the ground. The boozed up slugs can then be put on the compost bin. S.M

Place the skins of half cut grapefruit, cut side down, around vulnerable plants. Collect the sleepy slugs underneath EJ. G.

Bake eggshells and grind them up into sharp grit. A scattering around plants will keep the slugs off. M.C.

Put a smear of Vaseline around the pots. JF.

The next suggestions were all from Anne Martin, who seems to have most of the slugs in Inishowen in her garden!

Collect them with a brush and pan in the small hours and release them in the wild.

Use a sawdust barrier. The wood working places locally will usually give you a bag for free.

Encourage frogs into your garden.
Hostas seem well protected with pea gravel. Scatter this around the base of tender plants.


No comments:

Other stories

Related Posts with Thumbnails