Slugs and snails – don’t you hate them!
All the care, time and cash spent on nurturing your garden can be wiped out by these beasts and while I like to think of myself as a nice person, I turn ruthless killer when it comes to them.
The approaches to dealing with them are, hunting them down, trapping them, poisoning them, infecting them with nematodes and putting barriers in their way.
If you are squeamish pursuing them with a headtorch and a pair of scissors at dusk may not be for you, but you can create shaded slug retreats, such as an old plank on the soil and them scrape them off the underside into a bucket of salt water during the day. Slugs and snails also eat their fallen comrades, so step on one snail and come back later to crunch the 5 eating the remains. Repeat.
Look too for the places they hide, such as the underside of the lip round plastic pots – a quick defense there is to fill that space with petroleum jelly, its out of your way, but they lose a hiding place and won’t cross it. Add coarse salt to the surface for extra malice.
There are anti-slug barrier products you can buy, but you need quite large quantities so try free ones such as crushed egg shells and used coffee grounds first – maybe ask your local café for supplies of these. Quantity is key here as slime will overcome minor inconveniences.
There is no simple solution, but attrition and encouraging wildlife will help to keep numbers in check. Also remember that any slug or snail you kill in spring won’t spend summer happily breeding, so make it a priority as soon as the weather warms up to start the campaign.
The one thing I won’t do is use conventional slug pellets which contain Metaldehyde, which is highly toxic as it goes up the food chain when half-dead slugs are eaten by birds, hedgehogs and amphibians.
There are similar pellets approved by the organic association – they work.
Even safer are nematodes, which are a natural parasite bought in powder form. This is mixed with water before watering into the ground – its not cheap, but if you have a major problem it will help get things back on track.