Slick slug control

Credit: Carolyn Herriot

Spring is the most active period for slugs so gardeners have many weapons in the war against them, from biological controls, innovative traps and a range of barriers, to the often-used slug pellets and poisons. What you use depends on your approach to gardening and the type of problem you have.

  • Beer traps provide a perfect place for slugs to rest, shelter and get sozzled. Easy to use but need regular emptying.
  • Safers has produced a non-toxic slug bait, which consists of pellets made from ferrous sulphate. It does not harm birds, pets or wild life, but the slugs like to eat it, and then crawl away and dehydrate.
  • Copper tape is relatively new on the market. It acts as an effective barrier, good for protecting the contents of planters and containers from marauding slugs. If they slither on to the tape, it creates a tiny electrical current that repels them, but does not kill them.
  • Apply a barrier of anything with sharp edges around your most vulnerable plantings (e.g.: lettuces). Hair, crushed eggshells, sharp grit, and diatomaceous earth all work, but have to be renewed when they eventually break down.
  • Lay wooden planks around the garden, lift them regularly and pop the slugs taking refuge beneath into salt water to kill them. In regular water they just crawl out.
  • Blenderized Slug Spray (ugh!) You can spray this in nooks and crannies where slugs hide. It needs replacing after heavy rain. It provides an effective deterrent with many plants. TIP: Borrow your neighbour’s blender for this.
  • Learn to recognize slug egg masses. They look like clusters of translucent tapioca pudding. Getting rid of them gets rid of a lot of potential damage.
  • Nematodes that carry a bacterium that kills slugs are available commercially, and can be introduced using a watering can. This works best on moist, free-draining soil at temperatures at or above 5°C. It lasts about six weeks and is harmless to other wildlife and pets. Ask your local garden centre if they stock this product.
  • Encourage natural predators into the garden by providing a variety of habitats such as hedges and ponds. Birds, beetles, snakes, frogs and toads all eat slugs.

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