July 11, 2011
Do your pretty plants sport more holes than the screen door on a rental cabin? Are slimy trails criss-crossing your morning path as you step out to grab the newspaper?
You, my friend, are most likely being visited in the night by that bane of gardeners, the common slug. Now, he does have a role in the eco structure—he vacuums up debris. But he’ll also happily feast on your hosta and brunnera, and devour your cabbage and marigolds. Unless you wish to twist the tables and turn the slimy critter into roasted escargot with garlic, here are some ways to evict him.
First, maintain an organic garden, employing no poisons. Then the toads, snakes, and birds who dine with relish on slugs will move in and do their work.
Toads are perhaps the most interesting control. They hatch in numerous ponds in our area and by July 1st tiny toads are out and about, looking for a hospitable home in which to chomp on your slugs. They appreciate a soft layer of warm mulch to burrow into in the afternoon. They are land dwellers, and you’ll find them in all sizes in your garden. Welcome them.
Snakes are also great slug predators. I know, I know, there’s something about snakes that skeeves most of us. But garter snakes are one of the best pals an organic gardener can have.
Birds eat slugs, too. Make the wrens and robins, jays and thrushes welcome by planting multi-branching native shrubs such as viburnums and witch hazel. Put up, and maintain, bird houses. Leave a wild shrub border surrounding your property.
That old standby, the beer trap, attracts and murder slugs, though it’s messy. Sink a tuna can of cheap beer (slugs are not connoisseurs) into infested areas, and in the morning dump the slimy, drowned contents.
Slugs will not crawl over rough surfaces, as it rips their tender undersides. Therefore material such as diatomaceous earth and crushed eggshells acts as a barrier, as long as it stays dry.
Copper gives slugs a slight electrical charge, so copper sheeting, curved into collars, will protect soft seedlings.
You, the adventurous gardener, can also saunter out at night, salt shaker in hand, and sprinkle death on the critters. They’ll disintegrate before your amazed eyes.
Scissors make short work of slugs, if you can bear to cut them in half. I can’t. My favorite method is to place the News-Times plastic sleeve over my hand, and go slug hunting as I walk from the driveway to the front door. When I have a handful of the destructive creatures, I drown them, and the whole mess gets composted.
My favorite method is to sprinkle an organic pelletized product such as Escar-go or Sluggo around susceptible plants. These products contain iron phosphate, and won’t harm other creatures. But it’s death to slugs.
These are but a few of the many ways to control the slug population. And be sure to clean up the garden each fall to remove resting places for slugs and their eggs.
Start the slug hunt today, so that you aren’t overrun & overwhelmed.
You’re bigger than the slugs. You can win this battle.
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