Slug-armageddon – the battle all gardeners face
When I finally meet my nemesis, I think it will probably be slug-shaped. I’ve had a terrible time with them. Have you had problems with slugs this year? How do you plan to cope with slugs next year?
There’s a reason why slugs will always feature near the top of any gardener’s list of adversaries. We seem to share pretty much the same tastes, and if I like growing it, I’m sure they’ll enjoy eating it even more.
They are the vandals of the horticultural world and can decimate a freshly planted crop overnight, leaving little behind other than half-chewed stumps, and their tell-tale slimy escape route.
Wet summer brings out the slugs
One of the wettest summers on record has meant that the slugs have had free rein on my plot for far too long. They seem bigger, bolder and slimier than ever and have wreaked havoc with this year’s veg. Early sown salads were devoured overnight and the new shoots of my Dahlias proved to be one of their favourite delicacies.
There are around 30 species of slug in the British Isles, and an average-sized garden may contain around 20,000 of these rampant gastropods.
Recently, there’s been concern over the spread of the ‘Spanish stealth slug’ (Arion flagellus) which is much larger than most of our native slugs, reaching up to 10 inches in length! These invaders hitched a ride to the UK in plant imports over 40 years ago, and have steadily spread. They are self-fertile, can lay between 350-500 eggs (far more than our native slugs) and their immense size has meant that not much is prepared to eat the blighters.
How to get rid of slugs
When we surveyed 2,000 Which? Gardening readers, we found they used a wide range of methods to control these pests. The most popular were copper barriers around pots and plants, ducks and geese, nematodes and even removing them by hand (yuck!).
I have experimented with lots of DIY methods, like setting beer traps (which seemed like a waste of good beer) or putting a barrier of oats around my plants (to interfere with the slugs’ slime glands), but none seemed to be particularly effective.
I once experimented with copper rings around my Hostas, but found that as the leaves grew over the barrier they provided a handy bridge for the marauding molluscs to breach my defences. I have even heard of coffee grounds being used as a mulch around plants to deter slugs who apparently don’t share my caffeine habit.
Even with such an array of ways to kill slugs, lots of gardeners will immediately reach for the slug pellets when they suspect an attack is imminent, if only for some peace of mind.
Organic or non-organic slug pellets
Our trial last year found that organic slug pellets were just as good as non-organic ones in the battle against slugs and snails. As a result, we’d recommend you go with organic pellets, as unlike those based on metaldehyde, they are approved for use by organic growers and pose no threat to people, pets or wildlife.
Given the ideal conditions for a boom in slug numbers, it’s hardly surprising that most slug pellet manufacturers have reported an increase in sales this year. B&Q claims that sales of slug pellets were up 51% from the same period last year.
Resourceful and pragmatic, gardeners will always have to expect a few losses (and even complete failures), but this year I have to admit I’ve struggled to grow enough to feed both of our appetites. In future I may find myself reaching for those little blue pellets. How about you?
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