Thought for the day... are slugs just snails who lost the house in a divorce? Of course not. Okay then, can we eradicate both these enemies of the Gardening State for good? The answer to that question is of course, also no. Nope. Nein. Non. What can we do then? Quite a lot actually and lots of us have our own tried and tested methods. We can't cover all of them but we can certainly get an idea of some of them, which you might be able to utilise, to help protect your flowers and veggies.
Firstly, we have to realise that we need to learn to live alongside our gardening enemies, as well as our friends, and to acknowledge that a 100% success rate is probably an unrealistic goal. We then have to consider our own approach to gardening. We are not here to preach about organic, sustainable methods, and so if you are a blue slug pellet type of person then that is fine by us, and we only take the opportunity to remind you that some blue pellets are harmful to children and pets.
We though, prefer a more natural approach, and it is some of those methods that we are going to cover here.
Enlist Garden Friends - Slugs and snails have more natural predators than you may imagine. If you are lucky enough to have any of the below living in your growing space then treasure them because they are on your side. Do your best to create the right environment for them to entice them to stay. A word of warning though, should you create a small water pond always make sure you create ample escape routes for any little creatures that may get stuck. Bits of wood etc can make attractive natural freedom paths for them.
- Leopard Slug - not all slugs are bad. These will not eat healthy plants but they will clean up dead foliage and fungi. Best of all they eat the other slugs, the ones that do want to feast on your plants.
- Slow Worm - This is NOT a snake but a legless lizard, and is completely harmless. Disturb as little as possible and they will reward you by munching on your slugs.
- Frog - these will want access to some water but if you have a small boggy area/pond they will return, year upon year, to breed and feast on your slugs. Don't forget the escape routes.
- Toad - they appreciate access to water, much like a frog, but will not spend quite as much time in it. In fact, you are more likely to have one surprise you when you are weeding your borders. They will often spend a lot of time in the cool earth under shrubs, hopefully eating your slugs.
- Hedgehog - the nations favourite and sadly endangered. If you are lucky enough to have any of these in your area then please take as much care of them as you can. Never feed them bread and milk, you will make them seriously ill. Instead feed with good quality cat food. Provide a sheltered area for a "Hog House" and you may even be rewarded with a litter of babies. If you have solid fencing then make hedgehog sized holes at ground level so they can roam at will. NB: if you ever see a hedgehog out in the open in daylight it is not well; gently collect and take to your nearest vet.
- Centipede - this one may surprise you but they love a slug so don't clear them from your growing space.
- Beetle - you may not be keen on this kind of creepy crawly but let them be and they will reward you by dining on your slugs.
- Firefly - another of Mother Nature's wonders. We haven't seen any for a few decades now. Mostly live around riverbanks, where the females lay their eggs. The larvae develop and spend months eating snails, so although you may not see them, or have them in your growing space, they are out there and they are fighting your cause.
Plant plants that slugs and snails don't like - yes, that right, there are certain plants that deter slugs and snails. If you plant near/around your more vulnerable plants you may well prevent slug devastation. We have focussed on three, Anise, Rosemary and Fennel. We have chosen these three, not just because they are all available from Seeds To Suit but for their wonderful fragrances and their usability.
Make terrain hostile to slugs and snails - neither like to cross ground that is very dry, dusty, gritty and scratchy. Many things will fit those descriptions, so allow your imagination to run riot. Below are a few suggestions:
- Pea shingle
- Course sand
- Crushed egg shells
- Coffee grounds
- Tea (sprinkle pre steeped tea wet, or dry around crops)
- Vaseline (around pots etc)
- Fleece (be careful with this, one of our friends ended up creating a lovely damp environment that the slugs loved living under!)
- Salt - will kill slugs but we do not advise using it on your growing areas, more around them as a barrier
- Vinegar - will dissolve slugs but do not use when they are on the plants or growing areas because it is also a herbicide
- Epsom Salt - this you can use on your growing areas, indeed it will be beneficial to prevent any magnesium deficiency
- Copper - they don't like to touch it as it causes a chemical reaction that they do not like. The downside is that it can be expensive
Bait them - there are some things that slugs and snails love above all else. If you provide them with their own restaurant they are more likely to leave your plants alone. Just pop them in pots, sunk into the ground and check them regularly. Here are a few ideas:
- Cucumber slices
- Any yeasty mixture (if it doesn't contain alcohol they will not drown but you can pick them out and dispose of them)
- Soaked oatmeal
- Melon or orange peel with some fruit left on it
Use vigilance - Slugs and snails are more active at night so nightly patrols, under torchlight, might be your thing. Also, know your territory. Where in your growing spaces are your dampest areas? During long, dry spells which is the last area to dry out? This is where they will congregate.
We really hope you enjoy this blog and that you find it helpful. Look out for the July Blog - coming soon.
Seeds To Suit - The seeds you want, in the quantities you need!