I decline as politely as I can. What I’d like to say is: ‘thanks for the advice, but I’d rather not poison my veg with those nasty little blue things that are harmful to kids, pets and the environment. If I wanted my veg served with chemicals I wouldn’t bother growing them, I’d buy them.’
Mick is right about one thing though. Slugs are a pain in the arse. Slimy, repulsive and destructive, they deserve to be exterminated.
So if you want to do it organically, here are a few tried, tested and untested methods.
BEER TRAPS: cut the top off a coke can, or sink a plastic cup into the soil, so the top is about level with the soil surface. Fill the can about three quarters full with beer then wait for the slugs to dive in.
PROS: the slugs drown in an alcoholic stupor. CONS: apart from the obvious waste of beer, this is not so practical for large vegetable patches or allotments. You also need to empty out the dead slugs and replace the beer on a regular basis.
SALT: Sprinkle a ring of salt around the perimeter of your vegetables.
PROS: the slugs shrivel up and die – a kind of death by osmosis. CONS: bad for the soil, not recommended.
BARRIERS: Spread egg shell, grit, or sand, around the edge of your veg patch.
PROS: natural and won’t harm the soil.
CONS: despite claims slugs won’t slide over rough surfaces, I haven’t found this to be true. In my experience they will happily slither over barbed wire if there’s a lettuce on the other side.
COVER: cut plastic drinks bottles in half and place over young, vulnerable plants. Or use the top half of a propagator (like in the photograph.)
PROS: slugs can’t gnaw through plastic, so tender seedlings are safe. CONS: once the plants get too big you’ll need to remove the covers, rendering them open to attack again. But older plants may be able to withstand the damage.
COPPER: place copper tape (available from garden stores) around pots.
PROS: the electrostatic charge repels the slugs
CONS: expensive and not practical if you have a large patch, but good for sticking around the edge of containers.
NEMATODES: these are natural organisms, invisible to the human eye, which can be bought from garden stores and added to the soil when you water. They release bacteria which stop the slugs from feeding, so they die.
PROS: safe and doesn’t harm the environment. CONS: labour intensive, more costly than some other methods, best done early in the season when the slugs are young. I haven’t used this method, though am planning to try it next year. I have heard mixed reports of its success, so let me know if you’ve tried it.
But to really get rid of slugs there is only one solution (warning: don’t read on if you’re sqeamish.)
PROS: satisfaction of watching a slug’s innards squelch over sharp metal.
So there you have some variable methods of controlling slugs. There are others which I haven’t covered such as throwing apples down to attract birds (the theory is they will also eat the slugs) and spreading coffee grounds on the soil, though you’d need a serious caffeine habit to produce enough to keep slugs away.
My advice would be to try a combination of several methods and also to grow more plants than you need – that way if the slugs help themselves, hopefully you will still have enough to see you through the season.
Do you have a slug problem or have you found a successful way to eliminate them?