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Gardening Patch

Slugs and snails control - how to deal with these garden pests

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Slugs and snails are notorious garden pests and can affect many areas of the gardeners work. Entire books have been devoted to the prevention and control of slugs and snails such can be their devastating effect on plants in your garden. Slugs and snails can happily munch their way through all your prize plants and are especially fond of young tender vegetation.

When looking at slug control we should try and look at the whole picture of the garden and the relationships between plants and animals. Throwing some slug pellets down at certain places may wipe out some slugs in these areas but it is not a long term solution. Slug pellets contain poisons and when the dead slugs are eaten by other animals in the food chain such as hedgehogs, frogs and birds the poison is then introduced into the systems of these animals. Therefore using slug pellets should be avoided where possible.

Natural methods of slug control.

Slugs and snails are part of the gardens food chain and because they aren’t at the top it means there are natural predators. Toads and frogs happily feed on slugs, by providing areas in your garden that are suitable for frogs and toads to inhabit you are encouraging long term, organic methods of slug control. Make small damp hollows with a square of bricks in the ground and then let the grass grow around the edges so that cats and birds are less likely to find the nesting toads or frogs and so the hollow is shaded and remains cool and damp. Provide log / twig piles where toads and frogs will find safe places to locate themselves in cool damp conditions.

Birds (especially thrushes) will feed on snails, indeed thrushes will smash the shell of snails on rocks, encourage birds with bird baths, trees and other nesting sites.

Such damp shady areas of the garden. Rake up any fallen leaves and other dead plant debris as it provides excellent living and breeding conditions for slugs and snails.

Have you given any thought to the types and varieties of plants you are growing, some will be less appealing to the tastes of slugs and snails. An example of this is red lettuce which tends to be slightly more bitter than its green counterparts.

Try and harden your plants off well before planting out into open ground as these pests really enjoy a meal of young, tender growth.

Remove slugs manually by going into the garden after sundown and looking for slugs and snails when they will be looking to feed. Use a torch and be sure to check under leaves as they will often hide here. Remove the pests and drop them into a bucket of salted water. This will kill them.

Slug and snail traps

The following methods of slug and snail control have good degrees of success and can be used without worrying about introducing poisons into the food chain.

Eggshell rings

Rings of sharp edged materials can be placed around the stems of a plant. The slugs and snails underside is then cut open when they try to pass over this band of sharp edges. Materials that can be used for this include broken egg shells and sharp grit.

Beer trap
Slugs just can’t get enough beer, they are drawn to its smell and this can be used to the gardeners advantage. To make a beer trap make a hole in the soil that will fit a plastic bottle (cut off to the appropriate height) or jar. Place the beer vessel into the hole making sure the lip of the vessel extends around an inch past the soil surface. Fill the vessel with beer and then simply check each day for slugs that have crawled in.

Slippery slope

Prevent slugs and snails from climbing into pots and containers by applying a layer of Vaseline right around the side of the container.

You can put dead slugs on the compost heap.