Slug control

don't let them beat you!

By Melanie from Lower Roedale and Enid from Waverley Crescent

Slugs are the bane of every gardeners life.  Did you know that in one season each slug can eat up to 0.8kg of leaves!

But there ARE ways to tackle them.

  • Slugs hide in dark, moist areas - regularly check under any weed suppression fabric - you might find them hiding there, or tucked down beside the wooden edges of your beds.  Don't leave decaying matter on your beds (eg fallen brassica leaves) as these make great slug hiding places too.  Keep your plot clear of "slug hotels" (waste wood, stones, buckets, pots, plastic bags - all cool damp places the slugs love). Generally - the tidier your plot, the fewer places there will be for them to hide!
  • The best way to kill off slugs is to get them at the egg stage. Clusters of tiny white slug eggs can be found in cool damp places; beneath flowerpots, stones or pieces of wood, or in the crevices between large clods of earth. Expose them to the elements and to birds and other animals. Every egg destroyed is one slug less next season.
  • Digging over the soil in wintertime brings slug eggs to the surface where they are more likely to be killed by frosts. So get digging (remember its cheaper than the gym!)
  • Slugs don't like dry ground - its a very good reason NOT to use sprinklers - just water the plants NOT the ground in between and you will find that the slugs won't be half as keen to go on the rampage!
  • Keep weeds down - use your hoe regularly - especially in spring and early summer, as slugs will hight under the weeds;
  • use beer traps, or half grapefruits (slugs love them both) - but remember they must be emptied or removed regularly;
  • sprinke oat bran around your plants - slugs love it but it expands inside them and kills them;
  • nematodes are a parasite that can be watered into the ground and kill off slugs.  However they can be expensive for large areas and have to be reapplied every couple of months;
  • Dig a pond for frogs and toads (remember to make sure there are shallow areas for them to get in and out)
  • position a bird bath and put food on a bird table - the birds will like a tasty slug for afters!
  • encourage hedgehogs - maybe bury a snuggly little hog-home in a corner of the garden- they will make a meal of the slugs;
  • Crushed eggshells, Soot, diatomaceous earth, grit, sand and anything else sharp are also recommended barrier methods (see below for more on eggshells).
  • Save your eggshells. Rinse them, spread them onto a baking sheet, and put them at the bottom of a warm oven after you’ve cooked a meal, and while the oven is cooling. When cold, put them into a bag and crush them.  Store them in a screw top container and use to sprinkle around tender plants for example salad crops, beans etc to deter slugs and snails, or you can mix into your compost as a valuable source of calcium.

Slugs love potatoes.  Under a moist canopy of potato foliage, these devils will firstly create round holes on the skin of the potato, before beginning to hollow out the centre flesh.    Management of the problem organically:

  • Avoid planting potatoes into heavy soil, which is favoured by slugs.
  • Avoid sowing potatoes into a site bordering grass, compost heaps or piles of organic waste, as all of these provide a base from which the slugs will carry out their midnight raids.
  • Dig over your soil once or twice before planting, this will bring slug eggs to the surface to be eaten by birds.
  • You can try planting potato varieties offering high resistance to slug attack such as Pentland Dell, or medium resistance such as King Edwards, Desiree or Records.
  • Better still plant a variety that you can harvest early to prevent prolonged attack.
  • Avoid excessive watering of your crop, slugs love slithering on wet soil.
  • Turn old wet sacks and rotten boards to your advantage, by leaving them encircling your potato crop. Arrive each morning with a smile, a wheelbarrow and a spade to gleefully scrape off the slugs from beneath these damp covers.

Good luck!

This page was added by Melanie Matthews on 01/11/2009.