slugs and snails

In my gardening blog today I will be giving some advice to the gardeners among you on how to protect your plants from slugs and snails. In the extraordinarily wet weather we have all been subjected to over the last few weeks, you may have been experiencing problems with them munching away on your newly planted seedlings. Seedlings are particularly susceptible to damage as the tender leaves are attractive to these predators. This is very disheartening and tricky to overcome at the best of times, but it is essential to be on the war path and be proactive in your approach, otherwise you may find that many of your seedlings and young plants will simply disappear.

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slugs and snails

Slugs and snails are related, and are biologically known as gastropods. They are hermaphrodites being both male and female, and each one can produce up to 500 eggs over a season. Their life span can be up to five years if they’re lucky. They feed on plant material and, as I said before, are particularly fond of young fresh tender growth so any seedlings you plant out are in danger of being devoured by these pests. They tend to come out to feed at night or during cloudy wet spells of weather. They like to shelter under leaves, stones, wood, plastic and the like. They don’t like open, dry, well cultivated, weed free ground.

slug pellets

Conventional slug pellets are made with metaldehyde or methiocarb and are not to be encouraged as they cause harm to other wildlife in our gardens, and also leave chemical deposits in your soil. Birds, beetles, hedgehogs, toads and frogs are all gardener’s friends and helpers, and will happily dine on these slimy creatures, helping to keep their numbers down and hence allowing you to successfully grow your own veg, flowers, and fruit. These slug pellets will kill the slug or snail and then the bird, beetle or toad etc that may eat it. It really is an absolute no-no.

ferric phosphate based pellets

These pellets are made up of iron phosphate and cause no harm to other wildlife and are Soil Association approved, although organic growers still need to get permission to use them.

nematodes

This is a biological control for use against slugs, but it is not effective against snails. It is a microscopic sort of worm known as Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita, and is a native species living in our soils already but not in quite enough numbers to really control your slugs and snails. Once introduced they will help protect your crops for up to six weeks. They need the ground to be damp to survive so a certain amount of watering may need to be done to help them.

home remedies

There are all sorts of methods that people adopt to try and overcome the problem of slugs and snails, some of which I have listed below. There is loads of info on the web so take a look and try some out for yourself. Primarily, take a look at your garden and discover where they like to hang out. Physical removal is a good start and tidying up your garden, clearing debris and objects where they congregate is key. Getting the balance right is hard though as a completely weed free, spotless garden doesn’t provide a habitat required to encourage the biodiversity that is essential to garden organically.
Find out more about the home remedies and have some fun. Here are more ideas to Google: salt, traps, eggshells, coarse sand, bran, copper bands, seaweed squashing, vinegar, beer traps, culling.

14 responses to “slugs and snails

  1. I have used a combination of eggshells and coffee grinds. Appears to help, but you need alot to re-apply all the time, especially after it’s been raining.

  2. Rebecca Johnson

    Making your garden permeable to Hedgehogs (i.e. leaving a gap under the fence) is another good solution!

  3. I have recently started using a product made from sheep’s wool – pellets that you sprinkle on the soil around your plants which swell and create a mat when watered. Apparently the wool has little barbs which the snails and slugs don’t like. It is natural, organic and apoparently is good for the soil too. It has not been 100% effective in my container garden (the snails love to hide under the rims of containers!), but has made a huge difference. I still go out and remove them manually, but there are far fewer than there were, and mostly they leave my plants alone now.

  4. In previous years I have found bio control (nematodes) pretty effective – and I also use the ‘right kind of’ pellets (the ones okay for organic gardeners) as we love the wildlife and also, we keep cats. However this year is SO wet and cold that I doubt the effectiveness of the ‘nems”, and am resorting to dropping the snails into a container of salt – nasty, but effective, though time-consuming, an d also of course trying to clear stuff enough that they don’t have places to congregate. The really HUGE snails, I throw into the sports ground we fortunately back onto – I doubt they actually do come back though folk myth says they can find their way!

  5. PS – the pellets do smell strongly of sheep when you first apply them! But I quite liked that, it made my urban courtyard garden feel more rustic! And the smell does disappear fairly quickly.
    Apparently another method is to make a garlic solution (boil a whole head of garlic, mash it, strain it and add to a couple of litres of water) which is sprayed on the leaves – gastropods don’t like garlic! – but that is perhaps better for leaves you are not going to eat, unless you like everything flavoured with garlic!

  6. Judith Martin

    Wood ash scattered thickly around the seedlings works seems to work best, but of course does get washed off, and there’s only so much wood burning you can do unless you have a stove. Copper tape around the top of a pot works pretty well, as long as the wretched creatures aren’t in the pot to begin with (with smaller pots you can check by tipping the whole lot out onto your hand – make sure the texture is such that it will hold together. You might well find them sleeping out the daylight hours around the edge, below the surface). The proprietary gravel type stuff that is supposed to repel them, either by being uncomfortable to crawl over or by dehydrating them, seems to act as an attractant instead.

  7. Tesco Value Lager!! They throw themselves in and die happy. And you can tip the whole squelchy mess on the compost heap afterwards.

  8. Richard davies

    I have started using the ferric phosphate pellets on my allotment this year. They were fine when the weather was very dry (not that I would expect many slug attacks then). Then it rained. The pellets disappeared after the slightest shower, and even melted away when they were spinkled on damp ground. The slugs moved in with a vengeance. I used cheap pellets, so I might try the premium ones to see if they last any better. Otherwise it’s back to the nasty ones for me. Another point: there is a suspicion in some knowledgeable quarters that the ferric phosphate pellets are actually toxic to wildlife. It seems to be to do with the fact that the compound is chelated, but the details are beyond me. I will be following the story with interest.

    I don’t actually see many slugs on the allotment except when I dig one of the little grey devils up. Not so in the garden, where the Great Black Slug and its rufous variant come out at night to clean up the left-over bird seed from the patio. We have never seen these slugs on vegetation, so we leave them alone. Snails do a lot of damage, given the chance, so we put them in the compost bin where they can do something useful. It takes them a long time to escape.

  9. Clare Ashcroft

    I find just putting any I find in my compost bin seems to work pretty well…in the theory there is so much to eat in there that they will stay there! Also making sure things like hostas are growing really strongly, then cutting off any part eaten leaves, seems to keep them looking perfect…I haven’t used any actual repellant/deterrent/poison for years and my hostas , and other things look great! Apart from a Brunnera that they seem to eat faster than it can grow :-(

  10. I used nematodes one year and found them to be incredibly effective. However, having read what they do, I just can’t bring myself to continue using them. As I don’t like the idea of killing them – after all, they have a right to life along with the rest of us – and I can’t be bothered any more to collect them and take them to the park, I now just don’t replant anything that gets eaten. My lovely garden is full of barely nibbled plants.

  11. Teresa Turner

    I was recommended to use coffee grouts. If you use fresh coffee, empty it around the plants, it really did make a difference.

  12. sally crockford

    Beer Traps work for me, at least they die happy:)

  13. I too use beer traps. They do not need quality products, here is a use for ‘value’ lager!

  14. I did some research about the Ferric Phosphate pellets and I’m not sure they are as harmless as the makers say due to an ingredient that is not on the label. Interesting article here.

    http://www.hostalibrary.org/firstlook/RRIronPhosphate.htm

    I brew my slugs their own beer but they are fussy and prefer stout to lager.

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