As most regular readers of my blog will know I’ve tried to build my garden up to attract various wildlife. I’ve tried to avoid potentially harmful chemicals for weed killing and pest controls. But even trying to encourage wildlife I still need some methods to control some of the more destructive forces in the garden. I’m talking about the slugs and snails. My aim hasn’t been to wipe them out completely as I don’t feel comfortable with committing large scale molluscacide I just want to reduce plant damage.
While many people use nematodes I’m not convinced of the long term sense in this solution. Nematodes for slugs and snails involve microscopic eelworms that create bacteria leading to slug destruction. Snail shells combined with time above ground defend them from nematodes. While a biological control seems like a better option than slug pellets which have been shown to be harmful to animals up the food chain. But something about the idea of nematodes is distasteful to me. I just want to control the numbers, not eradicate completely. I’m not looking for little daleks programmed to exterminate slugs and snails I just want a few less holes in plants trying to get established.
So I still favour biological controls, but not ones leading to total destruction of the slugs and snails. Encouraging predators into the garden helps create an equilibrium with the slugs and snails not destroying all green life. I have encouraged birds in through keeping bird feeders stocked. While they come for the food put out they still usually do a sweep of the borders to check for prey.
I’ve also tried to encourage hedgehogs to take up residence. While none have stayed they do visit through the hedgehog hole. Within. The garden I have hedgehog homes and feeding stations to bring them in. The trail camera shows they do visit. I don’t know how many slugs they account for, but I still like knowing they are there.
Frogs and toads can eat through large quantities of slugs and snails. While I don’t have a pond next door does. To encourage some across into my garden I have a number of frog homes. Spots that are shaded and moist for frogs and toads to shelter in. A broken pot can be buried into the ground to provide shelter.
On top of biological controls slugs and snails can be controlled through barriers. Copper tape is recommended as they don’t like crossing the copper. However many still will cross when wet. Grit and egg shells are again recommended, but any gaps and they will find a way through.
Sheep wool pellets can be used to protect plants. They also act as a mulch helping water retention in the soil. It is however quite pricey for any reasonably sized area.
With almost any barrier method the slugs and snails can find a way in. Any leaves drooping over the barrier provides a path to a feast. Most varieties become less effective when wet. So I’ve mainly employed barriers to allow seedlings to get established. Then I trust that the larger plants can handle a bit of leaf loss.
When I have seen damage is bad I’ve employed beer traps to reduce numbers. Slugs and snails seem unable to resist beer. The beer dehydrates them leading to their death. Darker beer is supposed to be more effective, but I haven’t four d much difference between cheap lager and other varieties. Plus I don’t really like to pour away nicer beers to the slugs.
I have some commercially made traps, but jam jars and plastic bottles can be up-cycled into traps.
Through this multi-fronted approach I seem to be keeping plant damage to a level I can live with. While many people go out with the torch at night to remove this isn’t really an option for me as I have Alice to put to sleep, so not about to send time in the night picking them off. If you do though it is worth getting to know your slugs. Leopard slugs for example eat other slugs so are worth leaving.
My seedlings seem to be surviving better this year and making it to flower. I may even risk adding some hostas to the shaded corner!