Any gardener who awakens to discover their new plants or seedlings have been chewed off at the base by slugs, knows that the annual battle for control of garden slugs has begun for the season. These slimy pests just love to demolish new vegetables, flowers or anything else you value in your garden.
Controlling slugs and snails in your garden is usually a topic of great debate and interest to gardeners. Take heart though as slugs can be controlled through a variety of fairly simple protective measures.
First of all, slugs do have some natural enemies. Frogs and toads, centipedes and black ground beetles as well as birds all love to eat slugs. Providing a toad house along with nesting for birds somewhere in your yard is a great way to encourage these welcome slug predators to your garden.
Minimize slug hiding spots
Then try to minimize the places that slugs and snails have to hide during the hot sunny days. Slugs need shade and moisture so they will hide under leaves, mulch, boards, tools or anything at all that will provide some protection for them. Control them by making sure you don’t leave things laying around in the yard.
Protect individual plants from slugs
The only guaranteed protection from slugs and snails is enclosing each flower or vegetable seedling in its own slug protective cover. These special plant protectors can be purchased, or just try making one yourself by placing a plastic half gallon drink container over the top of your plant.
Simply saw off the bottom of the container and make sure the edges are pressed down in the soil so that the slug can’t slide underneath. These should be taken off during hot days so that you don’t cook your seedlings!
Controlling slugs with beer (favorite with husbands)
Dig several shallow dishes or cat food cans into the soil deep enough so that the rim is just a fraction of an inch higher than the surrounding soil. Place them about two feet apart surrounding the area of plants you are trying to protect. Fill up with beer! Any old beer will do, leftover beer with no fizz is fine.
Overnight, slugs will be attracted to the beer and slide into the dish for a drink. They become ‘drunk’ from the beer and drown! The next morning you can fish out the dead slugs and then top it up again in the evening. This is the preferred method for most gardeners as it seems like the most humane (fun, even) way for the slugs to die.
Next best – Control slugs with a physical barrier
Control slugs with a physical barrier such as a trench of salt, egg shells, broken glass or sand. With this method you control slugs by surrounding your garden with a layer of material, one or two inches wide, over which the slug has to pass to reach your vegetables and flowers. Of course they never make it as they become dehydrated on the salt or cut from the sharp shells or glass. This seems like a pretty ghastly way to go compared to the beer method, plus it is more unsightly in the garden. However some gardeners find this their preferred method of slug control.
There are a variety of chemical pastes and pellets available to control slugs. These are generally effective but the drawback is that they are highly attractive to cats, birds and other garden wildlife. You can purchase special containers designed to protect other wildlife and place the bait into these. None of these chemical means are any more effective than the beer or barrier method however, but they can be much more dangerous to use.
Whichever way you choose to control slugs, try to remember that slugs do provide some benefit to your garden. They produce a rich compost-like waste that benefits your soil, even if that waste is a by-product of your own prized flowers and vegetables!