Encouraging animals which eat slugs and snails into your garden is a great way to reduce their numbers
These pesky molluscs enjoying eating the leaves of many garden plants and if left unchecked, will quickly strip a plant of all of its foliage.
Although you are unlikely to ever have a completely slug free garden, it is possible to reduce the damage they cause by using a variety of techniques to control them or to protect your plants.
Many organic gardens use traps laced with beer to snare slugs. There are many products available, but generally they consist of a container with a lid that perches above, with a gap for the slugs to slide in. The well is baited with beer, which is irresistible to the pests that fall to a watery doom.
An alternative is to recycle grapefruit halves – once you’ve eaten the fruit, place the skins upside down in a border and check daily for slugs taken refuge underneath.
Using chemical slug pellets is frowned upon by many, but they remain an extremely popular control with a large proportion of gardeners. If you do use them, follow the instructions on the packet and use frugally – a mulch of blue pellets across the soil should not be your aim. A first application in the second week of February usually works well, dispatching of many slugs and snails before they start breeding.
Microscopic creatures that will seek out slugs in the soil, nematodes are supplied in packets that are mixed with water and applied to the ground through a watering can. Although they will not destroy large, surface living slugs, they will kill young and small slugs in the soil, which is estimated to be about 90 percent of the population.
Some gardeners try to protect precious plants by surrounding it with a ‘moat’ of sharp gravel or crushed seashells. However, I’ve had mixed results using these methods and have occasionally spotted a slug slithering happily across a gritty mulch that was supposed to deter it.
If you really want to safeguard a plant growing in the ground, try placing a copper ring around it – these are widely available, in different sizes, from garden centres and they repel any mollusc that tries to crawl over it with a charge of static electricity. To work properly, these must be in firm contact with the ground and ensure that the leaves of the plant are not in contact with any others, or they will act like a bridge for the slug or snail to cross.
Plants in pots can be protected with a band of copper tape stuck around the outside.
Hedgehogs, newts, toads and some birds, such as song thrushes love to eat slugs and snails, so it is a great idea to attract these beneficial creatures into your garden.
Probably the best way to entice them into the garden is to make a pond or boggy area, which they will use for drinking or as a place of refuge. Read Martyn Cox's guide to creating a wildlife pond for attracting useful wildlife into your garden.
You can find a lot of slugs and snails by going hunting. Check under leaves, in upturned pots and even under garden furniture. Many gardeners swear by hunting at night – armed with a torch you will catch them when they are at their most active.
So you want to grow hostas
Every gardener knows that slugs and snails love to eat hostas, but it possible to grow virtually hole free plants by choosing your varieties carefully. Those with thick leaves, such as H.‘Invincible’ and plants with blue leaves, like H.‘Halycon’ and H.sieboldiana var. elegans, tend to be more resistant to these hungry pests than others.
Where to buy
Copper tape, rings, nematodes, traps and lots of different barriers can be bought online at The Organic Gardening Catalogue, www.organiccatalog.com, 0845 1301304.
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