Real Men Sow

Just When I Thought I’d Kept Them Away! Deterring Slugs and Snails

Just when I thought I’d got a hold of the snail and slug population in my garden, this happens:

My healthy looking Mibuna decimated. The oriental salad leaves were on the cusp of being ready, and I was getting excited about the crispy, bitter greens accompanying my dinner.

Alas, the slimy critters had other ideas.

When we first moved into our house, the shrubs were overgrown and weeds were running amok. Each time I cleared or tidied an area, I’d find literally hundreds of snails hidden underneath. They were everywhere, even managing to climb up my plum trees and nibble on the fruit. And once darkness fell, you couldn’t move on the lawn for slugs.

A Decreasing Population (or so I thought)
Gradually, as we got on top of the garden, the slug and snail population seemed to decrease drastically. I no longer visited the compost bins at the back running the risk of returning with loads of squished slugs on the bottom of my slippers.

This fresh attack has led me to dig out two lovely little books that I was bought on my last birthday: the delightful and very useful Tips from the Old Gardeners and the funny, entertaining 50 Ways to Kill a Slug.

Soot, Salt and Beer
Tips from Old Gardeners has some interesting tips for keeping the slugs and snails away. I liked the idea of saving soot from chimney sweeping to put around flower beds, as well as diluted saucers of beer next to plants you want to protect. Apparently, the slugs and snails will gravitate towards the liquid and meet a beery end.

Salt – either in the form of seaweed straight from the shore or as jam jars filled with salt water – is another deterrent discussed in the book, as it is thought slugs don’t like salt.

Sacrificial Comfrey, Sharp Stuff and Slug Races
50 Ways to Kill a Slug has some good ideas too, ranging from practical to rather zany. On the practical side, one of my favourite tips is to grow comfrey as a sacrificial plant. ‘Slugs love comfrey!’ says the book, before advising the reader to plant comfrey in slug hotspots. After a couple of days, pick the greedy guts off the comfrey and dispose as you see fit.

Other ideas include putting them off with sharp stuff like eggshells, grit and sand, or even the coarse texture of your own hair. If you’ve got little ‘uns, why not hold a slug race? Get the kids to collect as many slugs as possible, and get them to race them. The winner gets a chocolate bar, and you dispose of all the slugs. Easy peasy. :)

Okay, maybe not. In fact, Tips from the Old Gardeners sum it up sadly: “All these things help to deter, but slugs and snails outnumber us and our plants pretty heavily, so we will always be fighting a rearguard action”.

Looking at the remains of my mibuna, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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2 Comments

  1. Claire BensonOctober 9, 2012 at 7:54 amReply

    After this year’s growing experience I’m pretty sold on the idea of using nematodes next season! They’ve even had a go at my one squash that had grown to a reasonable size (just a bit bigger than a fist) but hasn’t managed to grow its hard shell.

    I think they were the biggest challenge this year!

    I’ve tried egg shells before – didn’t find it effective. Beer is effective if a bit expensive and you have to keep cleaning out the dead slugs and snails.

    Apparently the Head Gardener at one of the Garden Organic sites swears by using bran as they full on this first.

  2. TimOctober 12, 2012 at 10:16 amReply

    As a variation on the comfrey theme, I’ve found that mulching seedlings with comfrey leaves when planting them out can help to get them past the stage when they’re most vulnerable to slugs. That has the advantage that you can grow the comfrey wherever you like, and use it to protect plants in several different locations around your plot.

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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