The Slug… Your Adversary
The Slug… Your Adversary
Slugs may be a very serious problem to you if you live in moisture-laden areas of the country. A single “lawn prawn” can successfully remove an entire row of seedlings from your garden in no time at all. He can turn a perfect plant into Swiss cheese over night and return to the safety of his hideaway, leaving you to wonder what happened. As slugs wander about, doing their evil little slug deeds, they leave behind them a trail of slime that amounts to nothing less than a road sign for themselves and every other slug to follow to the grand feast.
To make the situation even worse, slugs are hermaphrodites, they all have male and female reproductive systems. Yes, they can mate with themselves, and in the privacy of their own abode, each slug will produce two to three dozen eggs several times a year. The egg clusters look like little piles of whitish jelly BB sized balls. They will hatch in anywhere from 10 days to three weeks or longer, and these “sluglings” can mature to adulthood in as little as six weeks. Destroy the eggs… wherever you find them. Slugs may live for several years, getting larger with proportionately larger appetites each year. Now, do you really want to go out to your garden some morning and find an 18-inch Banana Slug waiting for you?
The Battles and the War
Although you may never win the war against snails and slugs entirely, you owe it to your plants to fight them with every weapon at your disposal. You can control slug populations with several different methods. With each battle that you win, you have prevented hundreds of new slugs from hatching.
As with any battle plan, it is to your advantage to be able to set the field. Set your field by cleaning your garden, and eliminating the places where the slugs hide, sleep, and reproduce.
Pulling the weeds from your garden is something you need to do anyway. As you pull each weed, you remove a potential slug outpost.
Keep all decaying matter cleaned out of your beds. While leaves make good mulch, once they begin to compost they become food and shelter for slugs and snails. Prune the branches of any shrubs that are laying on the ground. Keep the old leaves and such cleaned out. By doing this you will have destroyed yet another slug haven!
Cultivate your soil regularly to keep the dirt clods broken up, and unearth any slugs that may have burrowed under the surface. The shaded areas beneath decks can be a slug arena: keep them weed and litter free. Just about anything can become a slug home. Boards, rocks, pots and other gizmos should be kept out of the garden.
Keep the lawn edges trimmed. Slugs will congregate under the umbrella of unkept grass.
The Weapons – Hand to Hand Combat & Chemical Warfare
For the sake of the environment, it is better to make an effort to control slugs and snails without using chemicals and poisons before you resort to chemical warfare.
Hand to hand combat:
• Keep slug pokers stuck around the garden at random. Meet your enemy, one on one. Your weapon is at hand, impale them!
• Fill a small bowl with stale beer. Put it in the areas where the slugs are active. Stale beer attracts the slugs and they drown. You may also use grape juice or a tea made from yeast, honey and water.
• An early morning stroll around the garden, salt shaker in hand will often result in many casualties for the bad guys.
• Destroy any and ALL slug eggs you find!
• Bait and destroy tactics work. Set a pile of slightly dampened dry dog food in an area frequented by slugs. In the morning and evening visit the feeding station a few times…. slug poker in hand!
• Battle lines made of Cedar bark or gravel chips spread around your plant will irritate and dehydrate slugs. The sharp edges of crushed eggshells around the plants will cut and kill slugs. The calcium in the eggshells is a good soil amendment anyway!
• Sprinkle a line of lime around your plants. (Obviously this won’t work around plants requiring a more acidic soil)
• Certain herbs (Rosemary, lemon balm, wormwood, mints, tansy, oak leaves, needles from conifers and seaweed will repel slugs. However using a mulch of these plants will only turn the slugs away, in search of other food sources.
• Oat bran will kill slugs when they eat it… sprinkle some around.
Probably the most popular, most effective, and easiest method of controlling slugs is by using commercial slug bait products. These may be purchased in the form of meal, pellets, powder, or liquid. The primary concern of using chemical baits and poisons is the possibility of poisoning small critters, creatures and even small children. Always follow the instructions to the letter, and go the extra steps necessary to insure that the poisons are inaccessible to anything but slugs and snails.
Make traps to collect slugs out of plastic pop bottles. Cut the bottle in half and then invert the top part of the bottle into the bottom part to create a no escape entryway. The slug bait can be placed inside the bottle and will draw the slugs in where they will die and await disposal.
Commercial, disposable slug traps may be purchased at many garden centers. Quite a bit more expensive, but they work! At the very least, cover the bait with a weighted piece of wood or an old shingle to prevent access to the poison. The slugs will still find it, consume it, and die.
Try as you might, the war against slugs will go on as long as there are gardens. You will never win, but you can keep them under control. Remember that for every slug you destroy, you are preventing countless generations of that slug’s offspring. You may want to consider offering a bounty on slugs in your neighborhood. It might amaze you how many slugs an ambitious young person can gather up at a nickel a head.
Organize a ‘Slug Derby’ with some small prize for the biggest slug, the ugliest slug, person with the most captured slugs, etc. A grand event for any neighborhood, to be sure! As you wage your war on slugs and snails, you are almost certain to be ‘slimed’ at least once. YUK! Mix up a little warm water and vinegar, and use this formula to remove the slime from your hands like magic!
Publishers Note: Log on to TheGardenHelpers.com for a complete outline of July garden tips.