Tag Archives: Pests

Slug War – Update

Hi Folks,

Quick update on the onslaught of the slimers.

Up until a few days ago the weather was with them and it seemed like we were hardly making a dent.  Most of the fodder beet and a good chunk of onions were dispatched. But as soon as the sun came out and things dried out a bit we have regained our position and things are growing like mad. Huzzah!

I also forgot to mention a couple of points:

– Mulching. Everyone tells you how GREAT and how IMPORTANT it is to mulch whenever you can. ‘Wow, it’s just so ace. It keeps the plants moist, suppresses weeds and fertilises all in one. Get with it man!’. Yes, this may all be true, but none of these benefits are worth diddly if you have no crops because the slugs have eaten them all. Mulches provide a perfect breeding ground for our foe and a nice hiding place during any patrols. I’m now only going to use mulches over winter months I think.

– Sowing direct vs. modules. I’ve often found that sowing directly into the final resting place or even into a seedbed can have distinct advantages over growing in modules and then transplanting, particularly for those hardier crops that can be outside getting all of the sunshine that they can from early in the year. However, this does put them at the mercy of the slimers when they are at their most vulnerable. What was a neat row of carrot seedlings can be turned into a neat row of not very much in one evening. SO… the plan here is to bring up as much as possible in modules, taking full advantage of staging in the polytunnel to get plants to a decent size before moving them out. This is, of course, still pretty tricky with the likes of carrots (due to size, number, root depth etc)… so they’ll just have to take their chances.

– ‘Slugs won’t go for that…’. Don’t believe anything anyone tells you about what slugs will and won’t eat- it’s all lies, damn lies. I’ve heard that they won’t eat alliums, particularly garlic – RUBBISH. I picked at least 15 off my onions and garlic this morning. I’ve heard they don’t like the tiny hairs on squashes… still doesn’t seem to put them off. I’ve not knowingly found anything they won’t go for. Perhaps those in the know can update me?

A new battle in the war… the SLUG WAR!!

In the last week or so we have changed tactics in our long running war against the gastropod molluscs that are determined to end our simple dream of growing enough vegetables for the family. If you live anywhere nearly as slushy as Wales and you have ever tried to grow anything outside you have probably had your own private and, I’m betting, passionate encounter with our slimy friends. Well we have, literally, tonnes of them wandering happily around our land munching through everything they come across and, fairly regularly, that has been our veg patch.

[Warning: For those of you of a squeamish disposition, this may not be the post for you]

In the last year, through a lack of time and understanding and a unprecedented onslaught, we had to resort to the use of slug pellets to protect the more vulnerable of the seedlings. Now, this is like trying to pay off a debt problem by spending more – it might ease the pain in the short term but it’s sure going to come back and bite you later. As we discovered, slug pellets do kill slugs (and snails) very effectively but, come a bit of rain (which it normally does very soon) and the toxic chemicals are washed away into your soil and you are quickly having to replenish them. But this is the least of your worries – worst of all you are indirectly shooting at your own men. All the critters that are on your side, munching up loads of slugs every day, such as the toads and slow worms, are more than likely killed by eating poison-ridden bodies. Needless to say, this makes your challenge all the harder.

So… new tactics were required for this spring. As the seedlings go out, the weather warms and the rains come, an army of slimers is stirring under the grass. The backbone of our approach is to try and restore some sort of sane balance to the predator / prey ratio in the garden and so keep on top of the problem without the use of pellets. Here are the key points in the plan:

– No more pellets unless the crop is covered and it is strictly necessary

– Morning and evening rounds collecting all slugs from in, on and around the veg patch. These fellows are then placed in a covered bucket of water to meet their grisly end. The photo is of ONE morning’s worth of collecting, which gives you an idea of what we’re up against – this is a glamorous life…

– The water from the above is used on the veg patch itself. The high level of parasitic nematodes in the water will add some protection to the soil.

– Comfrey is heaped in small piles near the most sensitive crops. These act as ‘traps’ for the slugs who love to feed on it and hide under it, so can be collected easily.

– Some old copper tube is laid around a few small areas. Slugs are not supposed to like climbing over it. We’ll see!

– Grass edges are kept short and potential hiding and laying spots are kept to a minimum (this included firming down loose ground on the edges of the patch

– In the not too distant future we’re going to dig a duck pond in one corner of the patch. We’re hoping for some khaki campbells, or similar, that make very good slug eaters. These guys can then be let out into the garden to forage as suitable.

– And finally, be prepared to take some collateral damage. We have to be realistic and realise that we’re going to have some significant losses to the slugs and, eventually, they’re going to win the war.

We’ll keep you posted on how it goes – I’m sure you’re desperate to know!