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Organic Slug Control Methods

Organic slug control simply means trying to get rid of slugs and snails without harming the environment by natural means, and while some methods might take a little forethought, other methods will instantaneously keep the slugs away from our crops. We win all round: we are happier, our children are happier, our plants are happier, and the environment is helped along the way. Only the slugs and snails might have a problem!

Creating barriers and slug barrier tape

One method of organic slug control is to create barriers around the vegetables or other plants needing to be protected by using materials which slugs don’t like to cross, either because they are too uncomfortable (eg broken eggshells) or too acidic (eg charcoal) – see Slug Control for some other materials said to help keep slugs at bay.

A very popular and effective way of keeping slugs away from plants is to use Slug Barrier Tape. The tape is made of copper, and the slugs do not like crossing copper – supposedly if they try to do so, they receive a small electric shock – and therefore placing rings of copper tape around a growing plant, eg a pumpkin, will keep the slugs away for long enough for the plant to grow adequately large and strong to withstand a slug attack. Slug barrier tape is also sold specifically to fit around the top of pots, which is particularly useful if you are trying to grow vegetables in containers or other places which may not be suitable for other types of organic slug control, such as barriers or companion plants..

Slugs traps

While you can buy slug traps from most garden centres or online gardening retailers, you can also make your own version at home and test your ingenuity, or simply place a saucer or bowl near the plants you want to protect. Whichever slug trap you go for, the principle is the same: the trap contains a wonderfully attractive liquid for slugs, they come along for a tasty drink, and promptly drown in the liquid. Needless to say, you have to ensure there is enough liquid for them to drown! Liquids used in slug traps include:

  • Beer – it does not need to be fresh or an expensive brand, slugs don’t seem to be too particular!
  • Cola – yes, this wonderful brown fizzy liquid which is excellent for cleaning toilets and old coins (and which for some reason all children seem to like too) is not too good for slugs ... they love it though, so feed it to the slugs and save your children’s teeth in the process!
  • Coffee – there does seem to be some indication that caffeine kills slugs, so donate your morning coffee to your veggie’s visitors!

There are a couple of cons to using slug traps:

  1. if it rains, the liquid is diluted and might not be so effective
  2. they have to be emptied on a regular basis, or a mound of slugs build up in the traps and the latecomers can survive by climbing on top of their late mates
  3. if you are just using a saucer or bowl near your plants, it is possible that other creatures (eg dogs or hedgehogs) might also have a taste, and if it is not good for slugs, it may not be too good for them either
  4. it has often seemed as though after installing a slug trap, the amount of slug activity in the area increased ... maybe more slugs are attracted to the area specifically because we are trying to lure them into a tasty but deadly trap?

Companion Planting

Companion planting is a hot topic in organic gardening, and so also in organic slug control! The theory is fairly simple – we either intersperse or surround the plants we want to keep safe from slugs with plants which slugs avoid, and these companion plants help to keep slugs and snails away. Plants which will help deter the little pests are mint, garlic and chives, geraniums, foxgloves and fennel.

Encouraging Natural Predators

Often organic slug control occurs naturally as part of a bid to create wildlife gardens, eg gardens which encourage local wildlife. Hedgehogs, toads and thrushes all like eating slugs (a very good reason not to use slug poison as it would simply mean poisoning their food chain), so encouraging these into our garden will help to naturally and organically control the slug population. A bird bath will help to encourage thrushes, a small pond or marshy area will encourage toads and hedgehogs will be enticed by leaving cat or dog food out overnight (local strays will be too though!) and ensuring there are some areas in the garden where they can sleep safely during the day.

Finally, if you have just arrived home on a rainy day to find hordes of wild slugs munching their way through your precious vegetables or prized flowers, go down your local fish and chip shop and borrow their salt and vinegar. Run back home and shake the salt on the slugs and spray others with vinegar for an instant feeling of revenge and the last of our organic slug control methods!

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