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Slug control – or The Battle to get rid of Slugs and Snails!

Slug control is one of the very first things that are likely to come to mind once you have started a veggie patch with your children. The good news is that it is possible to get rid of slugs and snails to an extent; the bad news is that it is only to an extent unless you want to poison the rest of the eco-system at the same time!

We have all been there. We have trundled out to the garden during early spring and decided on a corner for the vegetable patch, cleared it of weeds and grass and labouriously dug it over, raked it, fertilised it, hoed neat little rows, made the vegetable markers, tied the bind at both ends and carefully and lovingly planted the little lettuce and radish seeds along the line, covered them over, watered them and then visited the patch every day to check on their progress. We have watched the earth for any sign of the seeds sprouting, been delighted at the first hint of green, wondered whether we were getting excited about a weed, then seen the fresh yummy green of the lettuce. Then it rains. The next morning, when we visit the patch, in place of a neat little row of lettuces and radishes, we find nothing bar the occasional stump and the sinister slimy trail left by slugs and snails. War has to be declared on these nasty little thieves!

War, in this case, means getting rid of the slugs and snails which are plaguing us. The easy option is to simply use lots and lots of slug pellets around the growing plants – or even before they pop their heads through the earth. But slug pellets are basically poison, and while they do kill off slugs and snails, some of them can be poisonous to wildlife ... and I always wonder how a product which warns is poisonous to cats, dogs and other life forms, can possibly not leave traces of poison in the ground and therefore in the food which we are hoping to reap?

There are however, more organic and – if one can use the word for slugs – more humane ways of deterring these blighters from eating the our precious crops.

The simplest form of slug control is simply to find and remove the slugs and snails. This means going on a “Slug Hunt” – wellies on, gloves too (if you don’t like having slimy hands!) and eyes open. Little children especially warm to this form of slug control game. Try looking for them either while it is raining or just as it stops raining, as slugs love damp moist conditions and will all come out as soon as the sun goes in. Get rid of slugs and snails by collecting them in a bucket and taking them to a “new home” ... preferably a bit of woodland a couple of miles from your vegetable patch! If you are familiar with the book “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”, it is very easy to change the lines and turn the whole experience into an exciting adventure!

Defend the Fort – Using Slug Control Barriers

There are other ways of discouraging slugs, which include surrounding the vegetables with various textures which the slugs and snails don’t like to cross. Examples of materials used as slug control barriers include:

  • Egg shells – crunched up and strewn around the plants, supposedly the slugs don’t like creeping over the jagged edges
  • Cut hair – after a haircut, collect all the clippings in a bag and create a hairy barrier between the young vegetables and the slugs
  • Sawdust – theoretically the slugs don’t like crossing wood chavings either, but in our experience, as soon as these shavings get wet, the slugs don’t mind!
  • Charcoal – supposedly the slugs and snails don’t like the acidity and therefore avoid it, however, adding to much might not suit your plants either.
  • Coffee granules – if you have made a pot of coffee to keep you awake after yet another sleepless night, try giving the granules to your slug friends to keep them up all night too!

Why not try various different slug control barriers and see which is the best material for defending your vegetable bed?

If, after meticulously going out on dark wet nights and gathering hordes of attacking slugs and snails, and building huge barrier walls of cut hair mixed with charcoal, sawdust and eggshells, your poor young lettuce leaves are still being attacked by slugs, there are still other forms of slug control you can try to get rid of slugs and snails. Try using organic slug control methods, such as using slug traps, using slug barrier tape, or encouraging hedgehogs and slug eating birds into your garden, use organic slug pellets if necessary and, if all else fails, try growing your vegetables inside!

Recommended Reading

50 Ways to Kill a Slug (Gardening) by Sarah Ford.

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