Q: What can I do about slugs and snails?
That slug chewing at the tip of your iceberg is only, well, the tip of the iceberg. A staggering 95% of slugs never show their muscular bodies above the soil and, if you took the time to count them, chances are your garden will be supporting around 20,000 slugs. And each has the equivalent of 27,000 teeth. You do the maths! Plus, given the mild winter, breeding conditions have been good, so the numbers aren't going to recede. Snails are the same. There’s plenty about. So, if your plants are being damaged then you’ve got to do something or face a wasteland of destruction.
Some slugs and snails just mooch about, minding their own business, nibbling on decaying vegetation and don’t bother your plants at all. All, however, are part of a food chain and a delicious meal for many garden birds. Think carefully about how you want to reduce their numbers (you’ll never get rid of them all - nor should you want to).
- Use a Copper Slug Tape designed to keep your hostas and other plants safe and sound in pots and containers.
- Ecofective Slug defence: surround slug vulnerable plants with this granular, physical barrier to keep everything safe from munching slugs.
- Coffee grounds – used ones, of course! You can pick these up from large chains of coffee shops - just ask if you can’t see them near the till. It’s another scratchy surface but also acidic. Best to scatter around susceptible plants.
- Bayer Garden Slug Killer: based on ferric phosphate so good for use all around the garden.
- Beer traps: make your own (old beer in any plastic container, or buy a Gardener’s Mate twin pack of Slug & Snail Traps
- Encourage birds and frogs into your garden by creating a pond. Wildlife visit the pond and will soon start tucking into their favourite amuse-bouches.
- There’s always the midnight headtorch and bucket of salty water method of removal. Perhaps the most gruesome but potentially the most satisfying way of removing and counting how many slugs and snails are attacking your plants.
If you are over-run (or over-slimed) with slugs and snails, you may want to resort to chemical treatments. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the pack. Never, for example, ‘add a few more for good luck’. Bayer Ultimate Slug & Snail Killer will sort out lots of slugs and snails quickly and effectively. To help wildlife and to get the best from this product always follow the manufacturer's instructions (we can't emphasise this enough).
Perhaps every gardener should learn to live with a background amount of damage from slugs and snails. They are, after all, part of the total ecology of the garden and should be tolerated. But not on my lettuce.