|Posted on 18 March, 2016 at 16:15|
We have a lot of slugs here at Mill Pond Flower Farm, lift any stone or move a piece of wood and there are slugs. Do a bit of digging and slug eggs will be uncovered, cream coloured and shiny, waiting for the right conditions to start to develop. They're everywhere, in nooks and crannies and sometimes just sat there on the grass.
And yet, we have very little slug damage with hosta leaves pristine, delphiniums shooting forth unbothered. When we have gardening visitors one of the most predictable questions is about slug problems, particularly as we mostly have heavy clay soil. So it's really made me think about slugs and whether they're really as bad as they're made out to be.
A bit of light research uncovered a whole load of information about slugs. There are 30 different slug varieties in the gardens of the UK but the good news is that only 4 of those varieties are likely to damage garden plants. The bad news is that those 4 varieties are the most prolific! To identify which sort of slugs you have, see the handy identification page at http://www.slugoff.co.uk/slug-facts/bad-slugs
There are many more fascinating slug facts:
Slug blood is green
In favourable conditions a slug can live for up to 6 years
A slug smells with its body
Slugs routinely lose and regrow their teeth
For those who can't get enough of slug facts go to http://www.slugoff.co.uk/slug-facts/facts
Knowing a bit more about slugs has made me approach them in a different way, I'm more willing to live alongside them and have developed a few strategies to reduce the negative impacts:
- Leave plenty of rotting vegetation around the place. Although this is the opposite to the generally given advice, many of the slugs will only attack heathy plant material when there is less of their preferred rotten diet available. So I strip the leaves from the lower stems of flowers when cutting them and leave them where they lie. Not that tidy, but it does save work in collecting them together and composting and also gives the slugs a delicious meal.
- Watch out for any even slight damage to seedlings and young plants. They are thoroughly cleaned before use, and then I do regular checks of seed trays and remove any slugs immediately. They don't have to be big to decimate a tray of seedlings.
- Plant out a few test seedlings to check the slug load of the ground. If they're immediatley nibbled a beer trap can often reduce the number of slugs until the plants are big enough to get going. Beer traps do attract slugs who throw themselves in and drown though the resultant brew is pretty disgusting.
- Do a slug patrol in the early evening. Slugs tend to climb up the plastic of the polytunnel as it cools and can be easily picked off and ,moved away.
- Maintain a balanced environment. We garden organically, have an extremely large pond with hundreds of frogs and toads, plus birds of many varieties. They MUST eat millions of slugs every year.