It’s been a little while since my last green gardening tip but I thought I’d follow that post up with a topic close to my heart – natural slug control. I’m not a fan of slug pellets. Not only do they kill slugs but their predators too, and pets as well. And as I’ve got a little person that likes to play in the garden and dig around in the soil I’d really rather avoid chemicals.
In our four and a bit years of living in our first house with a garden, we’ve tried all sorts of natural slug control methods. Here’s a round-up of the ones we’ve tried. As you can see it’s been a really long running battle:
- Some people swear by copper piping and copper rings as a means of natural slug control. When we had an old gas fire removed a few years ago we reused the copper piping and put it round our vegetable seedlings, much like a fortress. This was completely ineffective. Copper rings that go round the base of your plant may be better but I was so disheartened by the abject failure of our copper fortress that I didn’t want to spend money on them.
- Other people swear by placing smashed up eggshells around the base of your plant, as it acts as a deterrent as it’s so uncomfortable for the slugs to crawl over. I tried this repeatedly and still my plants got munched. The egg shells have to be clean and dry – so when you water your plants or it inevitably rains then your eggs annoyingly no longer act as a deterrent.
- As a variation on this, some people suggest placing gravel around your plants. I didn’t try this as the eggshell method failed so spectacularly – I’d imagine the gravel would also have to be bone dry to be effective.
- Another top natural slug control tip I heard of was to place coffee grounds around the base of your plant. One year I saved all the coffee grounds from work (my workmates drank a lot of coffee!), carried them all home on the bus, spread them around my plants, and still my plants got munched. Again, when they get wet the coffee grounds get washed away, so you’re going to need an awful lot of coffee grounds for this to stand a chance of working – try getting on good terms with your local coffee shop! Also, invest in a sturdy container – my partner witnessed a lady get on his bus with bags and bags of coffee grounds (presumably saved from a coffee shop) – the plastic bags burst on the bus and there were coffee grounds everywhere!
- Another method I tried was placing hay around my plants. I found this actually made our slug problem worse – the slugs seemed to be sheltering in the hay rather than repelling them, and were also possibly laying their eggs in there.
- Another natural slug control method we tried was as natural as it gets – encouraging frogs and toads in to our garden. We built a little pond that was frog and toad friendly yet we’ve never seen one frog or toad in it. One of our neighbours found a frog in her pondless garden (typical!), so she put it in our pond apparently- we didn’t see it, and still the slug population remained as high and aggressive as ever.
Plants pre slugageddon.
As you can see it’s been a litany of bad luck, with the score being a very miserable Slugs 5 – Wendy 0.
There are a couple of methods we haven’t tried and one we’re trying this year. Here are the two we haven’t tried:
- The classic natural slug control method is salt, but I have to say I’m reluctant to try this. The salt will probably get washed away when it rains or your water your plants, and it might increase the salinity of your soil, which isn’t too great for plants. I think it would be ok sprinkled around pots though, if you’re container gardening on slabs. Our garden isn’t slabbed so this isn’t a route for us.
- For the committed, going out at night and picking off the slugs (and snails) is a good time to catch them in the act. Slugs mostly feed at night to keep their moisture levels up and avoid predators, such as birds and frogs. Just pick them off, put them in a bucket and take them fairly far from your prize vegetables. I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to slugs (some bad experiences involving bare feet – I’ll leave it at that!) so I haven’t done this, but it’s probably an effective natural method of dealing with slugs that doesn’t kill them.
This year we decided to take quite a firm stance and have upped our natural slug control game. We started growing our plants indoors in the hope that they would be large enough to withstand a slug attack. Or so we thought. Less than one week in the garden and one pea plant has been completely and utterly decimated by slugs, and one squash plant is very nearly a goner.
We have now turned to beer traps. Apparently the sweet beer smell is irresistible to the slugs and they climb in, drink the beer and forget to climb out again. Which is a pleasant way of saying they drown.
I have cut some plastic bottles in half, filled them with half beer (a cheap 65p can of 2.5% lager from the Co-Op) and half water and dug them into the ground, near my prize vegetables, with a lip of about 3cm sticking out of the soil so beetles and other creatures don’t accidentally fall in. In case they do I’ve popped a stick in so they can climb out:
The trap in situ – can you see the plant the slugs completely destroyed?! There’s nothing more than a green stalk, where once verdant leaves were!
So far we’ve caught a few slugs, and I really have high hopes that we can get through the season without losing too much to slugs. We’ve had a fair bit of heavy rain, so I really need to go and buy more cheap beer to top the the traps up.
What natural slug control tips do you swear by? Have I missed anything that we should be trying? And what ones did you find really didn’t work? I really have my fingers crossed on the beer trap method!
Main image: Donvikro, all others my own.