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Allotment Gardening
Grow all you can eat on your own allotment.
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20:32, 10th May 2014

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Fighting Slugs

Find out how to protect your crops from slugs

Fighting Slugs

vegetables | grow your own

Slugs eating through salad leaves

Slugs will make short work of young seedlings, vegetables, and salad crops merrily munching their way through your garden or allotment. With each individual slug capable of producing 40,000 offspring this is one pest you want to keep away from your crops.

Slug Traps

Ideally slugs should be kept well away from your crops, so you should do everything possible to make them unattractive to slugs. Slugs like dark damp areas so stones, logs, debris, and the compost heap should be moved away from your crops.

Upturned pots, wet sacking, and even empty grapefruit and melon skins are attractive to slugs, therefore, these can be placed near to the crops as slug traps. The slugs (and their eggs) and then be removed and destroyed every day, or turned over early in the morning (when the slugs are having a snooze) so that the birds will eat them). Similarly a few sacrificial lettuce plants can be grown beside vulnerable crops to attract slugs which can then be collected and destroyed.

Slug pub - commercial beer trap

Beer traps (such as the commercial version pictured above) have worked for many people. Simply bury an open container such as an old yoghurt pot or glass half filled with beer (stout works best) next to your crops. Slugs will be attracted by the smell of the beer, slide down the side of the container, and drown in the beer unable to extricate themselves. Make sure the rim of the container is above the level of the soil to ensure that friendly insects do not also suffer a beery death.

Attracting Natural Slug Predators

An alternative method of reducing a slug problem is to attract the natural predators of slugs to your garden. Hedgehogs love to eat slugs, and can be attracted with cat or dog food (not bread and milk!) and a dense hedge or bush. Just be careful not to attract rats at the same time.

Frog in a garden pond

Alternatively, a small wildlife pond is a welcome addition to any garden, and any frogs, toads, and newts will be very happy to eat their way through your slug infestation, as will any birds, chickens, and ducks you can attract.

Keeping Slugs Off Crops

With all the traps and natural predators in the world, some slugs will find a way to get to your crops. Therefore, barriers should be placed around the most vulnerable plants. Since slugs like to slime their way over smooth moist surfaces, placing a ring of sharp sand, spiky twigs, broken egg shells, gravel, ash, pine needles, dried brambles etc will deter all but the most determined slugs.

Repelling slugs with a copper band

A slightly more expensive method is to use a ring of copper strip around plants, which slugs will not cross. When the slug touches the copper (with its slimy body) a reaction occurs which causes a small electric current to flow similar to the unpleasant reaction of touching a filled tooth with a metal object. This electric shock is not strong enough to kill a slug, but it is sufficient to repel them.

Hanging Baskets

Fortunately slugs cannot fly. Therefore, anything grown in a hanging basket is safe from slug attack (see our article Grow Strawberries in Hanging Baskets). Vulnerable lettuce, other salad greens can be grown easily in hanging baskets, you just need to remember to water regularly as hanging baskets dry out quickly.

Salt and Slug Pellets

Slug Killer - Organic slug pellets

If salt is sprinkled on the soil it will kill slugs, but it is not good for the soil and for the crops grown in it. Similarly slug pellets will attract and poison slugs, but will also dissolve into the soil affecting other organisms and the edible crops grown. Some slug pellets have now been approved by organic growing organisations, so look out for those wherever possible.

Article Published: 10:20, 18th Jul 2008

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