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Pest Watch

Slug & snail control

 

Slug. Image: iStockSlugs and snails are the number one garden plant pest problem. They attack a wide range of young and tender garden plants, especially annuals, perennials - particularly hostas - and vegetables. Gardeners with slug or snail problems should take steps to control them.

Slugs and snails eat irregularly shaped holes in leaves, stems, buds and flowers, as well as bulbs, corms and tubers. Some slugs, especially keel slugs, spend most or all their life underground and are a real problem on potatoes and other underground storage organs.

Most slugs feed at night, although not exclusively, and tell-tale slime trails are often present. Slug and snail damage is most severe during warm humid periods, especially in spring and autumn.

Slug & snail control

Some birds, frogs, toads, hedgehogs, slow-worms and ground beetles eat slugs and these should be encouraged into your garden.

Always remove debris and fallen leaves as these make excellent hiding places and breeding grounds for slugs and snails.

A biological control (Nemaslug) based on microscopic nematodes is available from a number of biological control suppliers. See suppliers list.

Numerous other non-chemical control methods are available, but I'm not totally convinced about their efficacy. Many barrier types, for example, won't stop those slugs that live in the soil! However, some people swear by them, so who am I to disagree.

Place traps, such as scooped-out half oranges, grapefruits or melons skins, laid cut side down, or jam jars part-filled with beer sunk into the soil near vulnerable plants. Check and empty regularly. Proprietary traps are available from numerous suppliers. I don't like beer traps (it's a waste of good beer!) as they also trap gardening friends, such as ground beetles

Place barriers around susceptible plants.

These include anything sharp and gritty including sharp sand, egg shells and cinders. Moisture-absorbent minerals are available to place around plants to create barriers, including Growing Success Slug Stop, Vitax Slug Off and Westland Earth Matters Slug Blocker Granules. Similarly, gel repellents are available - Doff Slug Defence Gel and Westland Earth Matters Slug Blocker Gel.

Around pots or raised beds you can use copper tape (Agralan Copper Slug Tape, Growing Success Slug Barrier Tape, Vitax Copper Slug Tape) or stand containers on copper-impregnated matting (Agralan Slug and Weed Mat, Slug and Snail Shocka). These create a mild electric shock for the slug!

There are numerous chemical controls.

In my garden, I use slug pellets.

Although slug pellets have a bad press and are assumed to kill all sorts of wildlife, when used correctly they pose little or no problem. I have lots of frogs, toads and newts, hedgehogs and thrushes in my garden - and no problems from slugs and snails!

Thinly scatter metaldehyde-based slug pellets (Bayer Bio Slug and Snail Killer Pellets, Doff Advanced Slug Killer, Doff Slug Killer Blue Mini-pellets, Scotts SlugClear Ultra, Westland Eraza Slug & Snail Killer Pellets) around vulnerable plants; don't pile them up under bricks or half grapefruit skins as this isn't how they should be used and can create problems.

A liquid formulation of metaldehyde (Scotts SlugClear) is available for watering on to the soil around ornamental plants and the soil.

If you're worried about using metaldehyde-based slug pellets, use a pelleted bait containing ferric phosphate (Bayer Organic Slug Bait, Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer, Vitax Slug Rid). This is approved for organic gardening.

Keep a close eye on plants once you notice slug or snail attacks and deal with any further outbreaks you see. Go out with a torch during the evening and pick them off by hand and place in a container. Kill them in hot water or a strong salt solution. Don't throw them over the fence; believe it or not, they have a strong homing instinct and will soon come back.

Use plant protection products safely. Always read the label and product information before use.

Suppliers

Buy a range of pest control products from my affiliate companies, Harrod Horticultural and Greenfingers.com

 

If you want to know more, or if you've got a gardening problem you need help with, then send an e-mail to: info@gardenforumhorticulture.co.uk

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