Slugs and Snails

One of the most notorious problems in any veg garden is the humble slug or snail. Slugs and snails are an important part of an ecosystem: they clear up what is dead and decaying, returning it to the earth. But sometimes they rush too fast to clear up a slightly-stressed seedling, or take a fancy to some other juicy titbit we’d rather they didn’t, and as a veg-grower it’s best to be on your guard, especially during the springtime when they're most active…

- Keep seedlings out of harm’s way – Raise seed trays up on tables, benches or greenhouse shelves if possible. 

- Watch out – If possible, keep an eye out for the presence of any slugs or snails so that you can take action right away. Check for leaf damage or slime trails, and check nice cool hiding places nearby, such as under pots and rocks, and under the rims of containers.

- Raise healthy seedlings and plant them out only when ready – Harsh weather, dry soil and other factors stress plants, and slugs and snails can tell when they are becoming weak or sickly…

- Encourage a wide diversity of life in your garden – Frogs, newts, hedgehogs and even some beetles eat slugs and snails or their eggs! To encourage a diverse ecosystem, keep a variety of flowering plants to attract lots of insects, add a small pond to your garden if possible, use no poisons, and let some parts of your garden remain undisturbed for wildlife to nest or hide.

- Barriers – Copper tape round pots is effective, though expensive. People also report various levels of success with wool pellets, scrunched up foil, crushed eggshells, grit, sawdust, sharp sand and other rough/dry/irritating materials placed around plants.

- Torchlight hunts – Go out there after dark with a torch and simply remove the culprits. You can reduce numbers dramatically this way, and quickly too. It is suggested that the most humane way to kill them is to chop their heads off with sharp scissors, but personally I don’t have the heart/stomach for that. If you prefer to release them, do so in a wild place ideally a few hundred metres from your plot – they can find their way back if you just chuck them down the garden! Or pop them in your council compost bin – or ‘slug heaven’ as I like to call it…

- Beer traps – Put cheap beer in bowls near where slugs/snails are active, and they’ll be attracted and drown in it. Be sure to refresh traps regularly as the smell gets very bad!

- Biological control – Nematodes (microscopic soil-dwelling worms) which prey on slugs and snails are available to buy and add to your garden. Search ‘Nemasys’ or ‘Nemaslug’.

- Slug pellets – The toxic metaldehyde pellets are thankfully now banned but the organic ferric phosphate ones are just as good. They should still be used sparingly however.

Slugs and snails are a fact of nature, and it’s never possible to prevent every bit of damage, but combining a few of these methods will help your veg garden prevail!

Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay