How to get rid of slugs

blackbirdA good gardener I once knew (lets just call him 'Dad') used to refer to slugs as birdfood. He had absolutely no problems with slugs in his garden as they were a good inticement to get the birds he loved so much to come and sing while he worked.

Yet the strange thing is, his garden was always full of big healthy crops with no slug damage.

The really odd thing was that he was an organic gardener (back in the days when organic gardening was considered very left-field) so he wasn't using the usual list of poisons to keep slugs at bay.

In fact, his secret of success was very simple. With just four rules he was able to keep a great garden and not destroy wildlife.

  1. Encourage birds - bird food that attracts blackbirds and starlings is particularly good.
  2. Protect small plants - using the "Mr Brown's Slug Excluder" (see below)
  3. Practice Companion Planting.
  4. Big slugs go on the bird table. - Ah the circle of life. The blackbirds knew this rule and would hang around waiting for him to bring them another juicy snack.

In 2007 the Royal Horticultural Society (UK) asked the gardeners of Britain which was their most hated garden pest. Slugs actually dropped from the top spot after having been the gardeners' public enemy number for as long as anyone could remember. So, does this mean we are starting to love slugs?

Well no, not exactly. However, the problem of slugs should be put into perspective. They are a native spieces and have reached a natural balance in the ecosystem (if only the same thing could be said about ourselves). Yes, slugs do seem to like the new shoots and tender leaves of our most beautiful garden plants, but the do not eat our prize garden specimens out of spite. The little fellers are just looking for a spot of lunch. If it so happens that we place a juict, tempting new hosta in their favourite picnic spot, then who can blame them for tucking in?

Without slugs, the blackbirds would go hungry, the leaf mould would never disappear and little boys would never learn the simple joy and sense of wicked fun that can be had in placing a live slug on their big sister's jumper. So all in all, lets not get too worried about them. Slugs are never going to make a great pet or anything, but perhaps we should learn to see a little good in everything.

Of, course if that little plea has fallen on deaf ears, then please use environmentally friendly forms of slug control.

"Mr Brown's Mk1 Slug Excluder"

A bit of handicraft was another hobby for our Mr Brown, who would cut a glass milkbottle top and bottom to make a class tube of about 5 inches high. He would drill a hole near one end and thread a loop of wire, for easy handling later. The rest of the milk bottle was crushed to fine (but sharp) grains. He then spread waterproof glue in a wide band around the outside of the glass tube and rolled it in the crushed glass. When dry, the excluder could be placed over little plants outside to keep slugs off.

The MK 2 slug excluder included a band of copper below the broken glass which was said to give the slugs a nasy electic shock type sensation that they really don't like.

 

This barrier stopped slugs and snails in their tracks and also provided a little extra insulation from the wind for tender seedlings, making Mr Brown's Slug Excluders perfect for a happy organic garden.

Nematodes

In recent years a new product has entered the market. The biological control of slugs and snails using nematodes is effective and safe. By introducing nematode worms to the soil you can dramatically reduce slug numbers. Brand names such as Nemaslug work at temperatures between 5°C and 40°C and continue to be effective for about a month.