The weather this week has been wet to say the least, and while I am sat inside with the heating on, I have no doubt that in the garden the slugs and snails are filling their slimy little faces.
Slugs may be the bane of gardeners, but they are also an important food source to other animals - remove the slugs and what will the frogs, hedgehogs and starlings eat? Slugs also play an important role in the decomposition of old foliage and animal dung and it's only a small number of slug species which cause problems to our plants.
Slug pellets are easy to reach for but they pose an “unacceptable risk to birds and mammals” as recently stated by DEFRA. Under the jurisdiction of Rt Hon. Michael Gove, legislation has been passed to ban the sale of slug pellets containing metaldehyde in the next six months. This ban is not before time. Beer traps are also often cited as a great way to kill slugs, but a bowl full of dead slugs is even more off-putting than an image of Michael Gove slithering through the corridors of Westminster, plus it's a total waste of beer.
5 top tips for protecting your plants from slugs that don't involve chemicals or waste beer
Be strategic. You don't need to protect every plant in your garden. Protect vulnerable plants such as hostas, dahlias, lupins and delphiniums, or important areas such as vegetable beds, coldframes and greenhouses.
- Slugs really don’t like to crawl over ash, so make ash rings around your plants with the remains of your barbeque or bonfire.
- Slugs hate copper, in fact slugs hate crawling over any metal surface. Adhesive copper tape can be purchased and attached to your pots, which should deter all but the most determined slug.
- Bark mulches are pretty effective at keeping slugs at bay. They really detest crawling over large areas of rough texture. Try mulching underneath your ornamental plants with a bit of bark chip - it will also help retain moisture over the dry months.
- Slugs and snails hate garlic. Garlic sprays are now commercially available, or you could be a be a total eco-warier and make your own.
- For large areas, such as a vegetable patch, it is a good idea to use a biological control such as Nemaslug This is a type of parasite that you water into the soil. The parasite is specific to slugs so not harmful to other creatures. It does not affect snails as these live above the soil, and requires a bit time to become effective, so is best used in conjunction with other methods.