Slog it to the slug

Our top organic tips on getting rid of those pesky, slimy garden pests.

by Helen Starr-Keddle, Harvest Development Officer 

If there is one thing all gardeners can agree on, it's the tyranny of slugs.  Slimy, oozy, sneaky creatures they can destroy a bed of seedlings in a night or take out your prize broccoli over a weekend. This year in particular if you have an allotment or garden they seem to have taken over and tiny plants are struggling to survive in the ground.

If you are not a fan of pesticide it can be a complicated procedure to get rid of them. We’ve been asking our community gardening friends to suggest their top organic slug and snail defence systems (not in any particular order)

1.       Do you prefer a snip or a stamp?  We are divided over here between the use of scissors or a boot heel.  Search out the dark/damp hiding places, they particularly like hiding out under weed suppressant fabric and rotting wood.

2.       Throwing them onto someone else’s plot, garden over the fence etc.  This is only effective if you can get them at least 20 metres away.  Perhaps it is time to get some Olympic shotput practice?  Perhaps not the most neighbourly activity – especially on an allotment.

3.       Beer-traps can be effective but to my mind a shocking waste of tasty beer.  You sink a small Tupperware half-full of beer around your favourite plants.  This needs emptying and disposing of regularly.

4.       Save your large plastic bottles and cut them in half with a sharp knife to make tubes.   You can make mini-cloches or plant small seedlings into them so they have bit more of a chance before they get larger.

5.       If you have small patio pots you could try putting a salt barrier around them.  This only really works with small areas as you risk raising the salinity of the soil if you sprinkle it around everywhere.

6.       Our friends at Hanover Veg have had some success making Saponaria (Soapwort) tea.  You soak the Saponaria leaves in water for a week or so and then pour it over the beds (apparently add a touch of garlic for an even better effect)

7.       Try using nematodes, they are tiny parasites you can add to the soil that feed on slugs and snails.

8.       You can sprinkle coffee grounds around your beds. This is a great way of recycling used coffee grounds and can help to improve the soil.  However you could potentially be increasing the acidity of the soil (probably not a bad thing in Brighton).  Apparently washed used coffee grounds have a neutral PH so if you don’t want to raise the PH just give your coffee a rinse.

9.       Slugs don’t like copper so you could try putting copper round raised beds although this could get fairly expensive.

10.   Pay small children to collect slugs and snails (this works with caterpillars as well).  I think I got about 2p a slug as a child and it turned into quite a lucrative business.

11.   Constant vigilance is probably your most effective solution.  Go out in the garden just after it rains and/or when it is dark to find them and check out regular hiding holes.  Slugs and snails thrive in lots of vegetation so keep your beds and surrounding areas as weed free as possible.

12.   Keep your garden wildlife friendly by introducing wildlife friendly plants and habitats.  Encourage birds, beetles and hedgehogs.  I’ve heard some chickens like snails and slugs but I’m not sure this is true of all chickens, some of them can be quite snobby about their food.

Please let us know if you have any other super slug slogging ideas.