Three weeks ago, we had a lovely crop of Chinese cabbages and pak choi coming up (which you can get from the plant guys outside Tip-Top Butchery). Just when the weather started to turn and everything started flowering, the slugs attacked. First they came for the soft veggies, then they came for the spinach before they turned their merciless attention to the cabbages.
It was a disaster. We put down some slug pellets, but that was only a temporary fix. A week later, the slugs came back. The pellets wear off pretty quickly, and introduce poison to your garden, which can get to your family or pets.
As it happens, we’ve now got a new dog, which means we can’t put down anything that he might eat from the beds, so pellets are out of the question. Even if you all stay safe, slug pellets will harm a lot of the tiny creatures that you need to keep your beds healthy. So how can you get rid of slugs in your garden?
The most common and well-known solution is beer traps. Slugs love beer, and so will find their way to a dish of beer and drown in it. They come for the yeast, so a stout will work best, but even non-alcoholic malt drinks can work. You’ll have to empty the traps, which is pretty unpleasant, but you should catch most of your garden’s slugs and snails in a week or two with a few traps in your garden corners.
Another option is to sprinkle some diatomic earth on your soil. DE is made up of tiny crushed creatures, and will hugely benefit your plants. It’ll kill all of the pests on the ground, since it’s a powder made up of microscopic razors. DE only gets washed away very slowly, so you can use it to create a barrier around your beds. However, it only works when it’s dry, and it will kill a lot of other small beasts in your garden. It’s not as bad as poison, but still not ideal.
On the topic of barriers, something that definitely won’t work is eggshell. If you do want to create a barrier they can’t slime across, then you need to use either DE or copper (which gives them a tiny shock). Tiny bits of gunk on your eggshells will actually attract slugs and snails, and they’re not sharp or small enough to cause trouble for the pests.
There are better, less lethal options. Using DE or of poison will hurt your ecosystem by killing small creatures. Those creatures, like earthworms and slugs, digest a lot of clumps in the earth, and make it easier for your plants to get the nutrients they need. A natural way of keeping down slugs is to encourage other wildlife in your garden.
Being very squishy, slimy creatures make an excellent snack for birds, frogs, beetles, and even for predatory snails. Having more local wildlife will control a lot of pests. There’s even a big fish farm in Spain called Veta la Palma that measures its ecosystem health by the numbers of predators they have, and they’ve created a profitable and flourishing system.
You can get more beasts do this by planting indigenous flowers and succulents, along with a more varied mix of fruits, veggies, herbs, and other plants. You should also keep the grass and other vegetation near your beds trimmed down, without bricks, old containers, or other places slugs like to live in.
Of course, there are other things you could do with your snails. A Greek doctor two thousand years ago prescribed crushed snails for inflammation, and it seems to work for warts. There are even snail slime beauty products that promise to stop you ageing. If you catch the slugs and get them to roam your body, you can give yourself a free luxury spa treatment and get that snail-faced freshness.
Do you have a project you’d like to see featured in Gardening in G’Town, or a gardening question? If so, please get in touch. Feeding The Self is a cross-NGO project focused around building gardens and using them for teaching and community building. You can find out more about us from our website, and if you’d like to get involved please email me at email@example.com or send a message to me on 0735 578 909.