We never did get a winter, did we? Autumn went on forever, and now spring seems to be here. Mild, wet and windy weather has brought some beneficial effects for the gardener; however, it probably means that we will have a bumper crop of slugs.

Now, to my mind, slugs are attractive little creatures, with a rather interesting love life. (Though this is perhaps not the best place to explain the process of apophallation). Their diet is variable; some are carnivorous, others consume vast quantities of decaying vegetable matter.

  Others, I am afraid,  sit around waiting for us to plant out our tender young vegetables, and this can be rather a problem. There are various solutions, but none of them are perfect, so it is best to be patient and philosophical about the whole business, and accept a certain level of shrinkage.

There are, obviously, various poisons available. The commonest is metaldehyde, which is highly effective, but also toxic to pets, children, and wildlife. If you use this, scatter thinly to reduce the risk. Aluminium sulphate is supposed to be less toxic. Salt is highly effective, but it doesn’t do your soil much good.

There are also various kinds of barrier you can use, either dessicant, which uses up the mucus on which the poor mollusc travels, or prickly, which is uncomfortable to cross. Choose from eggshells, pine needles, coffee grounds, sharp sand, or a range of commercial products. Copper tape works well on plant pots, until it tarnishes, or a nodding grass stem provides alternative access. Certain plants have a deterrent effect, among them garlic, chard, and red cabbage.

If you want to make the natural world work for you, ducks, geese and toads all eat slugs. As do nematodes, which can be bought from the net, but they only work for six weeks or so. Perhaps they most humane method of control is the traditional beer trap (it is how I intend to go, myself) and the most final is that used by my grandfather, who favoured bisecting them with his penknife. We later noticed that he also used this for cutting slices of apple for us, but in the long run, this does not seem to have done us much harm.

Jon Gunson, TTL.


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