The following is a selection of non chemical slug control methods, or as some gardeners call it, organic mollusc management…
Slug Pellet Free
First, a few words about chemical slug pellets and why I choose not to use them in the garden. The majority of slug pellets will typically contain the chemical ingredients metaldehyde or methiocarb mixed into a cereal and yeast bate base.
Metaldehyde pellets work by causing the slug to produce huge amounts of excess mucus leading to dehydration and in turn lack of mobility. The slugs will normally die from a combination of poisoning and exposure to the elements.
Methiocarb pellets are far more poisonous and act as a stomach poison once ingested. The poison will cause the slug to fill with fluid, suffer loss of movement and eventually die.
One of the main concerns with the use of slug pellets is that they can also seriously harm the slug’s natural predators including beetles, hedgehogs and birds, upsetting the delicate garden wildlife balance. The chemicals in slug pellets can also cause harm to adults, pets and children. A bright blue slug pellet can be irresistible to a curious toddler in the garden! Also, it’s no coincidence that most pet poisonings seen by vets are as a result of slug pellet use in the garden.
Understandably, many gardeners feel the negatives associated with the use of chemical slug pellets far outweigh the somewhat limited benefits and will therefore adopt one or more of the following non chemical slug control methods mentioned below…
Slugs and salt simply do not mix. Any slug coming into contact with salt will rapidly dehydrate and soon die. Although highly effective against slugs, salt is not at all good for the soil and can easily kill your plants.
Many gardeners choose to deploy a physical barrier around individual plants to help deter surface dwelling slugs. Materials used as a barrier are varied but can include; copper rings, copper tape, crushed eggshells/nutshells, human hair, sharp sand, soot, ashes, diatomaceous earth, and pine needles. Do bear in mind that the effectiveness of some barriers will be decreased by the wind, rain and garden animals moving them so will need to be regularly monitored and replenished.
Find out more about Copper Snail & Slug Tape, Copper Slug Rings and Natural Slug & Snail Deterrent
Night Time Slug Hunt
One of the most effective and environmentally friendly slug (and snail) control methods is to get into the garden on a mild, damp evening with a torch and simply pick them off by hand. If you can’t stand the thought of touching a slug you can either wear rubber gloves or use tongs (or both!). Any slugs found can be dropped into a bucket of salty water, quickly killing them. How you then dispose of a bucket of slugs is your choice, however I’ve heard some gardeners flush them down the toilet!
Slug and Snail Traps
The good old slug pub! Plastic containers placed on or sunk into the soil containing every mollusc’s favourite tipple, beer. Slugs and snails are attracted to the yeast and barley in the beer, fall into the trap and drown. What a way to go! Gardeners must take extra care to leave the rim of the trap a couple of centimetres above the soil surface so as not to drown beetles and centipedes.
Find out more and buy my slug trap of choice – the Slug X here…
A slightly different approach to trapping adopted by some gardeners is to put down a piece of old carpet, a newspaper, wooden plank, bricks etc. The idea is to provide a daytime refuge for slugs and snails which can be checked and cleared out on a regular basis. These hiding places are also great for encouraging a natural predator of the slug, the ground beetle.
Tidy Flower Beds and Soil Cultivation
Removing weeds, logs and large stones from growing areas can greatly reduce the number of places a slug can hide during the day. Cultivating the area on a regular basis will expose slugs and their eggs to the elements and predators such as birds and hedgehogs. Some gardeners will also keep the use of mulch and organic compost around plants to a minimum as this can actually attract slugs.
Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita, to give them their full name, are microscopic worms that can be added to water and poured over the soil in slug infected areas. The naturally occurring slug parasite will happily enter the slug when below ground, infecting it with deadly bacteria that will then kill it.
Nematodes are harmless to children, pets and other garden wildlife and are completely safe to use around food crops, making them one of the gardener’s safest and most powerful allies in the war against slugs.
Find out more about nematodes and buy the amazingly effective Nemaslug Slug Killer here…