Slugs – We all got em! Now what do we do with them.
Slugs are sort of amazing really, most feed on leaf litter or rotting material and work to keep an ecosystem tidy and free of too much bacteria that might build up in decomposing matter. Unfortunately in our urban gardens there are very few natural predators to keep slug populations in check and the leaves they prefer are our tender young plants. While a few slugs will do a bit of damage too many slugs can devastate our veggie gardens and perennials.
If slugs are becoming a problem in your garden here are a few tips to keep them under control.
Hand pick them – I once told this to a man seeking advise and he looked at me like I was insane “with your hands?” he said turning green with disgust. But Northwest gardeners are a hardy bunch and if that is what it takes to protect your lettuce you can find the courage to do it. My grandmother Lucille gives this advise – “Slugs love to hide under the rain downspouts, under rocks, between bricks or even the underside of large leaves” She also looks for them “near their favorite foods like hostas or salomons seal”. Slugs are nocturnal so the best time to find them is in the evening. Slugs prefer moist areas which is another reason to water the garden in the morning instead of the evening. Evening watering creates the perfect environment for them to come out and feed.
Dispose of the them – you can put them in a jar and release them far from your garden if you are feeling generous but most people just plop them in saltwater or squish them. Some people feed them to their chickens as a treat while others think it gives their eggs an “off” taste.
Bait them – If you are having a hard time finding them in the first place you can lure them into a trap by placing something enticing out for them to find and then collecting them up. Try a half citrus peel in the garden and the next morning they will be lurking underneath so you can collect them. They are also drawn to food scraps.
Trap them – You can also use traps filled with beer or cornmeal. You can purchase little traps or cut a hole in a used yogurt container. Leave enough room at the bottom to fill with the bait and cover the top with the lid to keep rain from diluting, plus with a lid you don’t need to see the resulting slug slurry. Dispose in the compost.
Natural predators – Nematodes can be purchased in little packets and watered into the surface of the soil. These parasites attack the slugs and can be effective but keep in mind that slugs are a part of the garden system. I have hear stories of people wiping out slug populations only to find them rebound with destructive force the following season.
Poison – This is a last resort please use caution as some poisons will linger in the slug and can harm birds that feed on them. Pet safe sluggo is the best option but read the labels carefully and use caution where wild animals or pets are present.
Preventative action – look for slug eggs and dispose of them. Slug eggs are a gooey little cluster of round white balls, they can be found just under the surface of the soil or stuck under leaf litter or protected under rocks, bricks or decks.
One last tip – vinegar will to help remove the impossible slime from your hands and tools.