February 22, 2023

Reducing slugs and snails naturally

It is so disheartening when you have grown your crops from seed, lovingly nurtured them, and then a great big slug or snail devours them over night.   Slug pellets are available, and not as bad as they used to be, but I would still rather deal with slugs and snail naturally as, although I loathe them, I know that they are important to our eco system and environment, and are an important source of food for the birds.  Slug pellets are also harmful to other species.  If you have followed me for long, you will also know that I prefer to avoid shops and use the resources that I have around me and so try to be frugal by avoiding buying much.

I grow a lot in containers and have many bushes and so my garden has lots of places for them to hide.  I have found that by staying on top of them and keeping their numbers down that I am still able to grow lots of healthy crops.  It is mainly the young plants that they like and so soon when I start to put crops outside, I will have to put into action the things that I do to keep my crops safe. Before I put any young seedlings into the green house, I always give it a good sweep out and check it out for any hiding snails in plant pots etc (actually Mr S does as I am scared of spiders!).  Here are some of the other ways that I keep our crops safe without resorting to slug pellets.  They all work with varying degrees of success, and so I tend to use a combination of techniques.  I don’t think anything will kill all the slugs and snails in my garden, and I wouldn’t want to, I just want them to leave the majority of the food for me. Did you know that slugs produce about 500 eggs a year which is why I think it is important to keep on top of them?  Some of these ways kill slugs and snails which some people may be opposed to, but many of them are ways to stop them devouring all of my plants.

PICKING THEM OFF AND DISPOSING OF THEM. I find this the best way to reduce them with out harming them. I don’t pick them up with my hands but have a scoop and so tongs. Early in the morning, late at night with a torch, or when it has been raining, I will go out and check my crops and collect any slugs or snails in a container. I know it sounds silly, but I put a lid on the container and walk to the moor or some common land to release them away from my house as I have heard that they have a homing system.  Sometimes when I find an odd snail in the day time I will release it in the middle of my open area of crazy paving at the front of the garden and let it run for it before the birds see it. That feels more fair

COPPER BANDS AND TAPE.  I have never actually used this method myself as the tape is quite expensive, but I have seen friends that wrap it round their plant pots.  The copper causes an electric shock when the slime on the slug or snail reacts when it slides over it.  If you had more than a few pots this would be an expensive way to protect your plants.

PLANTING IN RAISED BEDS OR CONTAINERS. I grow 85% of my crops in containers.  My lettuce and rocket I grow in catering mushroom containers on a table to keep the slugs and snails off and I don’t think they have ever got in them.  The slugs do still get into the lower containers sometimes but it makes it harder for them, and I regularly check under the lips of the large plant pots as snails tend to hide there.

GRAVEL I use this as a mulch in some of my containers and I have noticed that it also helps keep slugs and snails away as it is not comfortable for them to slide over as it has sharp edges.  I sometimes scatter it around the bottom of pots as well.  It does not work as well when it is wet, though.  Pine needles act in the same way but I am careful with use as they can change the PH of the soil.  I also scatter shredded bark around the bottom of my flowering bushes to keep the slug population down for the same reason.

EGG SHELLS These are sharp and act in the same way as the gravel.  I crush them up and sprinkle them around the young plants and sometimes mix them with rosemary and put in the bottom of the recycled trays I stand my seedlings in the greenhouse.  I put crushed egg shells into my compost when planting tomatoes too as it adds calcium to the soil.  Some people also swear by coffee grounds but I have never used them.  Nut shells are another good sharp waste product that you can use instead.

SAWDUST  Slugs and snails only seem to slide over these when they are desperate and so they are another good deterrent to use around the edges of your raised bed or the base of your plants.

VASELINE  I put this on my pots sometimes and used to put it on the wood around my raised beds when I had an allotment.  You only need one application a year and it really does help keep them at bay.

SACRIFICIAL CROP I have an area at the back of my garden where I grow a few crops that I let the slugs eat them as this keeps them happy and away from my other crops in a different place in my garden. I plant things that they really like and that helps me collect them more quickly to dispose of them out of the garden.

BEER TRAPS. I have used this with old bottles of beer that have gone out of date.  It does kill the slugs as it drowns them.  I have semi buried containers like margarine tubs in the soil and half filled them with beer.  The slugs are then attracted to the smell and fall into the tubs.  I don’t like dumping them out but did use it when I was over run with slugs when I first started growing on my allotment.  It worked well.  They do need to be emptied regularly or else they will smell and it is important to keep remembering to fill the carton up.  When it rains it does not work well as the beer is diluted.

SOAPY WATER.  This is another method of drowning the slugs and snails but I have found that it does not work as well as beer.  Some people use salty water too.

USING BREWERS YEAST  A cheaper way of attracting the slugs rather than having to buy beer is to mix some brewers yeast in some warm water as this has the same impact, but it does separate over time.

INVITE NATURAL PREDITORS INTO YOUR GARDEN.  Things like birds, hedgehogs, and frogs (and snakes) naturally eat slugs (and snails for birds) and so having a pond or a bird feeder will attract them to eat them.

SALT Some people pour salt on slugs to kill them but I couldn’t do that myself, and salt is not good for garden soil.  It is a cheap way to get rid of a few slugs, though.

GROW SLUG RESISTANT PLANTS.  There are some plants that slugs do not particularly like and so you could grow these amongst your crops as they do not like the smell or taste of them.  This includes a lot of herbs like sage and rosemary, lavender and fennel.  Anything with prickly stems or furry leaves is also difficult for them, or any plants with thick, waxy leaves.  I have fox gloves in my front garden and noticed that the slug population reduced and apparently this is because they contain a nerve toxin and so slugs avoid them.

USING DECOY CROPS Some people plant the favourite plants of slugs next to their crops to distract them.  I don’t tend to this as I am trying to keep slugs out of the main part of my garden.

KEEP YOUR GARDEN TIDY.  The more things that you have laying around in your garden where slugs and snails can hide the bigger the problem that you will have. I move my pots around a lot to catch the sun and to look for snails and slugs and I don’t keep piles of leaves or wood hanging around near my crops.  My compost bin is well away from crops too as that is a magnet for slugs.

ORANGE AND LEMON SKINS.  These attract the slugs and snails.  I leave used fruit halves turned upside down and when I go out early in the morning I will often find a few slugs crawling on or under them and so I can then remove and release them somewhere else.

I hope that these ideas help you in the war against the slugs and snails in your garden this year.  Do you have any different ways that you deter the slugs and snails in your garden?  Happy growing x

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