Types of Slug
1. Field Slug or Grey Field or Netted Slug (Deroceras reticulatum)
Up to 5cm, cream, light brown, or light to dark grey. Look inside lettuce leaves.
2. Budapest or Keeled Slug (Milax budapestensis)
Up to 6cm, greyish brown, dark grey to black with orange thin stripe down its back. Sole is a dirty yellow colour. Serious pest of root crops, lives in the soil.
3. Garden Slug (Arion hortensis)
Up to 4cm, shiny black, orange underbelly, tentacles reddish brown. 4. Large Black Slug (Arion ater)
Up to 20cm (send for help!), despite its name it comes in almost any colour but is most commonly brown on my allotment.
Although less of a problem because it prefers decaying vegetation the large one will eat your crops if that is the easiest source of food to hand. If you are the type who has to tidy everything up then you probably need to include them on your hit list, although most informed advice is to the contrary.
Bill Oddy says “If it’s black put it back”, which might more accurately be: “If they’re small kill them all”. However I prefer “Big or Small Kill them all”, but only where they present a problem.
Methods of Control
1. Slugfinder General
These are a real nuisance to all gardeners, but if you are not going to resort to noxious blue Metaldehyde slug pellets which will harm your friends which prey on the slugs, or nematodes which I am unwilling to pay for, then the main thing you can do is to pick them off. It does take time but you get used to spotting them and knowing where to look. Also you only need to be obsessive in places where attack is at its most destructive like strawberry,lettuce, french bean and brassica beds. In the strawberry beds, for example, all you need to do is to lift the straw which gets wet in rainy weather and the little darlings are hiding away underneath. When I clear a whole section of a walkway containing flowers they also get right under the bases of the plants. I work slowly along, laying the plants the opposite way than they have naturally fallen. Then the coup de grace, upon reaching the end of the walkway I turn and retrace my steps, picking up the tiny ones which have now revealed themselves as long thin crawlers the size of small worms, but with bobbing antennae. Gotcha!
Once the area is cleared it takes a bit of vigilance and commitment to maintain it. I only lost a few strawberries last year. Once the big cull had taken as soon as there was any sign of a naughty nibbler I found the little strawberry sucker and challenged it to a duel two seconds later in a boot to slug contest. One tip, if you decide on bricks at close quarters keep your face well out of the way, as the slimy green intestinal juices fly all over the place. I speak from bitter experience.
The best time to gather slugs is at night, and it is a bit inhibiting going on the allotment at night, even with a torch. This is especially so when some bright spark has just put up a scarecrow or thinks the birds are put off by some nerve jangling sound like plastic bottles tapping in the wind. Not recommended for those with a nervous disposition.
Slugs don’t like crossing all sorts of things, such as eggshells, lime, ashes, grit, water. Copper is said to give them a sensation like an electric shock, but how they found this out is anybody’s guess. The barrier method is far from perfect since it is difficult to maintain the fortification intact, some if not all are a bit impractical. Nevertheless it is worth doing if you are the optimistic type.
The most practical protective method I have found is the simple plastic bottle, although I did find a slug just about to enter the hole at the top, so it’s not foolproof. Establishing particularly tasty morsels in pots first also helps. Gastropods fix the whole ‘sole’ on the plant and suck it to death if it is too small. Whole rows disappear overnight.
8. Contract Killers
If you can afford their price there are people out there who, for a fat fee, will supply a host of cold blooded killers who will take out the slugs when they least expect it. Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita nematodes cleverly kill their prey from within. I am a little uncomfortable with this because it seems to be at odds with nature to introduce so many living things into a new environment, and I am trying against all the odds to cultivate plants as naturally as I can. So I haven’t tried it yet. However, if it was necessary for some reason, I suppose I would.
rocket bed is a lure, heh heh heh
Types of Snail
1. Garden Snail (Helix aspersa):
The standard snail we all know and have a crush on whenever we can.
2. White Lipped Banded Snail (Cepea hortensis):
looks like a humbug, but it’s not a sweetie so take it out with frenzied yell.
it makes a wonderful false moustache
2. Slug watch
I always watch out for signs of the usual suspects and kill on sight. When digging sometimes you come across pests such as cockchafer grubs and, an especial time for celebration, the keeled slug. Sometimes the little white eggs are exposed in clusters. Rejoice! leave them exposed & the birds will have a feast & maybe some insects too.
3. Home sweet home
I deliberately or without realizing create habitats which they revel in. As mentioned above, slugs like to lurk under the poached egg plants, and comfrey is particularly attractive to them, so if you have loads of it, try scattering a few leaves nearby. They are also attracted by old boards and skulk around with their offspring in the dark wet spaces underneath. Lift the board and watch carefully as they race (hah hah) for cover. If you’re into the highly dramatic approach You can pretend you’re the Sweeny and carry out a raid as the sun comes up, crashing through the board to enter. Me, I like to leave the board for a while, lull them into a sense of security and then sneak up when they least expect it. But each to his or her own. Incidentally it was years before I realized that Dawn Raids wasn’t a W.P.C. in the Flying Squad.
I encourage predators in general by making the plot chemical free and alive with flowers so it becomes far from a sterile environment and encourages birds, which eat slugs and snails, frogs and toads and beetles. Make sure you leave centipedes alone because they are carnivores which dine on the smaller slugs.
but I collected about a dozen
I reckon it’s a waste of beer to try to trap them, but it does work, they are even attracted by the scent of old beer cans according to Louise Riotte in her excellent book on Companion Planting. Other methods which are recommended are to place halves of grapefruit or orange skins upside down and collect the slugs once they have assembled for a séance underneath it. It’s marvellous really because there they are trying to make spiritual contact with Great Uncle George McSlug from Inverness when in you come and give them immediate contact with the afterlife.
7. Kamikaze Krop
This is an ingenious idea which relies on the gastropods being able to discriminate between the crop you want to eat yourself and the crop you have planted for them. Putting up a notice won’t work because I tried “Sod off Slugs” and they either didn’t understand or took no notice. You could try hypnosis I suppose. I must admit I have only tried the Kamikaze Krop method inadvertently and it really works. The trouble was they attacked everything without prejudice.
It’s a never ending task trying to put in an egg shell barrier, beer traps and the like, and nematodes are too expensive for me, although ordinary toads are very welcome to come to dinner.
Boards laid in strategic positions help because they gather underneath & you can squash them. They tend to hide round the base of plants too, making finding them easy to find. Surely you can outwit a slug, come on!
Providing you don't clear every last trace of debris they happily gorge themselves on rotting vegetation, as well as lurking under such delights as poached egg plants.
Basically the plan is to live with most of them & outsmart the others, something I occasionally manage unless my brain's a bit sluggish.
Finally, I protect seedlings with plastic bottles & this seems to deter the little darlings.
Keep on their trail! Good hunting!