Slugging it out: When the going gets tough…

snailNewly planted vegetable beds must seem like heaven to a marauding mollusc…. For months it’s an empty desert of same-old-same-old compost, then one night it has been transformed into a steamy Swedish X-rated smorgasbord of succulent seedling peas, lettuces and baby cabbages. Who can blame them for gorging themselves?

When asked ‘what do you use to get rid of slugs and snails?’ My first response is, ‘you will NEVER get rid of them’. The best you can do is try to control their numbers with a take-no-prisoners multi-pronged onslaught, especially when it’s warm and wet. Try a combination, or preferably ALL, of these methods at the same time:

  • Raid the defenses budget and fund an unnaturally large crack SAS team… ie: send in the The Nematodes. I’ve mentioned these before… You will need a second mortgage to do what they recommend, and apply it every 6 weeks from March to November. I can only afford 2 applications in spring and then hope that’s put a dent in the prow of the ship. Once unleashed into the night, you never see them again. You never know how many reach their target, go AWOL or indeed even end up sleeping with the enemy, settling down, and become slug slaves.
  • Make the terrain less attractive to navigate across… Raised beds surrounded by gravel (works really well for me), low hanging fruit raised by straw (a bit hit and miss, that one, to be honest)… I use Strulch everywhere, primarily for soil protection/improvement, weed suppressing and moisture retention. According to the blurb, this is mulch also has, allegedly, some slug repellency. It’s not cheap, so you will have to cross the Chanel no5 off your shopping list. Again.


  • Add physical barriers to the plants themselves. I use copper SlugRings (which I rate highly) and cut up plastic bottles and toothpaste tubes as psychological barriers (for the slugs? Or me?) when I’ve run out of the copper ones.
  • Distract them to eat or drink something else… hopefully something that might kill them, but preferably something that won’t kill anything else… Drowning in beer traps, self-detonating piles of bran, and, a last resort for me, the ‘certified organic’ Blue Pellets. (Just the colour worries me. Toxic. Which they are, of course. You wouldn’t want a child to mistake them for Sprinkles, however ‘harmless to wildlife’ they profess to be. Do I want the same scattered among my edibles? Not really. But when all else fails, I have been known…)
  • And, finally, placate your inner-Lara Croft/Action Man with a spot of pre-slumber face-to-face combat on a regular basis. Armed with torch, night-vision glasses (optional), kitchen scissors, machete, Dr Martens… show no mercy. Practising your cricket run-and-bowl moves may seem the pacifist’s option but if you could hear what they scream as they sail over the hedge… Well, let’s just say it would be unprintable. The essence of the clean translation would be “I’LL BE BACK!”

And they will. This Test Series goes on, and on, and on. We can never ultimately win, and sometimes just growing enough of something is all we can do to get a smidgeon in return.

Just remember, if it’s any consolation, that single, pristine leaf does taste all the better for it.


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