Defeating Slugs: garden pest control without chemicals
Any keen gardener with children or pets – or a dislike of artificial chemicals – will know how hard it can be to keep the slugs at bay without slug pellets. Fortunately, there are ways of going about pest control without such unpleasant poisons.
Slugs are the bane of the gardener, a bête noir that can destroy young plants overnight and ruin your hopes for the season’s veg. As planting time approaches with spring, so begins the yearly battle to prevent the slugs from eating your seedlings, so that one day you can enjoy their produce yourself. If you have children or pets then you might be wary of using slug pellets; effective though they are as pest control, they don’t discriminate with regards to who ingests them. There’s also the problem of chemicals leaching into the soil, which is best avoided.
Green pest control
With slugs, once you’ve given up the option of poison you’re pretty much left with creating physical barriers to keep them off your plants. The best form of pest control is to prevent the pest going near its target, rather than waiting until they get there and then killing them. The good news is that there are a number of ways to go about this, most of which exploit the vulnerabilities of the slug’s disgusting yet frail body. The bad news is that these rarely work as well as the little green pellets, so it’s best to combine a few for the best shot. Beyond that, you can raise your odds by bringing your seedlings on in a greenhouse before planting them out. The older they are, the less chance the slugs will have of killing them if they take a nibble. Courgettes and pumpkins are particularly prone to being wiped out by a judicious bite through their young stems.
Slug anatomy for beginners
A slug’s ‘foot’ – the underside of its body on which it travels – is its great weakness, partly because it is soft and partly because it is not suited to working on certain surfaces. They don’t like slithering on anything sharp and have trouble on anything powdery. So, sharp sand, crushed eggshells and the like can provide a good first line of defence – the problem being that you need a good volume of them to make a difference. Some people swear by old coffee grounds, either because slugs find it hard to gain traction on them or because they are toxic to slugs. Suffice to say that this probably has some basis in reality, but given that slugs are remorseless and resourceful eating machines, it generally takes a lot more that that to keep them away. Human hair is another possibility – it’s hard for them to crawl on it, though a barrier of fine gravel is less likely to be washed away by the rain. Just don’t underestimate the slug’s tenacity.
One of the best forms of pest control involves cutting the bottom off plastic bottles and placing them over your plants, thereby preventing the slugs from getting anywhere near them. You can cut the top off too, then turn it upside down and place it back on top to let the rain in. Obviously, your plants will outgrow this method, but hopefully by that stage they will be hardy enough to hold their own. If you’re only avoiding pellets to stop children or pets getting at them, placing a few inside the bottles is a good way of keeping them out of reach. Any slugs who do manage to breach the defences will find it wasn’t worth the trouble. Alternatively, sink one in the soil near your plants and leave some cheap beer in it. Slugs generally go for the beer before the plants, though it gets expensive in beer if you’ve got a big garden.
This article was supplied by London pest controllers, Bypest Environmental Services. Bypest offer a comprehensive service for all kinds of pest-control problems throughoutLondon and around the M25, serving both residential and commercial customers.