The Slug – The Adversary

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The slug… your adversary

Slugs can be a very serious problem to you if you live in a moisture laden area of country. A single slug can successfully remove an entire row of seedlings from your garden in no time at all; can turn a perfect plant into swiss cheese over night and return to the safety of his hideaway, leaving you to wonder what happened… As slugs wander about, doing their evil little slug deeds, they leave behind them a trail of slime which amounts to nothing less than a road sign for themselves and every other slug to follow to the grand feast.

And wouldn’t you just know it, slugs are hermaphrodites, they all have male and female reproductive systems. They can mate with themselves, and in the privacy of their own abode, each slug will produce two to three dozen eggs several times a year.

The egg clusters look like little piles of whitish jelly BB sized balls. They will hatch in anywhere from 10 days to three weeks or longer, and these sluglings can mature to adulthood in as little as six weeks. Destroy the eggs… wherever you find them.

banana slug
banana slug, common in the pacific northwest can reach up to 9″ long!

Slugs may live for several years, getting larger with proportionately larger appetites each year. Now, do you really want to go out to your garden some morning and find an eighteen inch Banana Slug waiting for you?

The battles and the war

Although you may never win the war against snails and slugs entirely, you can fight them with every weapon at your disposal. You can control slug populations with several different methods. Each battle you win, prevents hundreds of new slugs from hatching.

The battlefield

As with any battle plan, it is to your advantage to be able to set the field. Set your field by cleaning your garden, and eliminating the places where the slugs hide, sleep, and reproduce.

  • Pulling the weeds from your garden is something you need to do anyway. As you pull each weed, you remove a potential slug outpost.
  • Keep an eye on matter decaying in your garden beds. While leaves make a good mulch, once they begin to
    compost they become food and shelter for slugs and snails.
  • Prune the branches of any shrubs which are laying on the ground. Keep the old leaves and such cleaned out. By doing this you will have destroyed yet another slug haven!
  • Cultivate your soil regularly to keep the dirt clods broken up, and unearth any slugs which may have burrowed under the surface.
  • The shaded areas beneath decks are slug hangouts: keep them weed and litter free.
  • Just about anything can become a slug home. Boards, rocks, pots and other trash should be kept out of the garden.
  • Keep the lawn edges trimmed. Slugs will congregate under an umbrella of unkept grass.

The weapons

For the sake of the environment, it is better to make an effort to control slugs and snails without using chemicals and poisons.

Hand to hand combat

  • Keep slug pokers stuck around the garden at random. Meet your enemy, one on one… Your weapon is at hand, impale them!
  • Fill a small bowl with stale beer. Put it in the areas where the slugs are active. Stale beer attracts the slugs and they drown. You may also use grape juice or a tea made from yeast, honey and water.
  • An early morning stroll around the garden, salt shaker in hand will often result in many slug casualties.
  • Destroy any and ALL slug eggs you find!
  • Bait and destroy tactics work. Set a pile of slightly dampened dry dog food in an area frequented by slugs. In the morning and evening visit the feeding station a few times… slug poker in hand!

Battle lines

  • Cedar bark or gravel chips spread around your plant will irritate and dehydrate slugs.
  • The sharp edges of crushed eggshells around the plants will cut and kill slugs. Crushed eggshells are a good
    soil amendment anyway!
  • Sprinkle a line of lime around your plants. (Obviously this won’t work around plants requiring a more acidic soil)
  • Certain herbs (Rosemary, lemon balm,wormwood, mints, tansy, oak leaves, needles from conifers and seaweed will repel slugs. However using a mulch of these plants will only turn the slugs away, in search of other food sources.
  • Oat bran will kill slugs when they eat it… sprinkle some around.
  • Enlist allies… snakes, ducks, geese, toads; a few Rhode Island Reds would enjoy helping you out as they dine on your slugs.
  • Make traps to collect slugs out of plastic pop bottles. Cut the bottle in half and then invert the top part of the bottle into the bottom part to create a no escape entryway. The slug bait can be placed inside the bottle and will draw the slugs in where they will die and await disposal.
  • Cut a one inch ‘V’ notch in the rim of a cool whip bowl. Invert the bowl in the garden over the slug bait, and place a rock on top of it to keep it secure.
  • Commercial, disposable slug traps may be purchased at many garden centers. Quite a bit more expensive, but they work!
  • At the very least, cover the bait with a weighted piece of wood or an old shingle to prevent access to the poison. The slugs will still find it, consume it, and die.

Surprise tactics

Try as you might, the war against slugs will go on as long as there are gardens, but you can keep them under control. Remember that for every slug you destroy, you prevent countless generations of offspring.

As you wage your war on slugs and snails, you are almost certain to be ‘slimed’ at least once. argh! Mix up a little warm water and vinegar, and use this formula to remove the slime from your hands like magic!

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