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Dealing with slugs and snails

Dealing with slugs and snails
How can you protect your plants from slug and snail damage organically?
Over the last few weeks working in our garden and tidying up plants at the nursery I have seen little sign so far of slug or snail damage.  Now that the weather has warmed up a little it will not take long for slugs and snails to emerge from their hiding places.  If you can be vigilant in these early days your garden will benefit later in the season.  Patrolling areas of your garden on damp evenings is a good time for collecting these pests so that they can then be destroyed or moved elsewhere.  

Plants are often damaged in their early stages of growth and if one can control slug and snail damage so that the plants can mature then the problem seems to disappear.  Delphiniums and Tricyrtis (Toad Lily) both suffer damage as new shoots emerge but seem less tempting once stems and leaves mature.  The flowers of Iris lazica (image left), one of our featured plants, also prove tempting in these early months but the profusion of flowers are so beautiful that it is worth a little effort. 

Try tempting the slugs and snails away with bran, a treat they love and they will gorge themselves to death.  Beer traps can be used, need checking regularly, but what a good excuse to open a bottle of beer!  Barriers around plants in pots or in the ground can also work well.  Sharp grit, seashells, eggshells, fresh coffee grounds (now offered free at some coffee shops) and pelleted sheeps' wool need to be applied in quite thick layers to be effective. Nematodes can be watered onto soil and will destroy slugs(they are a natural predator) but are not effective against snails.

Plants in pots can be treated with bands of copper tape or painted with copper paint.  Try spraying your pots with WD40. Pots can also be stood on grit, seashells etc.

Getting a balance in your garden is obviously the best remedy but this can take time to establish.  Even a small area of water can help producing newts and frogs to devour your slugs.  Planting varieties of plants to encourage more birds in your garden such as thrushes and blackbirds will be beneficial.

Using slug pellets selectively is also useful especially early in the season or around your plants that are especially targetted.  We have Organic Slug Pellets available at the nursery that are not harmful to birds, pets or other wildlife.

Walking around your garden on an evening after rain and collecting slugs and snails can also pay dividends long term.  If you can dispose of enough of them early in the year then there will be fewer around to breed and cause you even greater problems later.  Turn it into a relaxing experience after a stressful day at work and also enjoy seeing the small changes that occur almost daily in your garden in the spring even when on a quick glance it looks as though nothing is happening.  Happy hunting!     Cath