Monday, 27 August 2012

Copper, hair and a torch...

You might wonder what copper, hair and a torch have in common. No, we’re not referring to the wonderful achievements of our ginger headed Olympian Greg Rutherford. They are actually some of the many weird & wonderful tips we have heard over the years to keep those dreaded pests, slugs and snails, at bay. This year, possibly more than any, we have heard countless tales of slug and snail invasions, driving gardeners crazy in pursuit of protecting their prized plants. So how can you help your hostas, protect your polygonatum and defend your delphiniums…
Greg Rutherford - definitely not a slug!
A life less comfortable
Slugs and snails hate to crawl over anything scratchy so putting a ring of something like crushed egg shells or grit around the plants they most like to eat helps deter them. You can buy proprietary products that do the same job too. Bear in mind some slugs are burrowers so can come up inside the ring, rendering it useless. Also, any foliage that falls into the ring can be used as a bridge by the canny creatures.
A snail on a prized hosta
High and dry
The little critters rely on being moist in order to move around and flourish. So by putting out items like wood-ash, the slugs and snails lose their moisture and dry up. Again, you can buy pellets that do similar or simply poison them. Rain will generally ruin this method though. Always remember when buying any anti slug products though that they may come into contact with other animals you don’t want to deter and don’t use if you have pets or children around. For us, organic measures are safer and better. 

Ring a ring of roses
If you have your prized plants in pots which the slugs are attacking, try putting a copper ring around the pot – the slugs won’t want to crawl over it and your plants stay safe. You can use hair on the ground to the same effect – get grooming those pooches!
Copper rings can protect pots from snails
Gardener turned huntsman
Swap your spade for a torch and get out at dusk and collect the pests yourselves. You will be amazed at how many of the wee beasties you will find. To make this method more effective, read up on which are good slugs and which are bad. The big black ones, despite how gruesome they make look, are actually our friends and can eat up to 20 bad slugs a day. The ones we don’t want are the small brown ones which you find on the underside of a leaves. Yuck! If you leave out the outer leaves of a lettuce these can attract slugs making it easier to collect them on our evening rounds.

Pull on the (fox)gloves
If you can bear to be parted from lovely lupins and darling dahlias, choose plants which slugs and snails wouldn’t have at their beastly banquet. Choose plants with scented leaves such as alliums, fennel and rosemary, plants with textured leaves such as lambs ears and lavender or plants such as ferns, foxgloves and camellias. All beautiful but relatively safe from unwanted intruders.

A method well known in the gardening world is setting beer traps for slugs and snails. If you can spare some of your well earned bottle at the end of a day’s hard graft in the garden, sink a rinsed out empty can with some beer in it, into the ground. Slugs and snails are attracted to the smell and fall in the can and can’t get back out making it easy for you to dispose of them. A last supper to beat all others! As well as beer some people use milk or you can buy products specifically for this purpose.
Some gardeners turn to a biological solution in the fight against slugs and snails. A naturally occurring nematode (a tiny worm) can be introduced into the gardener by adding it to a watering can. They contain bacteria which attacks and kills slugs. It lasts for about six weeks and doesn’t affect anything else in the garden.

For us the ideal way to tackle slugs and snails is to attract beneficial wildlife that feasts on our slimy enemies. If you have space for a wildlife pond you can attract frogs and toads which love a slug supper. Creating a log pile or leaving a corner of old leaves may mean a hedgehog sets up home in your garden and it will repay you by eating up these foe. Or make a bug hotel or encourage birds into the garden to help you in your efforts.
Yawn, I'm tired after that slug banquet!
Other simple measures such as weeding regularly so slugs & snails have less places to hide, digging over your borders to expose slugs and allow birds to eat them and lifting pots regularly to see what’s hiding below can all help. And are organic too!

A word of warning before you go though. Many gardeners swear by using coffee grounds as a deterrent to slugs and snails in the garden. However, EU officials have deemed it illegal so if you use this method there is a, albeit slim, chance you may receive a fine. Deterrents have to be tested before they can be used and as caffeine has not been tested in this manner, coffee should not be used as a deterrent. I’ll have a skinny slug to go please with a snail free syrup!

Hope this helps...

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