Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The slugs are coming!

 The battle-lines have been drawn. I hadn't realized that, being my first plot, I would be making plans for an invasion.  Speaking again with veteran plot holders, last year was very bad for slugs in the UK and I had better make some sort of defense. So deciding on my options I thought I'd better do some digging (every pun intended).
  Wishing to stay organic, my first option isn't really an option.  Those little blue pellets that are available absolutely everywhere on further inspection seem to do more harm than good.  Whilst they maybe very good at killing slugs their effect on wildlife that feeds on slugs and who should be friends of the gardener  is devastating. I cant find any direct evidence confirming this but when I read  'That recent studies have already shown that over the past ten years there have been dramatic falls in toad, frog, hedgehog and thrush populations all whom feed on slugs and snails, I think the evidence is there.  Of course not all slug treatments contain the toxic chemical 'metaldehyde' that is responsible for this devastation.  There are others for sale, some of which even claim to be organic.  I have even found one that advertises as 'not harmful to other animals only kills slugs and snails', only to read the back of the bottle that clearly says 'may harm other animals'.  It is only my opinion but I think ill stay away from any chemical treatments concluding that in the long term killing of the slugs natural predators only leads to more slugs leading to more chemicals and so on.
  Option two is what I would call the ground war.  Taking the fight to them.  This it seems is consisted of four things.

  • Hand picking.
  • Baits
  • Traps
  • Barriers
Hand picking speaks for itself and as for the other three there are so many products available that it goes to show what big business gardening has become.  I cant help love the ideas and history behind them though.  From human hair and egg shell barriers to beer baited traps, for decades the gardener has been fighting this fight.  Tried and tested methods passed down through generations since anyone had a small holding.  Yet  still there are slugs, there will always be slugs and while I love the idea of these time consuming efforts no one has handed down to me some sure fire winner and in the knowledge I would also drink the beer before giving it to any slug, I've already chosen option three.
  Option three excites me. Being somewhat of  a sci fi geek and imagining a little war underneath the soil I am choosing Nematodes.  Now while this seems to be a little pricey as a prevention and your not going to find it in any 'everything a pound' store, it ticks all the boxes for me. Nematodes are a microscopic species that kill slugs and can already be found in soil, just not in enough numbers.  You buy them contained in a piece of clay then when watered down is applied by watering can.  Nematodes are most effective in a new garden or on a allotment plot, of which mine is and in spring before planting out of which it is.  With over 95% of slugs in a garden or on a plot underground eating seedlings, laying eggs and feeding on roots Nematodes are the ground troops for me.
  That being said while the Nematodes are doing the work underground some hand picking is going to be inevitable and I am prepared for that just as much as I am turning soil.  Although if I could find a way of building a hedgehog army and train them to act out commands, all the better.