Getting the better of slugs and snails

Posted: Tuesday 17 September 2013
by Pippa Greenwood

Now is the time of year when many molluscs produce eggs. And these will hatch into the next generation of veggie-munching, fury-inducing pests.

Picking up a snail

I happened upon another clutch of eggs at the weekend. Unfortunately, though, they were not produced by our hens, but by a bothersome slug or snail. It was a neat little mound of almost transparent spheres, each just over a millimetre in diameter. Great food for wild birds (or our lovely hens), but also a good reminder that now is the time of year when many molluscs are busy producing eggs. And these will hatch into the next generation of veggie-munching, ornamental-crunching, fury-inducing pests.

There were signs early in the year that slugs in particular were going to be rife, so I launched the ultimate multi-pronged attack on them. My weapons included mollusc-hunts, copper barriers and biological controls. And the results, although not 100 per cent perfect, have been brilliant and certainly well worth the effort.

I went snail-hunting at every possible moment. I put down copper-impregnated mats and fabric around vulnerable plants, and used copper tape around pot rims (which proved very effective). I also applied a biological control, in the form of nematodes that you add to your watering can and water onto the soil. The nematodes definitely made a massive difference – as proved by the quality of the potatoes lifted from my treated plot versus the hole-riddled tubers I harvested from my untreated plot.

Lastly, I even allowed some of my hens into the veg plot – but only on the fairly rare occasions when I thought they posed less of a threat to the veg than they did to the pests.

As I now remove the remains of my crops, I can lift the copper-impregnated matting and use it again next year, and I can leave the copper tape in place around my pot rims to protect the next residents. With autumn suddenly upon us, I’m debating whether to apply a final nematode treatment, as I have my overwintering brassicas and winter lettuces to think about.

So, all in all, I’ve had the most slug-damage-free year in a very long time, and am left with that rather nice feeling of having ‘won’ at last.

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