Frogs and slugs

by Adam Pasco

A plea rings out from gardeners across the country every year for a reliable control for slugs - something that will put an end to their slimy antics.

FrogA plea rings out from gardeners across the country every year for a reliable control for slugs - something that will put an end to their slimy antics. Perhaps I'm in a lucky minority, but despite not having a pond my garden is hopping with frogs and toads. And what's on the menu for these visiting friends? Slugs!

It's been a month of drizzly weather (a typical British summer, but that's another story), and just perfect for salads. The one saving grace is that I haven't needed to find another 30-minutes a day to water a scorched plot, and then made to feel guilty for doing so by the water companies and national press! Warm, wet weather brings salad crops on a treat, but slugs love it, too. Damp weather is perfect for them, and they've been on a feeding frenzy day and night, unhindered by daytime sunshine, if you can remember what that looks like.

But help is at hand. When I pop out to pick my salads each evening I usually disturb a frog or two among the leaves, finding their supper just as I'm choosing mine. Of course, I'm keen to make them welcome, and a dense bed of mixed salad leaves provides the perfect summer residence.

I know the word 'organic' is batted around a lot nowadays, but possibly not always fully understood. Organic gardening isn't just about not spraying with pesticides and making compost. Being organic is also about creating viable and balanced habitats in which you can grow the plants you want with the help of wildlife (I think I'll come back to this topic in a future blog). For now, the important thing to remember is that frogs, toads, hedgehogs and birds can all help the gardener in the battle against slugs and snails, but if you don't have pests to feed these welcome predators they're not going to take up residence. And if you do have the pests then you must put up with some pest damage.

The utopia we aim for isn't so much a garden devoid of pests but one where a balance is achieved. I want to enjoy my frogs and have nesting birds, but they're not going to be around if I resort to chemical sprays to kill off every pest in sight. Yes, I'll find a few nibbled salad leaves, but I'm delighted to be sharing my salad plot with frogs and other wildlife that bring me so much pleasure.

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Gardeners' World Web User 25/08/2008 at 12:12

its a great way to keep down the pests having frogs, hedgehogs and birds in the garden - but what tips do you have for encouraging them into the garden in the first place??

Gardeners' World Web User 27/08/2008 at 08:31

What we really need is a good recipe for slugs!!! Any suggestions, Jamie Oliver?

Gardeners' World Web User 28/08/2008 at 21:03

I've just tried, in the last couple of weeks, Nemaslug, a totally organic solution to getting rid of slugs, on a patch of just planted young perennials and a brand newly created glade of shade-loving plants. As the organisms eat hatched slugs underground there is no 'evidence' of success apart from no slugs above ground and no destroyed leaves. I bought the 6 week treatment online from Unwins and so far it seems very successful.

Gardeners' World Web User 29/08/2008 at 16:54

My marrows and courgettes have not come to anything, the flowers fell off the leaves got covered in white mould and it even spread to my grapevine in the greenhouse, this is the first time it has happened, can you tell me why. Do I need to spray my greenhouse and what precaution can I take not to have this happen next year, it even got to the ones outside.

Gardeners' World Web User 30/08/2008 at 20:46

I have a very small pond in my garden and every spring frogs and toads come to spawn. I even rescued a frog doing a very good 'ice age' impression this spring, frozen into the ice after a hard frost. They certainly do keep the slugs at bay. I also try to grow plants that slugs and snail don't like, lavender, lambs ears, astilbe, ferns etc. I have tried to encourage as much wildlife as possible into my garden and have lots of bird feeders, sun flowers, poached egg plants, buddlia bushes etc, and although some things do look a bit 'mauled' I feel happy to let nature take care of the garden without the use of chemicals.

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