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Growing Guide

Protect Your Veggies and Seedlings from Ravenous Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails can be a great enemy to gardeners. Check out our tips to combat these pests!

Protect Your Veggies and Seedlings from Ravenous Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails can be a great enemy to gardeners. It is very disheartening to plant out seedlings one day and next day to find that the molluscs have eaten them all.

The soft, slimy bodies of slugs and snails can move over surfaces by waves of movement in their body. Slugs and snails are active at night and in warm weather. During the day they hide in dark damp places under plants or in leaf litter.

Prevention is better than cure, so consider changing the conditions so that they are not suitable for slugs or snails and use repellents. Slugs and snails prefer damp conditions in and amongst leaf litter or dense vegetation so rake out leaf litter and keep clear open areas around susceptible plants.

Baits are a self-perpetuating control method; once you've started it is hard to stop. This is because slugs and snails control their own population. They lay enormous quantities of eggs, when hatched, most slugs and snails remain as relatively harmless juveniles. As slugs and snails move about, they leave behind trails of slime. Only when the density of slime trails falls will more juvenile slugs and snails develop to adults - which is exactly what happens as soon as a significant number of the creatures have been killed with bait. So the numbers of large damaging gastropods are replenished rapidly. And during this rapid growth and development the juveniles will cause more plant damage as they eat for growth.

There are several natural methods of deterring these molluscs from your vegetable patch and other places they do harm

Traps can be useful ways to control slugs and snails.

  • Place upturned pots or pieces of board in the affected areas leaving enough space below for the slugs and snails to get underneath. Then regularly check for hiding molluscs and remove them.
  • Dig a hole for a jam jar and set it so that the lip of the jar is at soil surface level. Add a little beer to the jam jar. It will soon fill with slugs and snails which can be removed.

Egg shells
Slugs and snails prefer not to move over sharp materials. A band of broken egg shells (or seashells) around a plant or a vegetable patch can deter the molluscs. Note, there cannot be any breaks in the band and it should be at least 5 cm wide.

Copper tape
Copper bands can be fitted around raised beds and pots to keep slugs and snails away.

Wool waste is a by-product of the wool manufacturing process. This is turned into pellets that you spread around the plants as a barrier. Again, this barrier has to be unbroken and a minimum of 5 cm wide to be effective. It also needs to be replenished regularly as it breaks down.

Some gardeners believe garlic is useful as a natural pest control, acting as a deterrent to slugs, snails and other pests. Some say chives are effective if the leaves are tied around vulnerable plants.

Baits which use iron phosphate as the toxin are safer and more natural than other baits.

As with most pest control, a combination of these approaches will be most effective at protecting your seedlings and plants from the ravenous molluscs.

12 July 2020