I promised to keep this blog real by including some not-so-glorious garden pictures, those that convey some hard truths about gardening. I’ve written about losses, planting mistakes, and challenges. Today I am going to write, yet again, about overcoming the challenge of slugs for the chemically-averse, lazy gardener.
While bemoaning the loss of young edibles like lettuce and even Swiss chard, and many seedlings, I have received lots of suggestions on how to eliminate slugs. Most I knew about. Placing beer-filled cups around the garden sounds great. After all, I don’t mind sharing. Diatomaceous earth sprinkled in a ring around the vegetable garden is another good idea – in principle. And then there are copper barriers, egg shells, Sluggo, ducks, hand picking, decollate snails, and on and on (see UC Pest Notes for more information).
Well I have tried some of these. The problem with diatomaceous earth and other scratchy powders is that they wash away when it rains. Beer tastes good but is not very effective, according to UC Pest Notes:
However, these traps aren’t very effective for the labor involved. Beer traps attract slugs and snails within an area of only a few feet, and you must replenish the bait every few days to keep the level deep enough to drown the mollusks.
I have enjoyed gaining practice using chopsticks to pick and murder slugs, but it clearly goes counter to my lazy gardening philosophy. You really must keep at it; in the long run, it is probably a losing proposition.
Though it would be a whole lot of work to really eliminate – or even seriously reduce – the slug population with a set of chopsticks, I keep them handy because it is kind of fun. I know that this is not a very kind thing to do – for the slugs that is – but it is necessary, or at least that is how I assuage my murderous conscience.
Decollate snails sound ideal (check out this picture): Long term control by introducing a new non-native organism to eat an pre-existing and pestiferous non-native one. Biological control has been used with success for quite some time. The part that gives me pause is that they also eat other native mollusks that may be endangered. In all likelihood I don’t have any of these native critters but it worries me. I’m holding out, though this may be the solution.
Of course changing garden conditions would help. I could remove organic matter like logs and mulch but then where would I put my garden leftovers (you know, green waste)? I don’t water a lot but seedlings and vegetables need water, and it has been raining a lot.
So what’s left? How about covering the seedlings and young succulent plants until they toughen up? The snails and slugs have not been much of a problem for my mature plants, it is only the tender, juicy young’uns that suffer.
Now my neighbors can see me bending down, often at night when the critters are active, with chopsticks in hand – one can only wonder what they think. If that doesn’t convince them of my strangeness, then the cups, water bottles and yogurt containers that ornament my garden certainly will. Do you think my little sign helps explain?