Garden Slugs And Snails
I don't know of any gardener that does not have a problem with garden slugs or snails in their garden. Do you?
I think as gardeners we also have to live with the fact that we can't eliminate them. We will never be able to get rid of slugs altogether. Even if we cover our gardens with poisonous slug bait we couldn't! They would just walk in again from the neighbor. We have to live with them, find ways to control their numbers without poisoning the rest of the world and protect our susceptible plants and vegetable gardens.
Photo courtesy of algo
There are many different types of slugs and snails. A lot of them are harmless to our garden plants because these types of slugs live of dead plant material, algae and fungus. Some slugs even eat other slugs or earthworms. Only a few species cause slug damage to our plants. These of course love our tender lettuces, marigolds or hostas!
Garden slugs and snails have soft, slimy bodies that are able to stretch or contract significantly. That makes it easier for them to squeeze themselves into crevices and small hiding places. The snail slime protects them from drying out and also makes them unpleasant for predators. They also ride on a slime trail that enables them to go up vertical and even upside down without falling down. Garden snails and slugs move by contracting their undersides in rhythmic waves.
Slugs and snails play a big role in the food chain. They are food for a lot of predators, our helpers in the battle against those slimy creatures. These predators are for example frogs, toads, birds, hedgehogs, ducks or ground beetles. Attracting those helpers to your garden is the best natural slug control!
Photo courtesy of ecstaticist
Slugs and snails have male and female reproductive organs. After mating they lay about 30-100 snail eggs into a little hole in the ground. These slug eggs look like small opaque pearls. The small slugs hatch after about 4 weeks. Most of them won't make it to the adult stage because they will be eaten by predators before that.
You can of course use chemical slug bait or slug pellets. Look at the ingredient list of the product. Metaldehyde slug pellets are poisonous to other creatures as well and should be used sparingly. They can also kill birds, hedgehogs and pets. Make sure that you use a slug bait that contains an animal repellant like Bitrex. This will make them so bitter that other animals will spit them out.
New organic slug pellets contain iron phosphate as active ingredient. These won't harm other animal and break down to plant nutrients. They are very effective in protecting newly set plants. As with all slug pellets you have to use them more frequently in wet weather.
For more organic slug control methods have a look here.
As you have probably noticed some plants are more slug resistant than others. They just love marigolds, hostas, soft lettuces and tender seedlings. In a garden that is infested with slugs and snails it really pays off to find those slug resistant plants. Also in moist climates or long wet weather periods you just won't win the battle against slugs.
Garden slugs and snails avoid plants that are bitter, hairy or though. Aromatic plants with strong scents like lavenders, rosemary or sage are not on their favorite food list either.
The following plants do very well in my slug-infested garden:
Fuchsia, Lavender, Grasses, Roses, Phormiums, Hebe, Escallonia, Anthemis, Hydrangea, Crocosmia, Artichoke, Rudbeckia, Helenium, Dianthus, Viola, Hellebores, Agapanthus, Dierama, Osteospermum, Erigeron, Helenium, Hardy Geraniums, Olearia, Lithodora, Tamarix, Hypericum, Yucca, Iris, Ribes, Heuchera,...This list is by no means complete!