Slugs in Your Garden?
There may be a slimy little critter devouring garden plants during the night. According to Alabama Extension Regional Agent Lucy Edwards, slugs can quickly consume certain plants in gardens or window boxes. It can be frustrating to find an effective solution.
To find the best method for each garden and plant type, it is important to understand the slimy slugs.
Get to Know Your Slugs
Slugs feed on young seedlings and succulent plants. These may include young vegetable transplants, hosta and tender herbs.
Edwards said moist, humid environments are ideal for slug development. Slugs deposit their eggs in moist environments. Ideal locations include gardens, compost piles and landscape beds.
“Often we mulch around our plants to suppress weeds, increase moisture retention and add aesthetic value,” Edwards said. “However, mulch may increase the numbers of slugs that feed on young, succulent plants.”
Tips to Deter
Since slugs tend to come out at night, it can be difficult to find a solution. Edwards has a few methods to choose from to find the best one.
Cultivate. Edwards’ first tip to deter slugs is to lightly cultivate the garden area. Cultivation should take place prior to planting in the fall and late spring.
Hand Removal. This method may send a shiver up a few gardener’s spines. Late at night, around 10 p.m., grab a flashlight to locate the slugs. Simply pick the slugs off of the plants and place them in a container of salt. Edwards recommends repeating this process for three or four nights to greatly reduce damage.
Drink Up. For those of age, after an evening beer, share some with your slug friends.
“Stale beer in small cups or pans sunken in the soil will attract slugs,” Edwards said. “The slugs fall into the container and drown.”
They key is to set containers out early in the spring. Replace the stale beer every three days.
Create a Barrier. For a less interactive method, use diatomaceous earth, lime or sawdust to create a barrier. Use this around the most prized plants and garden beds.
Pesticide. The final option is a pesticide bait. Edwards said this is the least effective method.
“Look for baits containing iron phosphate,” Edwards said. “These will stop the feeding of slugs, are less harmful to pets and add nutrients back to the soil.”
For maximum effectiveness, apply late in the afternoon. In the fall, use baits just after a rain to target slugs prior to pesticide use. Always consult the pesticide label before use.