April 25, 2021

Garden Wars: Battle of the Slugs!

Last month, I showed you some of my early seedlings.

Jericho lettuce; does well in summer heat.

Well, they were planted and now they are almost all gone, along with a number of my broccoli and collards seedlings! Eaten by slugs! UGH!

I had slug problems last year in one bed, but it wasn't as bad as this year. What I learned then is that diatomaceous earth does NOT get rid of them. They definitely don't like getting sprinkled with it, but it neither kills nor deters them for long. This year, the problem has gotten out of hand. Time for a new tactic.

The best control is said to go out at night and hand pick slugs off of everything. Well, when I searched through the leaf mulch, I discovered dozens and dozens (and dozens) of quarter-inch baby slugs hidden in the leaves. Because of the numbers and size, I don't see hand picking as a realistic option. This year I decided to try beer and yeast traps. 

After 24 hours, there's some debris, but a few slugs too.

I guess they work. The yeast attracts slugs, that's for sure. Then they drown in the beer or yeast solution. Someone told me crushed eggs shells are a deterrent too. Also boards and inverted pots for hidey spots. In the morning, there seem to be quite a few to be eliminated. They apparently don't like copper, so ringing plants with copper is said to help. 

I've also noticed a slow-down in slug activity as the soil has dried out from windy days and two weeks of no rain. And, the other morning, I discovered one of the traps had been dug out of it's nest in the soil and all the drowned slugs were gone! I suspect one of our resident skunks found it and snacked on the slugs. But are skunks something anyone wants to add to their slug deterrent list???

My next concern is for my strawberries. 

Green strawberries, surviving lettuce, garlic, and olla

I know from experience that slugs like these too (as do birds. And skunks.) Fortunately, the strawberries are mulched with wood chips, which is probably why the lettuce has survived! But I'm thinking I may need to increase defenses if we want to eat strawberries this year!

So that's my first garden challenge of the year. What's yours?

29 comments:

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, I have had this problem with straw mulch as well. My wild theory is that it retains moisture too well and give easy places for slugs to hide.

I have had luck with beer traps. The "sharp objects on the ground" (eggshells, diatomaceous earth), makes sense to me, although I am not sure how well it actually works.

Can you attract toads? We have some resident ones that seem to help.

Susan said...

Slugs and voles here. I save up my egg shells to sprinkle around plants, but I'd say that it's only partially effective for me. I've heard that coffee grounds deter voles, so that is my next line of defense. It's a constant battle!

Leigh said...

TB, your theory sound about right to me. I'm guessing the wood chips aren't light and fluffy enough to crawl under.

Yes, we do have toads! Maybe I need to make some toad habitats in the garden. (thinking now!)

Susan, you are so right about it being a constant battle. Sometimes I wonder who I'm gardening for! :o I feel fortunate we don't have voles, although we do have shrews and moles. So far they haven't found their way into the garden.

daisy g said...

I've used the beer traps and copper wire with some success. I'll have to remember to put some boards out there, so that my chooks will have a nice snack each day!

Don't let 'em get to you. Garden on...

Mama Pea said...

My garden challenge? Just snow, heavy frost and freezing temps. ;o) But you know that and it's not really a challenge (yet) because it's way too early to have anything out there. I cringed when you said you'd lost almost all your beautifully started plants to those #%$^* slugs! All the work to get the sprouts to that point and then . . . ! :o( I haven't had a slug problem in many years (knock, knock) but have used the shallow pans of beer with success. I do think their proliferation is caused by mulch and too much moisture. Fight on, gardening friend.

Leigh said...

Daisy, I need to rustle up some copper! Too bad it's gotten so expensive. The advantage, it seems, is that it doesn't have to be refilled like the traps do.

Mama Pea, trying to avoid those straggling frosts and freezes is a challenge! Your comment gives me hope. If you're slugs are eliminated, maybe mine will be someday too. It seems all pesty-type critters have population fluctuations over the years. I'd like mine to fluctuate to zero. :)

Unknown said...

Try powdered milk

Leigh said...

Unknown, I'm willing to give almost anything a try!

SmartAlex said...

Baby slugs are a real challenge. I remember the first or second year with my raised beds I had trouble with them eating my cucumber seedlings. They were so tiny it took me awhile to identify them. You could have lined them up on a grain of rice. But even at that size they loved beer.
I also have had trouble with coons or skunks getting into the beer traps. One tip for battling slugs. They absolutely love marigolds. So I use those to round 'em up

Leigh said...

Alex, slugs like marigolds? That's good to know! At least that may help later in the season, after the marigolds are growing. Even so, I need all the help I can get!

Boud said...

For years I used to sprinkle wood ash from the fireplace around slug areas, and never got slugs. Then I wasn't using woid fires any more, too old to chuck wood, and slugs returned. So you might consider that, given that you probably have wood ash.

Most of my plants are in containers, abd the biggest pests are squirrels digging them out and demolishing the contents. I find that cotton swabs soaked in essential peppermint oil repel then pretty well. And they remember and stay away quite a while. Unlike mice with shorter memories and lifespans who need repelling more often.

Cockeyed Jo said...

Leigh in the battle of the slugs I use a combination of DE and copper pennies. We have a wooden border around the garden. We nailed pennies every inch around the garden on these boards. Every morning I sprinkle DE on the boards and no slugs enter the garden.

Barbara said...

I’ve had great success keeping them off my hostas with crushed oyster shell. More effective than DE and cheap.

wyomingheart said...

What a bunch of awesome ideas! We are doing pretty well here. We have noticed a lot of earth worms this year, so if the slugs become a trouble, I may opt for the copper wire. Guess we’ll see :) !

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Drunk skunks. My day is now made!

Kris said...

I've had excellent results from a product called SlugGo. Saved my hostas, lettuce and beans a few years ago. Funny story, left a 1# bad in the garage and one night something tore into the bag and ate half the contents. Would NOT liked to have been around when a slug that big oozed by!

anoldhippie said...

I buy slug pellets. I get the ones that are for slugs only. I started a Stout garden last year and that really lured them in. My Dad said where you see one there are 99 more underground. I have used beer. I have used salt. I have used plastic bottle traps. I have hand picked. The best and easiest remedy is slug pellets. There are also recipes that you can use to make your own pellets.

Leigh said...

Boud, wood ashes I've got! Squirrels too, although they don't seem to bother my garden much. They prefer pecans to everything else!

Jo, pennies are definitely a ready source of copper.. I'll have to do some experimenting.

Barbara, I read somewhere else about oyster shell. It's true, DE isn't cheap, and I didn't find it effective anyway.

Wyomingheart, I hope you don't have trouble with slugs! One or two are okay, but hundreds are not!

TB, it's true, the beer was gone too. ;)

Kris, I haven't heard of SlugGo. Must have something tasty in it if something ate half a bag one night!

Anoldhippie, I'm thinking you mean Ruth Stout? Yes, all that straw! Sounds like you've tried everything, so I'll take advantage of your experience and look into the pellets. Interesting they can be DIY'd. I like that.

Goatldi said...

One year we just sat out and poured cheap salt on each slug. The outcome wasn't pretty but it stopped the problem. I imagine this is all tied in with the weather pattern. It seems to be a domino effect.

I most likely shouldn't say this but I can't remember the last time I saw a slug. That is it I am doomed! Good luck.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, I concur about the weather. They definitely thrive in damp conditions! Salting each slug seems like a tremendous job! I can't imagine doing that with so many hundreds hidden in dead leaves. But it sounds like it did the trick! May you never have slugs again!

daisy g said...

I bought the copper scrubbies (for pots and pans). Very inexpensive.

Nina said...

Oh drat!! Another gardening woe to come? This is a problem I've never had. Oh, I'll see a slug every now and then but so far so good. I've been way too busy fighting a herd of deer. It never seems to end! Can't give up though - I love gardening and fresh veggies!!! Hang tough!

Ed said...

No slug problems here, only cold weather problems and now, lack of moisture problems.

Although this might not be practical for most, we found the best deterrent for almost all insect problems is to rotate your garden area so you don't plant in the same bed back to back years. We have two plots and let one go fallow every year. Before we did that, we would get infestations that seemed to only keep getting worse every year.

GiantsDanceFarm said...

?Nothing planted here in Northern Michigan yet. We had snow a few days ago, and it's still hanging around n some f the protected areas of the yard. Memorial Day is our last frost day typically.

When I've had slugs in the past the jar lids full of beer always worked. What DIDN'T work for me was the eggshells. They ATTRACTED a critter - not sure what but I suspect raccoons or squirrels - who tore my gardens to shreds. And these were baked eggshells, to any that had raw egg inside.

I love the idea of pennies around the wooden edge of a planter or raised bed. I'd check with the local metal recycling business. or maybe go to a "Restore" type store? I'm not sure how much copper is necessary, but if stripping off one side of an electrical wire - like a dead extension cord would be enough, I'd think that would be easy to pin down in the garden with those long staples. I'd do an "in search of" ad on my local gardening groups on line.

Goatldi said...

It is quite effective and it is quite gruesome to be honest because they kind of blow up and burst.

It was not long out of high school a group of us discovered this trick nobody was gardening then we were just looking for bizarre things to do I think you know that age LOL so somebody popped up oh I read someplace that you can do this with salt.

But you’re absolutely right if I had a slug problem I’d probably go with the beer to start with. I have enough to do with my time besides sit around and pour salt on slugs🤪

Leigh said...

Daisy, great idea!

Nina, oh dear, deer are worse than slugs! Because they're bigger and wipe out more! I'm with you on hanging in there!

Ed, I've heard rotating beds recommended, but rotating entire garden plots sounds like a more effective idea. I'm not sure I have the room, but I can see how the plan would help me too.

GiantsDanceFarm, interesting about the egg shells! I've got some egg shells ready to crush to give this a try. I hope they don't attract anything else!

About the copper, I read that it has to be wide (or thick) enough that the slug can't stretch and arch over it. Getting some good ideas for copper too.

Goatldi, lol. Especially when you have to find them first! ;)

Ed said...

Yes, entire plots was what I was trying to say and that is what we have done. But, we are blessed with plenty of land to do so.

Maggie said...

You could use a physical means of keeping your strawberries up and out of reach. These are way too expensive to contemplate but perhaps Dan could devise something from twigs? https://www.agriframes.co.uk/products/strawberry-grow-through

Leigh said...

Ed, I understand how that would work. Rotating beds in the same plot hasn't worked for me, at least. The problems seem to spread even with rotating what I'm growing. We may develop the front yard for more growing. That might help.

Maggie, that's a clever idea. Slugs climb, so I don't know how much it would help for them, but it's a great idea for keeping berries off the ground. Thanks!