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13 Jul 2012

The Four Slugs of the Apocalypse

The other day my wife sent me a text while I was at work.  “Get some broccoli”.  During my lunch break, I duly headed out into Totnes in pursuit of the afore-mentioned brassica.  I started out by visiting all the places that might sell local, organic broccoli, but they were all out, one telling me “it’s like gold dust mate, you’d be lucky”.  I then tried the places that would stock non-organic, non-local broccoli, but they were out too.  All of a sudden it transpired that I lived in a broccoli desert.  Turns out it’s not just Totnes, the crappest summer the UK has ever faced has hit UK farming hard.  It has also led me, I must confess, for the first time, to abandon my garden to an unprecedentedly vast slug population.

I have grown vegetables every year for at least the last 14 years, apart from the odd interruption.  I have never known a year for slugs like 2012.  They have destroyed my garden in a way I have never previously witnessed.  It has felt like the gelatinous Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan have not just swept through my garden, levelling everything in their wake, but they have also set up camp there, declared an Independent Free State requiring me now to pass through check points on my way to the compost heap.  I went out to de-slug the night Spain won Euro 2012 and the slugs in my garden were strangely reminiscent of the scenes you see on TV where the fans of the winning team party in the streets, drive around beeping their horns with flags flying.

What remains of my cabbages…

My dwarf beans?  Reduced to sticks in days.  Lettuce?  Forget it.  Runner beans?  Came up strong and vigorous and within 2 days were reduced to stumps.  Cabbages and chard looked as though someone had run amok among them with a machine gun.  Peas?  Trashed.  As a gardener I am used to some level of damage to those crops, but potatoes?  My spuds have been reduced to sticks, all the leaves long gone.  Potato blight?  Ha! I’d be so lucky as to have any leaves for the blight to get stuck into.

One especially damp evening I passed them and was horror-struck to see what remained of my potato crop covered in slugs, inhabiting them like some kind of creepy tree-top village, or like the world’s worst Christmas tree, decorated with slugs.  Huge bloody things.  Slugs that hiss at you when you wrestle them off what remains of your produce.   The pace at which they then try to get out of the bucket I put them in whilst collecting their comrades makes a mockery of the word ‘sluggish’.

I told a friend of mine about this, and how when I go into the garden, it feels as though if the slugs had arms and fingers (and thank heavens they don’t) they would all be sticking two fingers up at me as I walked past.  “Well what do you think the two horns coming out of the top of their heads are then?”  she said.  Fair point.  That image will stick with me now, the idea that slugs have a permanent but retractable two-fingered gesture on top of their heads .

My climbing French beans: slugs have been known to climb to the tops of the canes to pick off the leaves all the way up the plants.

I’m not proud to admit it, dear Transition Culture readers, but this year in my garden has been a washout.  I’ve given up.  The slugs have won.  Well, the slugs and the almost complete absence of any sunshine.  While parts of North America are the driest they’ve ever been, here we are hogging all their water.  Last Sunday we woke up to sunshine for the first time since early May, and my garden visibly steamed.  The slugs retreated, like in Dracula films where the vampire hunter holds the crucifix up and Dracula recoils and shrinks, hissing, into the darkness.  Only lasted a day though.  Now we’re back into the kind of weather more suited to a North Sea oil rig than the ‘English Riviera’ and the slugs are back, patrolling their patch, forming sub-committees and penning an ambitious 5 Year Plan, complete with a competition to decide street names.

This blooming of the slug population is not just restricted to my garden, it is a national epidemic.  There have even been reports on the BBC of car crashes being caused by slugs.  What happens you see (if you are eating, you might want to finish doing so until you continue) is that when one slug is squished, more appear to devour their fallen comrade (no-one can accuse slugs of being sentimental), who are then run over, so more appear to eat them, and so on and so on, until a slimy mat is created sufficient to cause a car to skid and lose control.  I kid you not.  Drive carefully people, very carefully.

It has been estimated (on the BBC again) that about £8 million’s worth of vegetables have been destroyed by slugs this summer and they are even starting to damage wheat crops.  There have also been reports that slugs can be fatal to dogs, if ingested.  We are also, apparently, also suffering from the fact that out native slugs have now been joined by a Spanish ‘super slug’, leading to even more damage, and a new ‘ghost slug’ has been discovered in South Wales that attacks and eats earthworms.  Not good.

If those people working on genetically modified crops while also claiming to be working for the benefit of mankind actually want to do something useful, perhaps they might engineer a kind of grass that you could grown in your lawn that would be more attractive to slugs than the things you actually want to eat?  Or engineer a slug that prefers the boring stuff that you don’t actually want to eat (like brambles, Woundwort or bindweed) to the stuff you want?  Just a thought.

There is a serious side to this though.  Of course the climate denying folks have loved this summer as an opportunity to say “global warming? Hah!  Is that what you call it?!”, in the same way as the Tory MP last winter who Tweeted something like “just out scraping global warming off my windscreen”.  However, the link between the extreme weather we have been seeing around the world has been well documented, and it seems to me that in designing for resilience in terms of food, it is about planning for summers like this one (incessant rain, low sunlight, slugs the size of puppies, floods and an all-pervading dampness) as well as last one (very dry, threats of hosepipe bans, failed crops due to lack of rain).

Last year I talked to Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust about how farming might prepare itself for increasing dryness, especially in the south-east of England, the ‘grain belt’ of the UK.  His solution was an increasing use of perennial plants, more ground-cover, more diversity, more permanent plantings.  I haven’t asked him yet for his thoughts on how to make food production more resilient to the kind of damp squib climate we’ve had this year, but I imagine his response would be much the same.

For people who read Transition, or localisation, as meaning self-sufficiency, this year has been a good example of why that’s not just a great idea.  Some imports have always happened, and were we an entirely localised food economy, we’d be seeing real food hardships at this stage.  At the same time though, the problem that is driving the prime cause, i.e. climate change, is, in part, being generated by what is our current alternative, the globalised food system, that flies broccoli into the supermarkets of Totnes to keep us happy.  This summer has been as good an advert against monoculture and over-reliance on annual plants as I have ever seen.

As for me, I’m planning for next year to put about a third of my veg garden over to perennials, aided by Martin’s excellent new book ‘Perennial vegetables’.  Whatever the weather does (barring huge hailstones) I will run a better chance of having something worthwhile to eat.  By the way, in case you’re wondering, I have had some produce this year.  My broad beans have done very well, and my various squashes managed to get away and started for flower, although the slugs will probably eat those too.  My greenhouse is doing OK, although the slugs have also worked their way into there, but to nowhere like the same degree.

In 1999, scientists claimed they were on the verge of inventing a machine that wandered around the garden, collecting slugs which it then digested in order to power the machine’s onward search for more slugs.  13 years later, sadly, it has yet to see the light of day.  So, please feel free to treat this post as an opportunity for a group moan about slugs, something it’s good to do on occasion, especially during a summer like this one.  Thanks for listening.  I appreciate it.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.

51 Comments

FS
13 Jul 2:54pm

Are slugs edible? Do they provide good nutrition? (Seriously).

If so, then it seems to me that the answer is to stop eating the grass and start eating the meat!

Its still a good self-sustaining model….

stef
13 Jul 3:47pm

If you hadn’t had supplied the link to the SlugBot I’d have thought it was one of your April Fools day gags.

Ben Brangwyn
13 Jul 4:13pm

Has it not ever crossed your mind that the New World Order is targeting you and your garden with these gelatinous demons?

Perhaps one day you’ll be digging and find a strange device that emits low frequency sounds that is irresistible to slugs and a little note that says “By destroying your annuals, by destroying your credibility as a grower we have struck a dagger deep into the heart of the Transition Movement. Say goodbye to relocalisation, loser!”

Guinevere Hung
13 Jul 4:13pm

The long list of birds that eat slugs includes blackbirds, thrushes,robins,starlings,​crows,jays, ducks,seagulls & owls!

Maybe we should stop feeding ducks then they will start eating slugs, lol.

John Robottom
13 Jul 4:32pm

My slug trap for what’s worth is made from a plastic container with a slit in the lid and filled with cheap beer. The slugs can get in but out. It works well and they die happy!

Kevin Wilson
13 Jul 4:39pm

We’ve had a spring and early summer like yours here in BC (though our summer did actually finally arrive about a week ago and all the plants have exploded into growth). Yes, we’re having a slug year too. We have some of the little European grey slugs like you do, but our normal slugs are black and about 3″ long. You can hear them chewing as you walk past.

Wed night though, my winter brassica seedlings had their first night outside, in the basement stairwell where any slug would have to crawl over 8 ft of dry concrete to reach them. In the morning I came out to find them mowed down and two 3″ slugs plus one GIANT 6-incher lurking in the remains. Arrggh!

When I first moved to this garden in 2005 the slugs were horrific the first year due to all the untended areas here and next door. I got them under control by patrolling night and morning with a jar of salt to drop them in (which gets very gross, I can tell you) or a jar of water to drown them in (with a lid, otherwise they just climb out).

The only thing I have ever found to keep them away from plants reliably is a 2″ wide copper strip set in the ground to make a fence round individual seedlings or even a whole bed.

New World Order: Slug Coordination Officer
13 Jul 4:44pm

The slugs work for us now. Bwwwahhhaahhhaaa!

Andi
13 Jul 4:57pm

“Slug, when all is said and done,
You can hide, but you can’t run”
Matt Harvey
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BBOjT9iWww&feature=related

Heleh Highwater
13 Jul 5:35pm

Lots and lots of wood ashes around plants effectively deter slugs. Only works if you have access to the ashes of course. You have to save them up all winter. And reapply after it rains. Quite a chore but it really works, as do early-morning and late-evening slug patrols. I carry a pair of scissors and chop them in half. Kind of nasty but at least I don’t have to pick them up and they compost in place. If you don’t get rid of them they will lay eggs and you will have even more of them next year (horrible thought, that).

Trish Knox
13 Jul 5:50pm

Humor is good medicine…let’s try it on slugs along with eggshells, copper wire, salt and beer!

Massimiliano
13 Jul 5:52pm

I’m sorry for your garden, Rob.
We had similar problems here, in Italy, till the end of May. We did plant lettuce (and many other vegetables, including beans)and slugs came by eating everything overnight.

But… you know, the mascotte of my town is…the slug!! So, we organised a fest last year, in semptember, as ‘Urbania In Transizione’ (the local initiative)and we called it “Lumache in Transizione” (Slugs in Transition!)

And I can say, answering the question made in the first comment by FS, that yes, they’re edible and, if properly cooked, very tasty!

In our past we had to eat them, because they’re part of the local resilience. Now, just few people stil do so, but I guess slugs will be back soon upon our tables!

Cheers from Italy

karen
13 Jul 5:57pm

I empathise. My evening routine is one of my most reliable actions now, but I can unly ensure a dozen plant pots are free from slugs and thereby protect my sons strawberry crop.
For the first time ever I’ve used slug pellets in allotment.

The following is an interesting positive take on slugs, given that for lots of us, with slugs we can’t grow much at all. Is it true??

Wildlife ecologist Karl Studenroth states, “In ecosystems they [slugs] are important in breaking down decomposing materials faster and helping to release nutrients back into the overall system quicker” (11). Without slugs recycling decaying and fecal matter, soils would lose important nutrients, thus plants and crops would not grow as well. This, of course, would create a domino effect, affecting the entire ecosystem and food web of organisms.

Rikki
13 Jul 6:14pm

I can’t tell you how heartened I am by this post! I thought it was my inexperience as a new gardener that meant I was having such an awful time with my veg! If even you have had to give up Rob, I think I can stop feeling so guilty about not getting it right….

michael Dunwell
13 Jul 6:15pm

Nobody has said anything about spinach yet. If its sheer green biomass you eat, spinach is the answer this year. Never has spinach had such a ball. And milk thistles.

jacqueline fletcher
13 Jul 6:23pm

Scientists don’t need to invent a machine that goes wandering around the garden collecting and then digesting slugs. Nature has already invented several with names like ‘duck’ and ‘frog’. I’m sure you could dig a garden pond and within a couple of sploshes it would be inhabited by hosts of greedy, gourmet amphibians jostling each other to be your own personal and natural pest control machines. OK, I know, frogs are really, really noisy in the mating season. And, actually, slugs have the most amazing sex lives. They are hermaphrodites and if you’ve ever seen them ‘at it’, well, you’d be envious. I was thinking about Gene Kelly, but no that was ‘singing’ in the rain….but small wonder they reproduce so rapidly.

Louise Doughty
13 Jul 7:28pm

In the spring I broadcast a polyculture of mixed greens. All I have now is a polyculture of mixed weeds! The slugs don’t eat the ‘weeds’ only the veg. A lot of the weeds are fat hen. Looks like this is going to be the mainstay of our summer/autumn greens this year! Pity the other weeds aren’t edible, as far as I know. ‘Weeds’ and perennial veg is the way to go!

Josué
13 Jul 7:43pm

Well, you’re not alone.
Slugs are a lot in Belgium too…
Our brand new community garden is a good witness of their venue.
Josué

Jo Homan
13 Jul 7:54pm

Slugs? Haven’t noticed them much, but when I was sorting out the pot stash today I found an interesting selection of sizes and shapes, almost one between each pot. Stacked plant pots are a kind of high rise slug hotel, especially if you pack em a bit higgledypiggledy.
I also found loads the other day when I was potting on some Caucasian spinach – an enormous cache of eggs in the earth. I can’t kill them but made them available to the birds…
And I was at Hawkwood nursery on the weekend and they leave rectangles of wood on their wood-chip paths, which become a slug haven during the day. They then come at them with secateurs. Gross.

Christiane Marks
13 Jul 8:17pm

AND HERE IN UPPER NEW YORK STATE WE ARE HAVING ONE OF THE DRIEST SUMMERS EVER.I DON’T KNOW WHY THIS WOULD MAKE THE DEER MORE DESTRUCTIVE, BUT THEY HAVE BEEN, AND I AM FINALLY HAVING TO HAVE A DEER FENCE PUT IN.
SINCE DEER, TOO, LIKE YOUNG TENDER SHOOTS AND LEAVES (OF BEANS, CHARD, LETTUCE, PHLOX, SUNFLOWER, ETC. ETC),DEER DAMAGE LOOKS SOMEWHAT LIKE SLUG DAMAGE, THOUGH IT’S HIGHER UP AND NOT AS TOTAL.
A GARDENER FRIEND OF MINE SAYS INSTEAD OF “GLOBAL WARMING” WE ARE HAVING “GLOBAL WEIRDING”.

David Lyons
13 Jul 10:29pm

I can vouch for the copper bands – I scrounge old bits of copper pipe from skips, slit them with tin snips and hammer them out. It is something else that it eating my crops. When I do get some good crops = lets hope next year…I will preserve some for the following year symbolically in case we get another one like this!
D

Erik Buitenhuis
13 Jul 10:43pm

Perennials definitely are more slug and snail resistant. It’s not quite all I’ve been eating lately, like you I find the broad beans are doing well this year, but I’m eating a lot of fennel, sorrel, perennial chard etc.
I also agree with Guinevere and jacqueline, those natural predators do help, and most of the annuals will hopefully produce something in the end.
It’s not just the slugs, though, the raspberries are so wet that some rot before they ripen.

Fiona Law
14 Jul 9:48am

Very true, the four slugs of the apocalypse!
This year could be the rock bottom for all gardeners who haven’t quite had ‘end of suburbia moment’. A positive outcome from this year might be a surge in understanding about climate change, and modified culture. Just think how many gardeners there are out there and if they all united in a Transition surge!
There was a new scrap of anti-slug info that I tried this year, put comfrey (one slug-proof plant indeed) around seedlings and get a macronutrient-rich feed at the same time!
Also, joy of joys, for the first time at my allotment (just about within the sound of Big Ben on a still night with the wind in the right direction) there is a pair of thrushes nesting. Seem a lot more intelligent than blackbirds so maybe smarter on the slug/snail front. Also more sharp on the rasp/blue berry scrumping front.

jacqueline fletcher
14 Jul 10:34am

A quote from Bill Mollison: “Don’t say you have too many slugs, say you don’t have enough ducks”.

Jonathan Smith
14 Jul 2:45pm

As a professional grower I know that it’s been a difficult growing season on many fronts, and many growers I know are really struggling. Slugs can be a nightare problem.

A serious point however about self sufficiency and how it can cause problems in excessively wet or dry years. That is true, however if we were serious (or had to) produce a very high proportion of our own food we would have to invest a lot of people in to achieving those aims.

The old Chinese addage about “the best fertiliser is the gardener’s shadow” is very true. If the battle with slugs meant food or no food then we would be out there day and night picking them off, getting the ducks in – whatever it would take to ensure that we had enough to eat.

marion
14 Jul 3:03pm

I’m a Master Gardener in the USA. I have had good results with Escar-Go. Check it out at

http://www.gardensalive.com/product.asp?pn=2111&sid=140643

Escar-Go! is a unique blend of an iron phosphate active ingredient, originating from soil, with slug and snail bait additives. It is used as an ingredient in fertilizers. The Escar-Go! that is not ingested by snails and slugs will degrade and become a part of the soil.c Escar-Go! is ingested by slugs and snails when they travel from their hiding places to plants. Ingestion, even in small amounts, will cause them to cease feeding. This physiological effect of the bait gives immediate protection to the plants even though the slugs and snails may remain in the area. After eating the bait, the slugs and snails cease feeding, become less mobile and begin to die within three to six days.

Any that isn’t eaten will degrade and become part of your garden soil. It doe not cause poisoning of pets or wildlife.

Chris Johnstone
14 Jul 10:07pm

When I lived in Bristol, chickens were the decisive factor in our struggle with the slugs. Before they arrived, we couldn’t grow spinach, and beans were mostly a disappointment. After the chickens came, the balance tipped. We still needed to have chicken wire around our raised beds, but the chickens patrolled the regions outside these like Slug Bots.

John Mason
14 Jul 11:25pm

Great post, Rob!

I was at Chedworth Roman Villa last weekend with the family, and I located an area where those big meaty Roman Snails that they introduced some 2000+ years ago were hanging out. The folks were impressed, but I have to say that these super-snails would flee at the sight of some of the slugs resident in my garden this year. The biggest ones would make the Creature from the Black Lagoon do a Scooby-Doo style “Yikes!!!!!”

I’ve yet to suss out a decoy-crop. With Cabbage Whites, it is a piece of cake – let nasturtiums grow around the borders. They love ‘em. It could be time for nematode-warfare again….

Got a post coming soon @ Skeptical Science on the “stuck” weather-pattern. It may be something we will have to get used to. I’ll email you once it’s up.

Cheers – John

Pat
15 Jul 3:20pm

Wow! And I thought the Oregon Coast Slugs were bad…they are nothing compared to what you’re going through.
If I can figure it out I’d like to link your story to mine…
http://solarbeez.com/2012/07/11/slug-rehab/

Maddy
15 Jul 5:59pm

It’s not slugs but snails out here. I’ve tried everything recommended from beer traps to crushed eggshells around important plants – all to no avail. Also had the worst tomato crop ever, which is saying something out here where everything grows like weeds.

Pat
15 Jul 10:19pm

The small ones might do the most damage, but the ‘big as puppies’ ones are heavy and while they don’t have arms and legs, it’s near impossible to get them into a bucket as can be seen in this photo…
http://solarbeez.com/2012/04/02/slug-control/

Joanna
16 Jul 7:20am

When I lived in England we had one really bad year for rain and the slugs were horrible. We also had three chickens and I used to feed them with the slugs which they gobbled up with glee, until one day when even they decided they had had enough.

Here in Latvia I don’t often see slugs, snails yes but slugs no, until this year that is. Now we have the small ones that like to eat the strawberries but thank goodness our year hasn’t been as bad as yours. The peas have loved the cooler weather which is just as well as the beans have struggled.

Paul Mackay
16 Jul 10:00am

Regards the perennial veg, I would be interested to hear from anyone who has experience of measuring the output of what can be harvested from an amount of perennials v the same amount of land planted with annuals. Has Martin got hard data on this?

Marcus Draper
16 Jul 12:42pm

The best solution to slugs I’ve found are young boys. They possess a never ending enthusiasm for despatching molluscs, are 100% biological and guaranteed not to eat your greens!

I have two for hire in the Worcestershire area.

Joanne Poyourow
16 Jul 3:54pm

Marcus Draper’s solution worked for me (in Los Angeles, California) for years, until the kids alas became teens. Now I can’t pay them enough …

Chris Johnstone: I can’t get my chickens to eat slugs! They’re willing to eat bugs but not slugs.

Rob, before you convert 1/3 your growing area to perennial vegs, you’d better taste some of them. I haven’t read the Martin Crawford book but Eric Toensmeier wrote one with the same title in 2007. My sister and I eagerly sought out all the perennial vegetables he listed for our climate zone. Edible? perhaps. Palatable? not quite.

Additionally there is the issue of yield. (comment from Paul Mackay asked the right question) Annual vegs produce abundant growth, rather quickly, for us to harvest. Perennial plants grow much more slowly, with sparser foliage, fewer fruits, etc., so you need a WHOLE LOT more growing space devoted to them to gather a smallish salad. Harvesting perennial vegs is kind of like wild foraging in a wilderness park or something — like “foodstuffs are few and far between.”

It *is* possible to eat that way — if you aren’t fussy about taste and and you have lots of time to wait for the plants to mature and you have an absolutely huge park in which to grow. (the Native American tribes in my area, rather than European-style agriculture, used to wildharvest vast tracts of land for their food) In terms of post-peak food supply, I’d put the perennial vegs in the class of “I’ll replace my ornamentals with these, to have a backup food supply in case of dire need.” Meanwhile I’ll keep growing plenty of annual vegs.

Additionally I grow what I call “feral vegetables” — things that grow so well for me that I pretty much have to beat them down with a stick. They come up in my compost, in my lawn, they abundantly reseed. Some people might call them “invasive”. For me these are wildly successful (pun intended). Started with letting several kinds of traditional vegs go to seed, now they come up everywhere and I encourage them. Call it a city dweller’s adaptation of Mansanobu Fukuoka’s natural farming methods. With the mixed combos coming up between the grasses, SOMETHING always seems to survive and grow abundantly. And the food volume with this technique is far greater than with perennials.

Lunchista
16 Jul 6:46pm

“The best fertiliser is the gardener’s shadow” presupposes that the sun (or posibly the moon) is shining :)

Stephen
16 Jul 8:05pm

One summer where I live in Virginia USA we had many slugs. I went out every night with scissors and killed lots. The next season I had few slugs, and I got lazy and didn’t go out every night (after all, the slugs come out in force only after my bedtime, so it’s a real grunt to stay up late just to get the slugs). Then their numbers increased again.

I do think it’s possible to get control of them, but it does take persistence.

One of my friends has used beer traps, but they have not worked for me.

I may try some of the mentioned Escar-Go!

Guy
16 Jul 10:10pm

Haven’t done a proper trial but i have been using a copper trowel when planting out, as recommended by the likes of Charles Dowding, and i’m pretty sure it DOES reduce slug damage; they seem to stay away for quite a few days and long enough for the seedling to put on some growth. I’m convinced enough that i’m probably going to spend more cash on a thinner copper trowel to put beans etc in and a copper dibber for leeks etc. Much more expensive than steel but much cheaper if you consider the cost of what you lose to slugs. Should last for life too.

Ann
17 Jul 2:08am

We have Khaki Campbell ducks and they are great slug foragers. We don’t even use slug traps anymore. They’re an egg laying breed. Since we have them patroling all day/evening, the slug numbers have been decimated. Just provide water for the ducks so they can clean their bills of the gummy slug residue. Yuck!

Chris Smaje
17 Jul 10:17am

I’d like to echo Paul Mackay’s question, because I’m not sure perennials are necessarily the answer. The plants themselves are probably more slug-resistant once established, but the regrowth that we eat may not be. But more importantly I don’t think the possibilities for a productive perennial agriculture are sufficiently well established yet to be sure of the advantages of perennial strategies. I’ve written about this here: http://vegboxpeasant.com/?p=132 and also here http://vegboxpeasant.com/?p=147 – I’d be interested in any comments.

Donna Jones
17 Jul 10:18pm

I live in Alaska’s slug belt, and have been waging war against slugs for years. Here are a few tips: slugs prefer sweet, tender crops such as Chinese cabbage, which makes a good trap crop. Slugs avoid red or purple crops, crops that smell strong such as herbs, and fuzzy or prickly leaves. Try red kales, red lettuce, cilantro, chards, onions, etc.
No use wasting good beer on slugs, rather, use water with some sugar and yeast to trap them. However, I don’t like slimy, dead, and drunk slugs, so I prefer to use Slug-Go or Escar-Go. Apply often.
For a natural control, crab shell meal (large crabs like King or Tanner) will both cut the slug bodies and have a natural bacteria which then infects the slug. Copper gives slugs an electrical shock, and they avoid it.
Raised beds help. I grow strawberries on my deck railings in window boxes, as slugs seldom crawl that high for them.
additionally, I find that slugs do not like seaweed mulch, but I have to be careful of land grown mulches which are their natural food.

Adrian Hepworth
17 Jul 10:49pm

I’m sorry to say that, according to my wife, we don’t have a slug problem on our bit of Brentor, Devon. Its either the crushed egg shells frequently scattered around the veg or the dozens of blackbirds that seem to have moved into the veggie plot. There are loads of Rowan trees and other berry bearing plants like ivy. The blackbirds move from one to the other as they come into season and snack on slugs all the while. Lets just hope they stick to the Rowan when the black currants and raspberries come into fruit.

We did try the copper strips once but until they hatch, you can’t tell on which side of the copper the slug eggs gave been laid. One suggestion from Bob Flowerdew on Gardeners question time recently was to mix chopped wool into the the soil. It should be unwashed wool as he thought it was the lanolin that the slugs didn’t like. Not tried it ourselves even though we have more wool than we know what to do with. Can’t think of a quick simple way to chop it up for mixing but while the blackbirds are doing such a good job, we don’t need to.

Ludwig
18 Jul 7:35pm

If you want some permaculture tips on how to live with slugs… follow the link.

I wrote this article after having lived in the woods on the West Coast of Scotland. If we can live with slugs, so can you :-)

Betty Dawes
19 Jul 9:27am

Thanks Rob. Reading your experience I feel better about the state of my garden. My bean row looks very like yours. Have seedling brassicas ready for planting but reluctant to plant in the garden yet. After a lifetime gardening (began with Dig for Victory) I’ve not had this experience before. Even the birds and frogs have left my garden. I agree with comments that copper tools are good and also find the self-seeded plants, sorrel, spinach and Good King Henry seem to survive. I will have to try harder next year. Remember there is always next year. One bright spot, my currants and gooseberries are doing well.

John Mason
19 Jul 12:42pm

Crap UK weather (unless you’re a slug), the jetstream and climatic goings-on in the Arctic:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/2012-floods.html

Cheers – John

Mandy Meikle
31 Jul 11:41am

Excellent article & discussion on dealing with slugs. Massimilano says they’re great to eat so long as cooked properly – how might that be? I read through ALL the comments (something I rarely do) looking for an answer to that first comment about eating slugs. Also, given that slugs can discolour and even blister my skin, is edibility species dependent, like mushrooms? I should add that I’m veggie and not looking to eat slugs, or snails – just curious.

Ludwig’s link is http://earth-ways.co.uk/resources/resourcesslugs/ or you can click his name. It’s well worth a look as it considers the damage caused by different species (e.g. big blacks tend to eat dead plant matter, not your veg), how to attract slug predators, and has a design for a beer trap with an escape twig for non-slug entities (I’m definately going to try that!).

After all I’ve read about slugs today, it sems that restoring the balance in your garden/plot is key. How you choose to do that, whether by beer traps, companion planting, duck keeping, hedgehog enticing or dining on exotic slug dishes, is up to you.

Kieron
6 Aug 4:19pm

Not sure frogs are the answer, I have any number of frogs on my allotment, but I still have lots of slug and snail damage. But there is always next year

Simon
6 Aug 11:56pm

Bit late behind the original article – but as it’s still raining better late then never. A few years back I re-landscaped my garden with native british plants. To my dismay, the native( and non-native ) british slugs love them. About £500 worth of damage! I was furious and have taken up a genociadal stance to slugs ever since. Even if I see one on a path miles from my garden I’ll stamp on them, just in case their distant offspring end up in my garden a few years later. Grrr! Anyway – for the garden – you have to go out everynight – especically when it’s raining. With a high power torch to shine under leave to catch them in the act. I found a fondue fork useful for skewering 10 or so at a time. After a week or two of mass slaughter every night – the numbers will drop off and it becomes more of a sport – slug hunting. Nothing else works – beer traps are close second but why waste perfectly good beer on your sworn enemy!? And catching them in the act you can act as judge and jury. Just leave their dead corpses by the edge of the pond for the birds & frogs to find ;-)

Mark O'Sullivan
10 Oct 9:03pm

In the recent application of Homeopathy to plants, we use Helix Tosta 6x to repel slugs from plants.

Mix up a solution of the remedy, water the roots of the plant and within 2-4 days, the slugs will simply go elsewhere and not bother the plant.

Homeopathy for the Garden doesn’t end there – greenfly, whitefly, sawfly and all manner of bacterial and fungal diseases are treatable. I’m teaching this stuff at organic centres around Ireland at the moment – an organic, non-toxic approach that strengthens the plant rather than attacking the pest is proving very attractive, even among the initially sceptical.

I know that Homeopathy has it’s detractors but don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it – or test it for yourself.

Thanks for the post Rob. Good luck with the garden next year. We’ve had a slug Tsunami in Ireland too.

John Mason
14 Oct 2:19pm

Rob, and others,

Been running an experiment and I can now announce initial results: seaweed appears to be highly effective.

In one bed in my veg-plot there are two rows of pak-choi and one of young purple-sprouting broccoli. The broccoli had a major seaweed-mulch several weeks ago; the pak-choi did not.

The pak-choi is in places eaten down to the main leaf-veins – it is in tatters – whereas the broccoli is hardly affected, despite these plants being hardly a foot apart. Phase two is now underway i.e. the pak-choi has received a similar mulch, and I want to see how it recovers. Have dropped a few pellets close to each plant to eliminate any that might be between the mulch and the plants; the purpose of the experiment being to see if it stops the buggers getting across the barrier. So far – so good. I think I shall have a definitive answer by the end of autumn. All the best – John

Graham Burnett
19 Oct 5:53pm

Never mind Rob, console yourself with all the pairs of trousers you could be producing for yourself…

Pat
17 Dec 7:46am

I’ve nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award
http://solarbeez.com/2012/12/16/one-lovely-blog-award/