You have to admire plants, when the conditions aren’t right they slow right down, ticking over and waiting for favourable conditions to return. This little heatwave here with temperatures up to 30 degrees C has sure slowed things down, except for the well established sun-lovers like lavender and rosemary, they’re in their element and romping away.
The plants that haven’t been romping away are my little grove of fennel plants that I planted recently. I had this image of tall, feathery, bronze-fennel dancing among the roses, but for the slugs they were just food and they quickly chomped them down to the ground.
As you probably know, natural predators like hedgehogs, slowworms, frogs and wild-birds are natural predators of slugs, I clearly haven’t got enough of these, hardly surprising, The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, say that the numbers of hedgehogs have fallen by a third since 2004.
I’ve never found anything that works really well in the battle against slugs, so I sent off for some Nemysis biological slug killer. These microscopically, tiny creatures [nematodes] arrive in the post and are kept in the fridge for a few days until you’re ready to use them. when you’re ready, you simply add them to a measured amount of water and water it over the area with a watering can.
Like lots of natural processes in the garden, it’s a bit gruesome. The nematodes enter the slugs’ body and release bacteria causing death, then they feed and reproduce on the body, resulting in a new generation of nematodes that set off and hunt down more slugs.
The soil has to be kept damp for two weeks so the nematodes can move around in it, and the soil needs to be damp when it’s applied and 5 degrees C/ 40 degrees F. But it’s a small price to pay when the main alternative is using those blue slug pellets that contain metaldehyde or the even more poisonous methiocarb which can kill pets, and is harmful to people. Another problem is that hedgehogs and frogs feeding on the dead slugs may be poisoned, reducing the number of natural predators even more.
Nemasys stays active in the soil for up to 6 weeks, which should give small plants time to toughen up, it’s the tender, new leaves that really attracts slugs. It’s recommended that you use this every 6 weeks, but that seems prohibitively expensive to me, a pack starts at 12 pounds. I reckon that if you use it in the spring when plants are small and may be again later in the summer, there’s a good chance of minimising slug damage.
I’m also using a sort of good housekeeping approach:
- avoiding planting and keeping pots in places that harbour slugs, like stone walls.
- Slugs love a damp places, so I’m not watering late in the evening.
- I’ve also covered young plants with very fine netting and cloches, but it isn’t always practical.
I’m doing my best to attract natural predators into the garden too, I was excited to see a slow worm in the garden recently, and also slightly freaked out on account of my snake phobia, totally over-reacting because they’re not snakes and actually rather lovely.
We need a wider variety of plants and more bird-boxes, I haven’t been too successful at this so far, but we’re only 18 months into this garden…. and we’ve made a bug hotel for over-wintering allies and a pond will be in by next year to attract frogs and birds, so we’re getting.
How are you getting on with the slug battles this year?
all photos: Jill Anderson