From the Desk of Ed Hume: Slug Control

February 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

Doesn’t this seems like an unusual time of the year to be talking about slugs?  But I‘ve go to tell you, I saw two in the garden on one of our warmer early January days and several during the last few days of the month.  They are already out eating the leaves on primroses and other plants that are starting to show new growth.  Because of that, now is the best time to begin your slug control program.

One slug research specialist once told me that some slugs reproduce up to 250 or more offspring in a single year.  So the more we can control them early on in the season before they can reproduce, the less slugs we should have to contend with the rest of the year.

At this time of year the slugs will be not be on the move as much as they will later in the season.  In fact, they are apt to be found very close to any perennials that are just beginning their new growth.  Check to see which plants are starting their new growth, then check if any of the new leaves have been partially eaten or if there are slime trails, as these will be the best indicators of whether slugs are already active in your garden.  If you find such damage, then those are the areas where you will want to concentrate your efforts for eliminating the slugs.

One of my favorite methods of controlling slugs is to use what “Peter Chan” the famous Chinese vegetable garden specialist calls his “Slug Motel.”  He takes a container about the size of a small cottage cheese or sour cream tub.  On the sides at the base of the container, he cuts holes about 1 ½ inches in height and width.  He cuts four of them, like one on the North, one on the South, one on the East, and one on the West sides of the container.  He then takes off the lid, adds a teaspoonful of slug bait (liquid or dry), puts the lid back on the container, then secures the lid in place by putting a rock or brick on top.   The rock/brick also keeps the container from being blown away by a strong wind.  Now the bait is inside the container where it is somewhat protected from rain, the kids, dogs, and cats, so it is more environmentally friendly.  The slugs are attracted by the bait, crawl inside the “Slug Motel,”and die.  You can then empty the container and start it all over again. If you don’t want to make your own, you can buy commercial plastic products that basically do the same thing.   Devices like this can be used throughout the gardening season.

When the weather gets warmer in late Spring and Summer, you are apt to find the slugs nesting during the day in the cooler shady parts of the garden.  One of the best ways to determine where they are nesting is to simply see where they emerge from at dusk or where they return to in the early morning before the sun comes up.  When you do discover their nesting spot, pull out those Slug Motels!

Whatever method you use to control slugs, just remember the more slugs you can eliminate early in the season, the less you will have to contend with the rest of the gardening season!

-Ed

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