Slugs look like snails without the shell. They feed at night, but can easily be controlled. Photo by Doug OsterGardeners are always in tune with the weather. There's nothing better than sowing seeds or adding plants to the garden right before it rains. The sound of a summer rain storm puts a smile on our collective faces. No amount of watering can compare to a good rain.
Warm temperatures and plenty of rain is the perfect storm though for slugs. My garden is heavily mulched, this keeps the soil evenly moist which is great for the plants, but also the best place for slugs to hide during the day.
It's easy to recognize their damage: Look for the silvery, slimy trail they leave behind. Slugs feed at night and love hostas, marigolds and any small transplants.
They are easily controlled with baits, but the chemical version uses metaldehyde, which also attracts mammals and other animals. If a dog or cat eats the bait they could be poisoned.
There are organic baits made of iron phosphate which are safe for mammals and the environment, but still dispatch the slugs.
Probably the most popular are Sluggo and Escar-Go. The first is available locally at any garden center and the second through Gardens Alive online.
There are other ways to control slugs too without reaching for chemicals.
Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder that's razor sharp on the microscopic level. When a slug crawls over the DE, it's cut to shreds and eventually dies. Wear a mask when applying DE, it can cause irritation to airways.
Slugs don't like to crawl on rough surfaces like eggshells or sand.
They also won't cross copper. The metal has a naturally occurring electrical charge. Some gardeners will use copper wire as a barrier.
Hostas work as a great trap crop, it's their favorite food. They would prefer hostas to anything.
How about handpicking? I used crawl down a cement block hole that housed our well to collect slugs for bait. We would fish off the bottom for big carp. Handpicking at night works, just wear gloves. Slugs emit a disgusting slime that's hard to remove.
A pinch of salt will kill them too.
Slugs love the cool temperatures that my thick layer of straw provides them in the garden. But the benefits of the mulch outweighs the downside of the slug damage.
Of course, they can be trapped in a container placed a ground level filled with stale beer. It's disgusting to clean that trap out every other day though.
Slugs will slow down when the temperatures cool off and the soil dries out, but for now any one of the techniques above will help you deal with them.
The pests are favorites of toads and snakes, encourage both to hang around in the garden by giving them a place to hide. An overturned, broken flower pot is a great toad house and leaving part of the garden wild will give the snakes some habitat too.
Enjoy the sound of soft rain and encourage nature to take care of the slugs too.