Slugs emerge during wet weather, here are organic controls.

Slugs emerge during wet weather, here are organic controls.

After a prolonged, dry heatwave, rain and normal summer temperatures bring with it lots of slugs in the garden. They are snails without shells. For the most part, I don’t worry about them unless they are really doing a lot of damage.

I found this slug on a ‘Sungold’ tomato. After the photo shoot, I let the slimy creature enjoy the tomato for lunch. Photos by Doug Oster

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, tomato fruit and any small transplants. They will eat just about anything.

They are easily controlled with baits, but the chemical version uses metaldehyde, which could be dangerous if something else ate it.

As long as chickens can be kept away from the plants, they will eat the slugs too.

Slugs love wet weather.

There are organic baits made of iron phosphate which are safe for 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.

Slugs will not cross copper, as it emits a natural electric charge. Some copper wire around and in between hostas and other susceptible plants will keep the pests at bay.

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.

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