For the most part I’m very tolerant of all the world’s creatures, but I really hate slugs. I don’t think I could stand to look at their disgusting sliminess even if they were benign, harmless creatures. But the fact they can wipe out a flat of seedlings overnight – after I’ve spent a month or two nurturing the tiny plants – makes them an especially despicable enemy.
Recently a group of my friends had an impromptu discussion on Facebook, regarding organic methods of slug control. I have to admit, I never had much luck with some of the home remedies that have been touted for generations – like beer, for example. I kept shallow pans of beer embedded in my garden soil all spring one year, and don’t think I ever found a single drowned slug in them.
But several gardeners I know suggested an organic product called Sluggo, which is said to be completely safe to pets and wildlife when used as directed. Its active ingredient is iron phosphate, which occurs naturally in the soil and works differently from chemical poisons. Here’s what the manufacturer’s website says:
Sluggo is attractive to slugs and snails, luring them from their hiding places and 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. Dead slugs and snails may not be visible as they often crawl away to secluded places to die. Plant protection will be observed in the decrease in plant damage.
Using coffee grounds in the garden is another folk remedy that now actually seems to have a little science behind it, according to this study reported in Science News.
And of course, there’s hand-picking. This was my dad’s slug control method of choice. He’d go out at dawn (although the Extension Service at Oregon State University recommends two hours after sunset), scoop up the slimy vermin with a plastic spoon, and drop them into a Mason jar filled with salt water. This actually worked pretty well – it seems like there are finite number of these pests around, and by reducing their numbers early in the season you can help your plants survive the onslaught.