While searching though your garden for these slimey critters is not one of the most enjoyable chores we do in the garden, it IS one where big rewards are returned down the line. One slug picked and disposed of (I fling them over a steep bank) can prevent up to 500 offspring per year. Hunting is most effective if done at twilight or early morning and if done daily at first, you should see a noticeable decline in the population. If you create traps, such as overturned flower pots, grapefruit halves or boards hiding places, your slug picking will be made even easier.
Some other management tactics:
• Water in the morning to allow soil surface to dry out before evening when most feeding occurs
• Use drip irrigation so less of the soil surface gets wet and your garden is more attractive to slugs
• Pull any mulch away from the stems of your plants until they are larger and sturdier
• Copper or zinc mesh surrounding the edges of your planters is believed to be a useful tool (some folks don’t think this works). If you do use this method, make sure your bed is free from slugs and slug eggs first!
• Ferric (iron) phosphate slug baits are available that are pet safe and approved for organic gardening. Rather than ringing your plants with the granules (and attracting the slugs to your plant), sprinkle widely (and not too much) and replace after a heavy rain. The bait works slowly so be patient.
• If you have beer you want to get rid of (!) you can use the beer trap method to drown them (an Internet search will produce lots of results)
• Diatomaceous earth works but it also kills beneficial insects
• Borrow some ducks—they love slugs! There was recently a local Facebook post where a desperate Comox Valley gardener organized a loan of some ducks to help with the hunting.
Unfortunately, it looks like we’re in for a little more slug-friendly weather so if you are noticing silvery trails or little bites out of your plants, donning a headlamp or taking an few extra minutes before your morning coffee to pick a slug or two may save a green life!