Here Be Slugs…

I woke up from a nightmare recently that left me lying awake for over an hour afterward. It was a vivid dream of a large slimy green slug balanced on the lip of a container eagerly stretching out towards my vulnerable bush beans, its antennae twitching with anticipation.

I lay awake afterward remembering how I hadn’t put the slug trap back in place, and should I go outside to do so. This would mean opening the sliding glass door, which could wake Joe, since our bedroom is right above it. I lay awake contemplating whether his possible lack of sleep was a justifiable sacrifice to save the remaining plants. You see, I recently have had three vibrant beautiful bush bean plants eaten down to the very base by slugs. There are now three short green stubs, still covered in slime, where once grew lush plants full of promise and potential. I imagine they don’t come back from that, and I will need to reseed.

Since then I’ve been looking into methods of slug control. I tried the popular beer trap. I filled a cottage cheese container with beer, and dug it a little ways into the ground. Unlike the earwig trap, you don’t want it flush with the soil as then you risk drowning ground beetles, which apparently eat slugs. I knew I liked ground beetles. I read that the traps are effective within a 3′ radius, so you may need a few depending on the size of your place. So after one night this little trap caught 9 slugs. It has caught a few more since then. This isn’t enough to keep my plants safe; however. I added crushed egg shells to the soil around the base of my plants. If slugs travel over them they are cut and then they die of dehydration. (Diatomaceous earth does the same thing, but eggs are cheaper.) To their credit, I think most of them are smart enough to avoid this, as I have never seen a dehydrated slug or snail.

I am happy to report that no more plants were eaten to the ground after this; however, they were taunting me by hanging out on the lip of my container and eating all the leaves they could reach from there. So, I started looking for copper slug tape. Apparently, if slugs or snails pass over copper it gives them an electric shock, so it’s something they naturally try to avoid. After searching many local garden stores to no avail, I finally found some at Canadian Tire. It is made in Victoria, B.C. too, nice and close. I must admit I am disappointed in the small local garden centres that sell slug poison, and slug pellets, but no copper tape that is made here on Vancouver Island. One woman even went to so far as to tell me it was only available in the states.

If you happen to find copper slug tape, ket me warn you to wear gloves while handling it. I have many itchy paper cuts on my fingertips right now. Since I’ve applied the tape to my containers, my beans and other plants are safe. My beans are even thriving now that I’ve removed the fennel too. This is something else I’ve learned. Most plants don’t like to live next to fennel, and it actually inhibits the growth of beans. I planted the fennel in there after reading somewhere that slugs don’t like fennel. Well, that may be so, but perhaps you should mention to gardeners that most of our vegetables don’t like fennel either. Small rant aside, the beans are doing great the fennel was only in there two days, so it seems no lasting damage was done.

So I’m happy the tape has worked for my containers, and it would work well for raised beds too, but what about the rest of the yard? I won’t even plant hostas, because I think it would just be cruel to them, and feed the population I have here. What are  your methods for slug control in your garden? Good luck in your battle against slugs.

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The Beginning

Hi there and join me on my journey to lower my grocery bill by growing as much of my own food as possible. I live in a townhouse with a back patio, for which I will be growing in containers, and I recently acquired a plot at a local community garden, which I’m very excited about. I started keeping a journal about a month ago, when it occurred to me I should be sharing this information, and meeting new people with the same interests. So, I’m going to give a brief synopsis of what I’ve accomplished so far, along with what I’m currently doing, over the next few days we should be caught up.

I began on April 29 with my first self watering container. You can go here to find more information on those, including how to make your own.http://www.urbanorganicgardener.com/self-watering-containers/ I filled it with a mix of equal parts coir, (coconut peat), which is a sustainable alternative to regular sphagnum peat, and mushroom compost. (one brick of coir, and half a bag of compost.) To this I added vermiculite and perlite, approximately  3 cups of each, and about 21 T of greensand. I also added some aged rabbit manure. My grandmother, who keeps everything, has been saving this rabbit manure for probably ten years, in a large garbage can. She was very proud that I came around with a use for it; however, the lid blew off some time ago, and the bucket filled with rain water. So, my grandmother no longer has a large bucket of dry pellets, but a large very wet single pellet of rabbit manure. Fortunately, there were some dry pellets left in the hutch. My grandmother is planning to dry out the remainder, but I’m past wanting it, to be honest.

Watercress

watercress with green onions, and a seashell mulch

I planted water cress in this container with green onions around the side to deter pests. The watercress took 5 days to germinate, and the green onions took 17 days. I used a seashell mulch to deter the rampant slugs around here, and it also reflects the light up to the leaves helping them grow. This is great if you have a lot of shade, which I do.

I’ll just leave you now with a few things I have learned at this point:

  • self watering containers do not keep the surface moist, you need to mist the top to allow seeds to germinate
  • potting mix needs to breathe; don’t keep it in a container with the lid on. It will go mouldy.