As thick as a man’s thumb and roughly 4 inches long – the thing was huge! I could almost hear my garden plants screaming and shrinking in fear. Slugs are a part of nature and can be a menace for the organic gardener. Dealing with them organically and effectively can sometimes pose a challenge. So, how can you deal with a pest like garden slugs naturally? Can you keep your garden chemical-free and maintain your fruits and veggies?
Slug it To ‘Em!
The common garden slug (Deroceras reticulatum) is what most growers note as a common problem pest. They are much smaller — about an inch or two long, than the monster I noticed on my front walk one early New England morning. The common garden slug is usually grey or a brownish-grey color all over, and voracious eaters. What just a few slugs can do to your plants is devastating. Nevertheless, a tiny slug, less than a centimeter long, lurks under leaves and chomps 24/7 on your tasty delights. The mini-slug is a gardener’s worst nightmare. Little, plump, dots of madness!
Drunk Slugs Still Chomping?
There are as any opinions on how to deal with slugs, as there are slugs. The most popular—and least effective, in my opinion – is the beer trap. In New England – much like what I have recently read about the Pacific – the weather can be unpredictable. Sunny at noon and by 12:02pm a torrential downpour that is not unlike a monsoon. Your pristine beer trap is now a watered down funky swimming hole. They wander over, decide the bar is a bit too cheap for their taste and take their pub-crawl elsewhere. These are not cheap drunks after all! What kind of establishment are you running? There will be a few choice slug words with distinct eastern accents. Lingering along the rim of the watery beer bowl one may occasionally fall in. However, I swear they are just floating and shaking their heads at me; wondering why I would insult them with the cheap stuff – where is my sense of pride? Leave it to a slug to make you feel guilty when they are the invaders! Neighbors can stop thinking that homeschooling has driven me to drink during the day – beer traps are outdated.
Other Methods of Madness
Hand-picking is tedious and long nights with a flashlight out in your garden may have the neighbors raising eyebrows. Salting is another option, which does work to a point. Salt does tend to break up the slime layer that protects a slug’s body. However, it is unpredictable due to weather and it has to be directly applied or placed in the path of the slug in question. Chickens & ducks can help! If you ever wanted to have a little farm or urban farmette chickens or even egg laying ducks are a nice addition. Chickens won’t eat slugs but ducks will! Chickens love to scratch in the dirt and look for tasty bugs and fluff up the soil. This disrupts the slugs’ habitat. While the slugs are exposed to more sunlight and their habitat is naturally destroyed your little ducks, if you choose to have them, will gobble them up. If you take the time to dry out your topsoil just a bit before you plant this helps in deterring slugs. Starting your plants indoors so they are nice and strong before putting them in the ground will give your garden a boost. This also means that if you water your plants in the morning rather than the evening you can reduce your slug activity by 80% – slugs are mostly nocturnal pests! Take care and you can enjoy your organic garden free of pests and chemical-free.
Applications & Resources
- Read more from Mother Earth News
- Find more tips and tricks to deal with pesky slugs at Earth Easy
- Go to Living Green for 9 tips to live slug-free