Slime invaders: slugs and snails, it’s time to escargot

Did you know: an average garden can contain up to 10,000 slugs!

Our generally milder winters in recent years have led to a big increase in those slimy pests slithering their way to your veggie patch.

They don’t like frost so they hibernate in the soil and usually start appearing mid-spring when things turn mild and damp – their favourite environment.

Not only do they create unsightly silver streaks, particularly visible on patios and concrete paths, but they will make a beeline for those juicy soft, young leaves and seedlings.

While the French have a novel way of dealing with snails – as a snack served on toast – there are rather more palatable ways of making them disappear.

Traditional methods such as strong chemical pellets (eg. metaldehyde) or throwing them over the neighbours fence are generally frowned upon today. Here are some eco-friendly yet effective ways to deal with snails and slugs:

Simple methods

If you’re not too squeamish, simply pick them up and place them in a carrier bag and dump with the rubbish. Early morning and late nights are ideal times for this – their numbers will soon diminish.

Remove their cover – stones, bricks, dead vegetation, fallen leaves etc. are some of their favourite hiding places so remove these. It’ll also make the garden look nicer!

A strip of copper tape applied around the base of trees and fixed objects (planters, etc) will deter them from climbing up. Poundland do a roll of copper tape for a pound. (also good for making paper circuits! )

The damp hideaway of an upturned cabbage leaf or hollow half-orange will attract them and they’ll hang around for a while. It makes for easy disposal – but check and remove daily.

Use barriers around young plants and veg. Grit, crushed eggshells, coffee grinds work to some degree, but specialist non-chemical barriers are more effective.

Position snail proof plants such as fuchsias, lavender, sage and rosemary in areas that are difficult to keep clear from these pests. Use more snail-proof areas of the garden for those vulnerable plants and veg.

More advanced methods

Nematodes (minute parasitic worms) can be watered onto the soil and can help control slugs although they have no effect on snails.

Use natural and organic products such as wool pellets. Placed around the base of plants, you then water them so that they melt and form a continuous matting whose fibres are irritating to slugs and snails.