This week gardeners are complaining about too much rain; next week gardeners will be complaining about slugs. Slugs are related to shellfish and love moisture. They have been doing their happy dance since these rains have started.
Although I rarely see them because they are active at night, I know I have slugs in my Virginia garden. I see the chewed and tattered leaves and the glistening, slimy trails. Slugs particularly love the tender foliage on my transplants – the ones I patiently grow from seed under lights. To prevent them from destroying months of work, I quickly respond when I see any evidence of their existence.
If I see chewed leaves, I sprinkle the plants with Sluggo, a brand name for iron phosphate. This is not a plug for Sluggo, it is a plug for not messing around with homemade remedies – just get the iron phosphate. There are several products with iron phosphate, read the active ingredient on the label. I have found that Sluggo’s cylindrical container with the small holes for sprinkling to be very easy to use. Also, it is safe for dogs and cats, and there are a few stray cats in the area. If for some reason I have run out of Sluggo, I sprinkle crushed egg shells or coffee grounds and then run to the nursery.
I have tried the beer trick. Slugs are attracted to yeast so beer in a lid or saucer, sunken to the ground, is supposed to attract them. Once they fall in they get too tipsy to get out. I have never found them in my saucers and I was never able to reconcile the cost or waste of perfectly good beer on slugs.
Slugs also are attracted to citrus. I have not tried this before but some gardeners swear by putting grapefruit halves on the ground, cut side down, with a pebble on one side (so they can slime in). In the morning, they either lift the citrus and kill the slugs or throw the whole thing in a bag. Another method is to place a clay pot upside down with a pebble and turn the pot over in the morning to pick up the slugs and destroy them.
This is all well and good but when you are working mom, you would rather grab a canister of Sluggo and sprinkle before you run off to work.
Another deterrent is diatomaceous earth, it is just not as easy to find as Sluggo or easy to apply. It is a fine white powder with microscopic sharp edges that irritate if not outright slice the slugs. I am always afraid I will breathe in the talc like powder or spill it on my suit as I inspect the morning damage before I run off to work.
And then there is the copper barrier that would be effective if you just had one container or a raised bed. Apparently it causes a type of electric shock to slugs but is not harmful to humans or pets. The only downside is that it is impossible to surround all of your plants in your suburban yard – it is just not practical.
So go to the nursery now before slug season starts. Find a product with iron phosphate and find an easy, quick way to apply it. The easier it is for you the more likely you will be able to fight the slug invasion.