Notes on slugs

You will find a great many slugs in our garden, most of them on one side, the site near the tomato plants.

Now it's not that slugs are a big surprise in our garden, indeed I think we'd be suspicious if there weren't any.

What really gets us is the sheer numbers of them. Like that scene in Starship Troopers where the alien insects seem about to overwhelm the good guys, the slugs just keep on coming.

And everyone's got a solution. Each and every gardener has a tale from the slug wars, and a recommendation for effective slug eradication.

I should know, because I feel like I have tried every single one of them. To no avail.

It's been about two years now and the slug population of South London is still centred on our back garden. No matter how many of the little buggers we kill one year, their offspring come back for more next spring, waiting till we have planted our first batch of lettuces and rockets before diving in for a grand nosh-up, during which they can demolish an entire crop.

It is, to say the least, depressing.

We have tried slug pellets. Salt. Beer traps. Bran. Gravel. Nematodes. Egg shells. And others. None of them worked.

Slugs are supposed to be deterred by gravel or egg shells, but no, they took great delight in sliming across them to reach the juicy young pea and carrot plants.

Slugs are said to be poisoned by bran, but we laid down piles of the stuff and no slug bodies were to be seen.

The nematodes - tiny organisms that you water into the soil, which then feast on slugs' brains, proved effective for just a few days.

Beer traps were OK - they caught a lot of young, careless slugs. But the older, mature slugs spotted the danger and kept well away.

So despite all our desperate efforts to be organic in the garden this year, we have put down a sprinkling of slug pellets. Overnight there was carnage - next morning, the soil was hardly visible for the half-disintegrated slug corpses littered all over it.

But still they come back. Or their cousins do, swarming in to fill the new empty spaces (it is also said that slugs are territorial creatures). Then there's then snails.

And the foxes. And the pesky squirrels, and the magpies....

(1st June 1999)