The slug population has exploded this year, along with other pests in the garden. This has been mainly due to the hot and dry, then wet and humid weather. But also, with the warm winter we had last year, many of these gastropods didn’t hibernate and continued to munch on plants and breed throughout the year.
Another pest many gardeners have experienced more of this year is pigeons; they have stripped red and black currants completely of their berries and have been eating plants that no other pests would touch, such as Astrantia.
Having spoken to some garden plant experts and suppliers, there is a consensus that this has been the worst year yet for slugs and snails. Many point the finger to climate change and believe the weather patterns we’re experiencing will become the new normal and, if this is right, then now is the time to act!
What damage do they do?
Slugs and snails not only strip the ornamental plants from leaves, they also munch on veg crops and can completely destroy them, devouring seedlings as soon as they emerge. They climb up plants and shrubs, eating fruit berries and flower buds. But, let’s not forget the yucky slimy traces they leave behind!
Lush Hosta leaves completely munched to their stems.
Snails love all sorts of green leaves, like these Hollyhocks
What can you do to reduce the numbers of slugs and snails in the garden?
Like many creatures, gastropods play their part in our eco-system. They provide food for all sorts of mammals, earthworms, insects and birds. If we remove them, we can do a lot of harm to nature, so it’s best to try to live in harmony with them.
Work with nature to reduce numbers
We would advise against using slug pellets (these can kill hedgehogs and other creatures!). Instead, try to find a more friendly way of cutting the numbers down. Such as:
Install a pond and introduce frogs to your garden
This option will allow nature to take care of itself. Okay, the frogs will eat some of the snails and slugs, which isn’t so friendly for them, but many will move on too and hopefully not come to any harm.
Welcome birds or get some chickens
Birds are great predators for slugs, so welcoming them into your garden will help to keep numbers down. You could take it a step further and get some chickens too, who will happily take care of them for you and you might even get some eggs too!
This can be done by welcoming hedgehogs into your garden. Leaving food for them (not milk) and check your garden is hedge-hog friendly by covering drains and holes, checking for them before strimming and removing sports or fruit netting. Read more about these friendly creatures here.
Install garden chuckies
If there’s hot-spots in your garden that are attractive to gastropods, then installing chuckies around planting beds and veg areas will help to dissuade them, as they hate crawling on sharp stones.
Use a greenhouse
Slugs and snails love salad leaves and many vegetable leaves. Installing a greenhouse may help to protect your greens, though this may not be the best environment for some vegetables and plants.
Snails on a Hosta plant
Not only will these solutions help reduce numbers of pests and save your greens, but it will also be more wildlife-friendly too – you can sleep easy knowing that you are doing your bit for the environment.
For help on building a garden to combat slugs and snails in a friendly way, get in touch with Papillon.