LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- THV's lifestyle guru Chris H. Olsen with Botanica Gardens shared tips on how to prevent slugs in your garden, and a fun project to do with your kids.
Slugs Be Gone
Most of us have slugs and snails in our garden. I don't know about you but in my garden the slugs are having a feast. With all the rain and therefore moisture, they are happy little guys. So here are a few options that are natural and non-toxic to our environment if you have the same problem.
• Watering Schedule
Far and away the best course of action against slugs in your garden is a simple adjustment in the watering schedule. Slugs are most active at night and are most efficient in damp conditions. Avoid watering your garden in the evening if you have a slug problem. Water in the morning - the surface soil will be dry by evening. Studies show this can reduce slug damage by 80%.
If you have access to seaweed, it's well worth the effort to gather. Seaweed is not only a good soil amendment for the garden, it's a natural repellent for slugs. Mulch with seaweed around the base of plants or perimeter of bed. Pile it on 3" to 4" thick - when it dries it will shrink to just an inch or so deep. Seaweed is salty and slugs avoid salt. Push the seaweed away from plant stems so it's not in direct contact. During hot weather, seaweed will dry and become very rough which also deters the slugs.
Small strips of copper can be placed around flower pots or raised beds as obstructions for slugs to crawl over. Cut 2" strips of thin copper and wrap around the lower part of flower pots, like a ribbon. Or set the strips in the soil on edge, making a "fence" for the slugs to climb. Check to make sure no vegetation hangs over the copper which might provide a 'bridge' for the slugs. Copper barriers also work well around wood barrels used as planters.
A non-toxic copper-based metallic mesh Slug Shield is available which can be wrapped around the stem of plants and acts as a barrier to slugs. When slugs come in contact with the mesh they receive an electric-like shock. The mesh also serves as a physical barrier. These slug shields are reusable, long-lasting and weather-proof.
• Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth (Also known as "Insect Dust") is the sharp, jagged skeletal remains of microscopic creatures. It lacerates soft-bodied pests, causing them to dehydrate. A powdery granular material, it can be sprinkled around garden beds or individual plants, and can be mixed with water to make a foliar spray.
Diatomaceous earth is less effective when wet, so use during dry weather. Wear protective gear when applying, as it can irritate eyes and lungs. Be sure to buy natural or agricultural grade diatomaceous earth, not pool grade which has smoother edges and is far less effective. Click for more information or to purchase Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth.
• Electronic "slug fence"
An electronic slug fence is a non-toxic, safe method for keeping slugs out of garden or flower beds. The Slugs Away fence is a 24-foot long, 5" ribbon-like barrier that runs off a 9 volt battery. When a slug or snail comes in contact with the fence, it receives a mild static sensation that is undetectable to animals and humans. This does not kill the slug, it cause it to look elsewhere for forage. The battery will power the fence for about 8 months before needing to be replaced. Extension kits are availabe for increased coverage. The electronic fence will repel slugs and snails, but is harmless to people and pets.
• Lava Rock
Like diatomaceous earth, the abrasive surface of lava rock will be avoided by slugs. Lava rock can be used as a barrier around plantings, but should be left mostly above soil level, otherwise dirt or vegetation soon forms a bridge for slugs to cross.
If all else fails, go out at night with the salt shaker and a flashlight. Look at the plants which have been getting the most damage and inspect the leaves, including the undersides. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the slug and it will kill it quickly. Not particularly pleasant, but use as a last resort. (Note: some sources caution the use of salt, as it adds a toxic element to the soil. This has not been our experience, especially as very little salt is used.)
Slugs are attracted to beer. Set a small amount of beer in a shallow wide jar buried in the soil up to its neck. Slugs will crawl in and drown. Take the jar lid and prop it up with a small stick so rain won't dilute the beer. Leave space for slugs to enter the trap.
• Overturned Flowerpots, Grapefruit Halves, Board on Ground
Overturned flowerpots, with a stone placed under the rim to tilt it up a bit, will attract slugs. Leave overnight, and you'll find the slugs inside in the morning. Grapefruit halves work the same way, with the added advantage of the scent of the fruit as bait.
Another trap method, perhaps the simplest of all, is to set a wide board on the ground by the affected area. Slugs will hide under the board by day. Simply flip the board over during the day to reveal the culprits. Black plastic sheeting also works the same way.
• Garlic-based slug repellents
Laboratory tests at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (UK) revealed that a highly refined garlic product (ECOguard produced by ECOspray Ltd, a British company that makes organic pesticides) was an effective slug killer. Look for garlic-based slug deterrents which will be emerging under various brand names, as well as ECOguard.
• Coffee grounds; new caffeine-based slug/snail poisons
Coffee grounds scattered on top of the soil will deter slugs. The horticultural side effects of using strong grounds such as espresso on the garden, however, are less certain. When using coffee grouds, moderation is advised.
A study in June 2002 reported in the journal Nature found that slugs and snails are killed when sprayed with a caffeine solution, and that spraying plants with this solution prevents slugs from eating them. The percentage of caffeine required in a spray (1 - 2%) is greater than what is found in a cup of coffee (.05 - 07%), so homemade sprays are not as effective. Look for new commercial sprays which are caffeine-based.
Secret Garden Treasure Jar
Need help keeping the kids entertained? Here is an idea that you can both enjoy! Kids love crafts and telling secrets and this is something they will always be excited about!
Here's what you'll need:
- Mason Jars with lids
- Outdoor yard stakes
- tools (screw and drill)
- Flat marbles or other decorative embellishments
- Rubber Cement or GE II Silicone Sealant
First, let's decorate the jar! Use the Rubber Cement or GE II Silicone Sealant to secure the flat marbles or embellishments to the surface of the jar. This will contain the pieces for long periods of time and prevent them from falling off. Next, screw the jar lid to the top of the stake that you will place in the ground. This will allow for you and the kids to unscrew the jar off and on so you can pop in your secrets, wishes, or treasures anytime you please! Screw the jar back on the stake, and you have yourself a decorative garden accessory!