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The myths around slug control

So, the RHS have finally discovered what every gardener already knows: there are no completely effective ways to control slugs. In their trial on 108 lettuces, copper tape, grit, egg shells and sheep wool pellets had no discernable effect.

We have all tried all these things over the years, to greater or lesser effect. Some people swear by egg shells - assuming you have the time to wash and crush them, because rats adore egg white and if you don’t remove all traces of it from the shells, you will simply swap a small problem for a much bigger one.

Other folk swear by grit, which does work well on containers, but the first time you hoe around it in the border, it disappears into the soil. Wool pellets (assuming you can stop noticing the smell) work as long as there is a complete carpet around the plant, but this works on the assumption that there were no slugs inside the barrier when you laid it. If there were, then they can feast without fear of disturbance. You also have to remember that the barrier needs to be expanded as the plant grows, or else the leaves can arch down and touch the soil outside the barrier and render it useless.

Unfortunately, the RHS have adopted a stance that everything chemical is bad, so their test is based entirely on “natural” products. In this, they are being unfair to gardeners, because what they will not cover are those products that are also organic, but come in containers. They also give conflicting advice in warm weather by saying gardeners should water their plants in the evening, just as the slugs come out to feed. It is much better to water early in the morning, then when the slugs come out into the damp soil, the birds can pick them off for you.

The misconception that nothing that comes in a container is good means that gardeners are only being told half the story. Neudorff produce Sluggo® which is approved for organic gardeners by the Organic Farmers and Growers Association. It is suitable for use around edibles and children, pets, birds and wildlife may enter the treated area without the risk of poisoning.

If you are concerned about slug treatment being picked up by other animals, place it under a piece of broken terracotta pot (or similar curved cover) so only the slugs can get at it.

Next year, Neudorff will bring to market a nematode treatment against slugs to go with the award-winning ones they already have for chafer grubs, vine weevils and leatherjackets. These tiny eelworms can be applied in a watering can or a hose-end applicator and are entirely natural. They are host-specific, so will only target slugs, and their only requirements are a temperature of between 10 and 30C and regular watering to allow them to move around freely. As long as there are slugs to live on, the nematodes will seek them out, but once all the pests are gone, they will die off. See http://www.neudorff.co.uk/natural-garden-advice/biological-plant-protection.html for more information.

Similar nematodes are already available as Nemaslug from good garden centres or by mail order, as this product needs to be kept refrigerated and used quickly.

Whichever method of slug control you choose, from a torch and pair of scissors to a pack of nematodes, you will need to keep at it if you are ever going to win in this particular battle!

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