Monday, 2 May 2016

Slug wars

Slug Wars

Last year we have a slug problem they devoured a huge amount. This year I thought I'd sow so much more, with the theory being the slugs could have a third of it. 

Last night was the first warm night, around 11 deg C of the year and this morning young tomatoes and cucumbers that have been planted in the poly-tunnel have either gone totally or have leaves missing and are covered in slime.

Courgettes I potted up yesterday and left on the floor of the poly tunnel over night have already started losing leaves.

The pots I can move onto a table, but the ones outside under a cloche are devastated.  

Luckily slugs don't like onions, or so I keep reading. If you enlarge the photo by clicking on it there is slime all over the soil and half a row of spring onions are almost totally eaten, even the tops of larger ones show damage.
There are a few beer traps in the poly tunnel and although they have the odd slug in them they aren't working. Perhaps slugs don't like Carling Black Label.

In the courgette bed outside there are 8 beer traps and they have caught one slug last night.

Today, I have just ordered some Slug Nematode. They are expensive and we have too much growing space to use everywhere but I will try some in the poly tunnel.

We have to get on top of this problem because there are only so many pots and so much space to keep plants in pots until they are big enough to face slugs....and I have already reached that point where some things could do with going out.

A row of peas sown direct have also been eaten by slugs just as they poked their heads above the soil and another row of peas that were raised indoors and then transplanted out have now lost most of their lower leaves. Last year virtually all Runner and French beans were eaten.

There are also news stories about slugs being worse this year as the winter wasn't cold enough for them to hibernate causing them to carry on eating and breeding through the winter....


  1. I feel for you. I think ninja slugs might have munched on a few of the seedlings in my greenhouse. It's heartbreaking to see your efforts vanish into thin air.

    I have to admit this is the one area where I'm not organic / green. Herbicides no, pesticides no with one exception. The greenhouse and my seedling area next to the house are kept slug free at all costs, including the dreaded pellets. Established plants can look after themselves, but a slug attack can be death for a seedling, and as you say it just happens over night.

    Have you completed ruled out non-organic pellets, even in confined areas like the polytunnel? I always feel bad about using them and try to keep it to a minimum (seedling protection only), but they're cheaper than nematodes and are mostly effective.

    1. I used organic slug pellets on a wild flower bed this time last year. They worked but only for 1 week. A whole packet of them on 1 bed, £8 worth. At that rate Nematodes would be cheaper.

      At present have ruled out non-organic slug pellets for various reasons. One being that we sell some veg as "grown without chemicals". How ever, if Nematodes don't work for the Poly tunnel and one other bed I will have to re-evaluate for next year because last year was a big problem and this year has started bad.

      I forget the exact figures but in one bed last year I put out 30/40 runner bean plants grown in greenhouse and all got eaten. They were replaced with 30/40 sown direct - all got eaten. As well as, 40 french beans grown in green house, put out, all eaten, replaced by another 40 odd sown direct, all got eaten, followed by another 40 direct sown they all got eaten. That bed was empty last year.

    2. I wonder what really counts as without chemicals. If they never even touch the plant do they count? If not, then your neighbour using slug pellets on the other side of the fence might stop you making the claim.

    3. I'm surrounded by fields and one neighbour who has a small garden and wouldn't doesn't use chemicals in that way but it's a good point.

      I don't think we have any absolute control like that, and for me it is simply the fact that we don't put any chemicals down.

      I think everyone would fail your point, even if it is the chemicals in the air, trace amounts in tap water and leaching from plastic containers etc.

      "Organic" products that you buy have chemicals added sometimes or even often. They are allowed to added certain chemicals to keep them able to trade, such as using chemicals to fight potato blight in a bad year.

      For me grown without chemicals is a statement of effort and intent rather than absolute because as you say there is no way I could be certain.

      I'm also at the bottom of a hill, do I get run off from the water that falls on to the farmers field even though there is a dyke between us? Probably in the water table. I'm next to a road, what runs down my drive way and into the edge of the field?

    4. And of course many soils have quite high lead levels due to historical emissions, especially in towns and near busy roads. That lead isn't great for people and isn't going anywhere soon, but is normally not counted since the land owner isn't responsible for it being there.

  2. Got the same problem in my polytunnel. Courgettes all gone and loads of my mint cuttings that had just started to grow are gone too. Just tried vermiculite in the pots to put them off a little. Had a big clear out under pots and found some enormous slugs. I keep on top of snails that are easy to find on the inside of the polytunnel.

    1. Disheartening isn't it. Were your pots on the ground or on a shelf? or were these planted into the ground?