Garden Lore – slugs, snails and baits

“Not all slugs cause damage to your garden. The great grey slug is relatively harmless to your precious vegetables and flowers because it generally eats fungi and rotted vegetable matter and even its other, less welcome cousins. The European black slug has as many as 25,000 teeth. Although it will eat your prized plants, it serves a more welcoming purpose by devouring dog and cat poo and turning it into fertilizer.”

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac by Niall Edworthy (2006).

I do not know if we have the great grey slug in New Zealand, maybe not – though it sounds similar to the large tiger slug that we have a-plenty.

Slug bait is not fertiliser

Slug bait is not fertiliser

While out and about garden visiting this week, I came across this little scene. I photographed it for Mark in the first instance because he has long railed against the practice of using slug bait like fertiliser. But it is a good example and time to remind readers again – slug baits have an attractant in them so you do not need to lay entire carpets of bait in the hope that slugs and snails will trip over one.

It is a poison and will find its way into the food chain so do not be lulled into a false sense of security when the packet tells you it is safe for animals and birds. It also needs to be reapplied after rain. Rather than shaking the box to scatter pellets, keep a pair of disposable gloves with the slug bait box. Tip some pellets in one hand and place 2 or 3 pellets by affected plants (Mark would tell you that a single bait is all you need). Cheaper, more environmentally friendly, better for the birds and more pleasing aesthetically.

Or try little bait stations in badly affected areas – a milk bottle lid filled with a few baits and a cover to keep it dry. We use old paua shells. Note: just three baits to this bait station.

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5 thoughts on “Garden Lore – slugs, snails and baits

  1. Vaughan Gallavan

    Good advise on the slug bait front. I hope lots of people get the message to go easy on the bait. I have some small slugs that clean the algae from my poly-tunnel but curiously leave my magnolias alone.

  2. John Kingdon

    I recently blogged the same advice and got called “parsimonious”. Another option is a liberal sprinkling of sugar. It rots their teeth and with over 20,000 of them they’ll spend all summer at the dentist :)

  3. William

    People are stupid and should not be entrusted with any kind of chemical, albeit poisons or anything else; they always use too much of everything – make-up, perfume, washing-up liquid, detergent, rinse cycle liquid, sugar, salt, bleach(!)[bleach should be banned as a consumer product as the chlorine readily evaporates and takes up to fifty years to cycle through the atmosphere with dire consequences for the ozone layer.].

    Regarding snails and slugs, I choose not to use baits and poisons as we have quite a lot of several different species of both snails and slugs while only ONE species is a nuisance. Poison would indiscriminately kill all of them!
    That one species is the infamous invasive Spanish slug (Arion vulgaris), which quickly numbers in the hundreds and then in thousands if not kept in check. My method of abatement is strictly physical in that I simply stomp on them during evening strolls around the yard. On a large estate, that’s not feasible, but neither is spreading poison everywhere causing considerable collateral damage. Unfortunately, there are no natural predators to the Spanish slug save one, badgers! But then people complain about having a badger in the garden,,,

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      We lack badgers in New Zealand though we were fascinated to see a badger set in Tom Hudson’s garden in Cornwall. I have oft lamented the failure of our early settler forbears to spend the long sea journey over killing off the slugs and snails that hitched a ride on the plant material they carried with them. We could have done without those imports in this isolated country of ours.

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