There has been a lot in the press recently about the massive population explosion of slugs. Blamed largely on the very damp weather last year (perfect for slugs and snails to breed and eat!) followed by the warmest winter on record (perfect for slugs to continue eating and then start breeding earlier than usual and ensuring that snails hibernated for a shorter time than usual). It is a problem that is already making itself felt in most of our gardens up and down the country.
So what can be done now?
Start by looking out for the eggs. Slug and snail eggs are almost always found in clumps, the individual eggs being perfect spheres 1-2mm in diameter and usually clear or slightly opaque yellowish white. Sometimes they are just beneath the soil surface so you may find them as you weed or transplant, but they are often nestles in hollows in the soil surface or sheltered by organic mulches. I recommend gardening with a bucket by your side then you can collect them up and put them on the bird table before they hatch. You can also try collecting up as many adults as you can, this is likely to be particularly successful if you go out on a damp evening! But with the frightening statistic that there is an average of 200 slugs per average cubic meter of garden soil, even a few bucketfull’s may not make a big difference!!
If you are planting out annual flowers, new herbaceous plants or vegetable plants they will be very susceptible to attack. If they’re being grown in a raised bed or container then, as long as you know that there are no slugs or eggs in the compost (ie that it is fresh, bagged compost) then it is definitely worth using sticky-backed copper tape around the rim or edge of the container or bed as this is an amazingly effective way to prevent slugs and snails reaching the plants. If the bed or container may already have slugs in it, then treat with Nemaslug and then install the copper tape.
Drenching the soil or compost with nematode control Nemaslug (available to buy online) is really effective too and it is totally safe for wildlife, pest and humans. I use this on the vegetable plot and sometimes on flowerbeds too and find it a real situation-saver when growing potatoes. All too often the tubers are wrecked by the tiny keeled slug tunnelling into them, sometimes rendering much of the crop useless in the process. But, if you apply the nematode drench to moist soil about six weeks before the anticipated harvest date, you’ll find the tubers are near perfect.