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House & Garden

Slugs and Snails By Pippa Greenwood This is the time of year when you’re likely to start to notice the presence of slugs and snails in your garden, greenhouse, coldframe, window box....indeed just about everywhere. It never ceases to amaze me how much damage something as small as a slug can do and in such a short space of time. But then the truth of it is, there is never just one slug or one snail, you can always be sure that there will be hoards of them. I garden on clay and our soil is alkaline and so we have a plentiful supply of snails; if you garden on an acidic soil you will generally find that snails are not a problem as they need the calcium to make their shells. To say that they infuriate me would be an understatement, but the type I hate most are those small grey-black keeled slugs that do such a lot of damage to crops such as potatoes. I garden without chemicals so there is no question of using pellets, but I have tried pretty well every other trick in the book.

remember to put a complete circle around the base of the plant, not just a ring or the slugs may simply come up inside the ring and of course check it regularly, replenishing the material as necessary. So before they start to really get a hold, show them who is boss, and take action straight away:

• Encourage wildlife such as ground beetles, birds and hedgehogs I use the biological control nematode Phasmarhabdites hermaphrodita. Although quite • Create barriers around particularly expensive it works brilliantly against slugs and susceptible plants. poses no environmental problems. If you time • Buy or make slug traps. the applications so that the crops, flowers or • If growing potatoes concentrate on earlies other plants are protected while they are at and lift these as soon as possible, and grow their most vulnerable, then it shouldn’t be too varieties that show some resistance to much of an outlay. attack. Slug and snail traps also work well, whether you • Use the biological control as a soil drench to buy your own ‘Slug Pubs’ or make them by control slugs (not snails) plunging plastic beakers into the soil close to • Attach copper strip around the circumference susceptible plants and then part filling them of pots containing slug susceptible plants. with beer. I once did a mini trial on Gardeners’ • Go on night-time slug and snail hunts. Question Time to see which beers slugs and • In late autumn collect up snails from their snails liked best, and Guinness came out hibernating places. tops....with alcohol-free lager proving least popular! I also find that stale milk works well and if you add a small quantity of grain or porridge oats to the liquid, the pests come in at Visit Pippa’s website and make Veg Growing Easy. Just select the an amazing rate. Make sure that you leave a vegetables you’d like to grow and you’ll receive centimetre or so of the rim of the beaker protruding above the soil level so that beneficial garden ready veg plants PLUS every week Pippa emails you hints, tips and advice about your creatures such as ground beetles don’t fall in. If you create barriers around plants this can help, but I find it less reliable. My preferred materials are coco-shell, pine needles and crushed shells. But whatever you use do

chosen veg. From just £39 for up to 66 gardenready plants, 6 packets of seed and the weekly emails. Pippa’s website now also offers a great selection of growing frames, cloches, raised bed kits and biological controls.


The Ashtead & Leatherhead Local  

Issue 78, Febuary 2012. Never underestimate the importance of community.