My Tokyo bekana seedlings – obliterated. English spinach – decapitated. Golden Detroit beetroot - annihilated. The culprit – slugs. A few weeks worth of persistently wet weather is all it takes for the spineless little buggers to defy my pest control efforts and wreak absolute havoc in the vegie garden. They hide under cool mulch during the day then come out at night and do their wicked deeds. Even the most determined organic gardener can have trouble keeping them in check.
To be honest, the best control measure for slugs I've ever seen was a rogue cane toad that survived the warmish winter of 2010 to become grotesquely fat on a diet of gastropods during the drought breaking summer of 2011. As soon as we dispatched the toad with a tomato stake to the head, the slugs returned. Now, thanks to a couple of bumper wet seasons they are in plague proportions.
I'm not about to throw open the gates to every cane toad in the district lest they assume plague proportions as well, so I've tried other control measures. Coffee grounds were next to useless in the rain. Gravel barriers had no effect. Copper tape was impractical. Ducks aren't a realistic option in my vegie patch. As for those traps designed to drown the slugs – in my experience they never caught very many and just seemed like a waste of good beer.
So I've resorted to good old snail and slug pellets. While technically not Certified Organic, there is one widely available pellet brand on the market approved as an input for organic gardens and farms. The formulation is based on iron EDTA complex. This is non-toxic to pets and children, breaks down harmlessly to iron, a natural soil mineral, but is lethal to slugs and snails. During wet weather a few determined slugs still manage to find the odd seedling, but the pellets greatly reduce the problem.
What I'm really hanging out for is a decent run of fine weather. It's cooled off appreciably at my place and I've got full rainwater tanks. If we can get some clear days, not only will I be able to replace all the seedlings knocked off by the slugs, but I may actually get some other crops in the ground to boot. Bring on the glorious autumn sunshine.
Photo by Hans Splinter via flickr.com.
By: Justin Russell
First published: March 2012