The rain and cool temperatures of this Pacific Northwest summer have delighted at least one of its residents: the slug. These slimy creatures are members of the class Gastropoda, which in Greek translates to “stomach foot.” How appropriate.
Gastropods characteristically have a soft body with a fleshy, muscular “foot” that allows them to slink and slime their way through the garden, and even up into containers. On top of this foot resides most of its digestive organs, and at the head of this garden beast is a rasping tongue used to scrape up food.
And here is where the story turns a bit sour. That rasping tongue scrapes away plant leaves, leaving holes on your hostas, and devouring calibrachoa leaves down to the stem. It’s frustrating for gardeners, but the slug plays an important role in our soil food web, breaking down decay and “releasing” it back into the soil in a chemical form available to plants as nutrients. But what is to be done to keep the damage to a minimum?
My method is to grab a mug of tea at dusk, gather gloves and a compost bag, and pick them off of my plants. I also add diatomaceous earth around prized plants. The slugs don’t like to cross the sharp edges of the soil additive, so it protects the plants. I also will put Sluggo in my containers (when I remember!)
Wondering what others are doing to keep the damage to a dull roar, we posed the question to our Instagram followers. Here is some of their good advice:
* Scatter eggshells around plants that slugs love to eat. Not only do the sharp edges of the shell deter the slug, but the eggshells add calcium to the soil. A win-win for sure.
* Slug Keggers: these slime balls love their beer. Put out small jars of beer and the slugs just can’t resist; they crawl in and drink themselves to the death.
* Ducks enjoy snacking on slugs, but our customer cautioned that she had to deal with “too much duck doodoo.” But I think it’s a pretty fun, and awfully cute option.
* Copper tape around planter pots. There is a chemical reaction when the slug encounters copper, and they will avoid crossing it.
* A spray solution of diluted ammonia and water. It kills the slug, but could damage plants, so use caution.
* Get your kids involved. Grab some jars and go on a slug hunt. Our customer @Hydejenna says, “My kids have been slug collectors this year! They have been interested in all things bug!”
* Sluggo, a bait that slugs ingest that kills them quickly, is safe to use around pets.
Whatever method of control you choose, just remember that those slimy creatures do have a beneficial role to play in the soil cycle. It makes you feel a little better when you encounter a hole on your hosta.