Thursday, 19 June 2008

Slugs are on the march this year

Gardeners in the UK have been warned to expect an epidemic of slugs over the next few months. The wet and mild weather throughout spring has made perfect conditions to create 'the stuff of nightmares' for gardeners.

Experts claim there could be up to 200 slugs per cubic metre of soil, four times the usual amount, with each capable of eating double their weight in plants each day.

Slugs, which are impossible to eliminate completely, live below the soil surface all year round but are particularly active at this time of year.

They routinely frustrate us gardeners who have carefully nurtured plants under cover, only to see them eaten overnight when they are put in the ground.

The damp summer last year meant more than 70 per cent of UK gardeners had a serious problem with slugs. The early indications are that this summer will be even worse.

This year, the weather over spring has been mild with showers which creates the perfect moist conditions slugs do well in. We Canna enthusiasts have now got our plants growing outdoors, where they are targets for these menaces.It can be really disheartening when you've looked after your plants in pots for months only for them to vanish when you plant them out.

Not only are slugs unattractive, they can also do a huge amount of damage to your garden - they really are the stuff of gardeners' nightmares.'

The very best way to tackle slugs is to treat the ground just before putting the plants into the soil. Biological controls such as Nemaslug or Defenders Slug Control are one option. They work by releasing slugs' natural enemies into the soil and kill them underground.

Liquid concentrates work in the same way as traditional pellets, but are watered on as a liquid and are more likely to kill underground slugs than pellets.

Gardeners can also spray WD40 oil around pot plants or put copper around flower containers, as slugs hate it.

The alternative is the good, old slug pellet. Scatter metaldehyde slug pellets (Scotts Slug Clear Advanced Pellets, Bio Slug and Snail Killer Pellets, Gem Superslug Killer, Westland Slug Buster Pellets, Westland Slug Attack Mini-pellets, Doff Advanced Slug Killer or Doff Slugoids Slug Killer) thinly around vulnerable plants, such as seedlings and young shoots on herbaceous plants.

A liquid formulation of metaldehyde (Scotts Slug Clear) is available for watering on to ornamental plants and the soil.

However, be warned that pellets may harm other wildlife, pets and young children if eaten in quantity, although slug powders based on aluminium sulphate (such as Doff Slug Attack) are less toxic. A relatively new form of pelleted bait containing ferric phosphate (Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer) is also relatively non-toxic to vertebrate animals.

An alternative approach is to partly sink a jam jar, or similar, in the soil and add cheap beer. Slugs find this irresistible and drown in large numbers in the liquid. The author has a bad back and finds it just too demanding to consume the beer!

If you encounter slugs, but cannot bring yourself to squash them, then another less messy method is to apply some salt on them, which causes them to dry out and die. However, carrying a salt cellar around permanently can be an irritation, and others may find it just a touch eccentric!

Most Canna plants, once well-established, will generally tolerate slug damage and control measures can be discontinued.

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