Gardening: Don’t become sluggish about handling a slug problem

Slugs are the bane of most gardeners. They thrive in the wet, cool and humid weather that has plagued Central Alberta this summer. It has been the perfect weather for these garden pests to multiply and eat their way through many gardens

When the weather is hot and dry slugs hide in damp areas such as under logs, under plants that are touching the ground, cracks and crevices and in lawns. Anywhere that is cool or damp.

According to Cornwall University Grey Garden Slugs has an average life span of 13 months. Slugs can overwinter in the ground in a protected location but often only the eggs survive which is why adult slugs are rarely seen in the spring. Locally, slugs burrow into the ground, hide under leaves and other debris that will provide winter protection but unless there is an early heavy snow fall that stays most do not survive.

Slugs are hermaphrodites, contain both male and female organ. Some types of slugs can produce eggs without mating but most often two slugs are needed.

Each slug will lay between eight and 60 eggs at one time. Over the course of the creature’s life they average between 300 and 600 eggs.

Eggs that overwinter hatch in the spring and the miniature slugs are called nenates. Given warm, humid conditions, they grow into juveniles and then adults ready to mate and lay eggs.

One of the best ways to reduce the slug population is to have a clean garden. Do not leave a pile of weeds or leaves in the garden that will harbour slugs. Keep a strip of soil between the grass and the garden free of all plants. Dry soil is often a barrier that slugs will not cross.

When watering, deep water and then let the soil dry before watering again.

During the day slugs can be found in moist wet areas such as under fallen plants or ground covers. Removing and disposing of the pests is very effective.

Place old untreated pieces of wood around the garden and remove the slugs each morning helps deplete the population.

Slug eggs are small gelatinous balls that are very resilient and will withstand heat and cold. When found, they should be crushed or placed in the garbage.

Commercial Slug bait that contains either Iron Phosphate or Sodium Ferric EDTA have both proven to be effective. While both main ingredients occur naturally when slugs ingest them in larger quantities they die.

Diatomaceous Earth kills slugs by cutting their stomachs as they cross the sharp sand.

Read and follow the instructions on all pesticide packages before using the product.

There are other different home remedies for getting rid of slugs. Some will work a bit while others not at all.

Do not sprinkle salt on slugs as they will produce a foam or slime and shrug the salt off. The same is true with vinegar and other substances.

Slugs are attracted by the smell of beer but unless they fall into the beer and drown they will not die. If the container is too shallow, they drink and leave.

Crushed egg shells and sea shells would work similar to Diatomaceous Earth if they could be ground small enough with sharp enough edges.

As eggs continue to hatch all summer, it is necessary to bait, trap or remove them all season.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com

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