Photo by Andrew Larsen
I Hate Slugs!
Why do I hate Slugs? They are vile, ugly, slimy, gross, disgusting. Did I say vile? I wrote this article last August and put it away since it did not seem as pertinent at the end of summer.
Guess what? Baby slugs have returned this June. AND you know what that means? Giant zombie slugs by summer’s end! They were at least 4 inches last summer. I swear.
Slugs. Even the name is not pretty, and nor is the creature. Slugs like moist environments. Being a younger gardener, I have never heard of them. The master gardeners warned me that all that straw I was using as mulch would attract them. Being defiant I wanted to keep my straw.
Every organic book I read talked about using 6 to 8 inches of straw as mulch. I decided those master gardeners were not “organic” enough. They obviously didn’t know about Ruth Stout, the mulch queen, who used straw.
I just blew off their comments.
Slugs in the Garden.
Last August, one night, my husband was down in the garden and saw a brown spotted slimy thing on the wall. Of course, he did not remove it. When I went down, it was gone. I figured that it left or was eaten by something. Nothing to worry about, I thought.
Photo by Melanie Burger
Well, the proverbial shoe dropped, and my luck ran out.
One late night, as I was checking something in the garden, I reached my hand into the strawberry patch. I touched something so disgusting, I just shudder when I think of it. I hate to wear gardening gloves since I can’t feel as easy with them on.
Not even thinking, I instinct grabbed “it” with my bare hands and threw it on the ground. I let out a shriek that I can’t believe no one heard me.
There it was on the ground. The MOST disgusting creature I have ever seen. Long, spotted, slimy, and no redeeming features PLUS I had slime all over my hands. (Take a look at the picture above, and tell me if I am being a Drama Queen.)
Since I am a kind soul, I put on my gloves and scooped it up and took it far away from my garden. I just did not have the heart to kill it. For fifteen minute, I struggled to remove the slime off my hands. Just to get the picture, anything your kids have done that you have cleaned up, just does not compare to this slime.
The next day I did some research about slugs to find out that they appear, when they mate and how they mate. (You really do not want to read about this because it is just plain disgusting), In fact, a single slug can produce 300 eggs. I was doomed. My garden is surrounded by boulders, with cracks and crevices for the slugs to hide in.
Slug Hunting Begins
That night my husband and I were armed with flash lights and started combing the garden. All we were missing was camouflage gear and paint. Why? Slugs come out at night. I thought I would find just a few.
Oh no, we found at least 20 of them with probably an army hiding in the rocks near my garden.
Everywhere we turned there was a slug. The first few we gingerly carried into the woods, hoping the slugs would be someone’s meal just as nature intended. After the second trip to the woods, we decided this was silly.
I remember reading that you can kill them by drowning them in soapy water. My husband fetched a pail and dumped our organic dishwashing soap into the bucket. All of my “nature intended these creatures to live” sensibilities went out the window when it was me against them and they were sucking the juices out of my strawberries.
We started picking up these creatures and dumping them into the pail. They would stay there for awhile and then TRY TO CRAWL OUT. I was even more GROSSED Out when I had to knock them back into the water.
Was it our organic soap? Was it too mild? So much for lack of chemicals.
We dumped more soap into the pail and continue the hunt for the slime ones with our flashlights. Every time I saw one, I would shriek at the top of my voice, “One at ten o’clock! I found one at ten o’clock!”
My husband would calmly tell me to pick it up and put it in the pail. This continued for at least five sightings where I got more and more disgusted. Finally he turned to me exasperated, and said, “the whole neighborhood can hear you screaming. Just pick it up and put it in the pail!”
I was psychotic by that time. They were still coming out of the pail.We kept dumping more and more organic soap into the pail. We contemplated bleach thinking that would really kill them. (If I am thinking bleach, you know how crazed I was.)
This adventure ranks up there with the scene in the movie, Willard, when all the rats would come out of nowhere and attack. I became obsessed with these slugs. They were on the brick walls, under bushes, and in plain sight. After three hours and 25 slugs, he said it was late, and time to go to bed. I could not stop until there were no visible slugs around. I finished around 12:30 that night.
I winched when I ate French fries the next day remembering the awful last night.
I donned by slug gear, and went out again without my hunter partner and picked up 6 more slugs.
The next day I did some research on how to kill and/or deter these slugs? I felt like I had an angel on one shoulder, saying “don’t kill them. Nature created these creatures as part of its cycle.” And a devil on the other shoulder saying, “they are disgusting, what are waiting for. They are vile.”
I questioned everyone looking for the perfect slug remedy.
While talking with Dr. Hepperly of the Rodale Institute about the benefits of coffee grounds in the garden, our conversation turned to slugs. (I told you I was obsessed. No perhaps, deranged by that point.)
He was “googling” and found that rosemary was a companion plant that discourages slugs. The thought of planting rosemary all around my large garden was not encouraging.
He also suggested ducks. Can you rent a duck? This would be the most natural way to get rid of them. Do ducks go out at night? What a cheap date that would be?
Some people suggested use coffee around the plants since they don’t like it. I found a research study that spoke about how 2% caffeine solution acting as a repellent and toxicant with slugs and snails. It further noted, “Caffeine solutions as low as 0.01% applied to cabbage significantly reduced slug feeding.”
Eileen from the Rodale Institute told me to use sand around the rocks where they hide since they don’t like to cross over gritty surfaces.
I even ran across a “Slug and Snail” website. (Sometimes, a girl has to do what a girl needs to do.) Matthew, the author developed this site based upon his notes at a seminar entitled “101 ways to rid your garden of slugs and snails” presented by Kingston Maurward College. (Hmm, a 101 ways…)
This June, I found tiny brown and off-white slugs on my broccoli. In the meantime, I put coffee grounds around the plants and will be handing the Sluggo to hubby to put around the rocks. Let him do the dirty work.
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So, how do you deal with slugs?
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