Permaculturing in Portugal

One family's attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way

Slugging it out

One of the main downsides to using mulch on beds is that it provides an optimum environment for the slugs. They can hide out beneath it during the heat of the day and stay cool and moist, venturing out at night to feast on whatever tender juicy young seedling has been planted through it. After 80% of my melon seedlings disappeared over the course of a week, I was looking for some good ideas to prevent them from doing quite so much damage.

First action was to plant double the number of seedlings than we actually require, so we can afford to lose a few.

Second was to go around doing a little weeding every afternoon, leaving a few leaves on the surface of the mulch to wilt in the sun on the principle that the slugs will go for local wilted vegetation before fresh foreign stuff. But the surface of the straw mulch dries to a prickly slug jungle during the day and I found that they won’t venture onto its surface.

Third was to try something I picked up from watching Emilia Hazelip’s A Fukuoka Inspired Permaculture Garden on YouTube. She used copper collars around vulnerable seedlings. I’d tried the copper approach before in Scotland, using copper tape round the borders of our raised beds. The theory behind this is that when slugs crawl onto copper, a reaction occurs between the copper and the slime. It creates an electric current, and they get a small shock. This discourages them from going further. It wasn’t entirely successful in Scotland as the adhesive started to fail after protracted periods of rain and invariably the slugs would find some way in onto the beds. But Hazelip’s idea had promise, not least because it involved much less copper tape than surrounding an entire bed. I had some tape left over from my Scottish experiments, so it was easy enough to try.

Copper slug tape round pak choi seedling

Copper slug tape round pak choi seedling

Score? Slugs 1, Wendy 0.

I think they probably managed to get in underneath the tape. It’s very light and consequently easy to move to force a way in. I am now going to try pushing the tape into the soil a little.

More natural slug control tips here.

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  1. JAIME April 18, 2011

    Slug it out! What a pest…try putting beer in a container covered with some kind of umbrella-like hood…bury it at ground level at strategic locations and fill it once it empties out. They LOVE the stuff…makes me wonder if WE did not evolve from slugs…LOL! Cheers!

  2. Quinta do Vale April 18, 2011

    The trouble with the beer trap is that it also catches the ground beetles that do a fair job of eating slugs – well, at least the little brown no-see-’em ones that do all the damage. I’ve yet to see a beetle tackle one of the giant black ones, but I mostly take care of them. Apparently it’s the yeast the slugs love, at least accordingly to that article I linked at the end. Hmmmm … wondering about sprinkling dried yeast around vulnerable seedlings, then slugs would eat yeast not seedlings. I wonder what happens to dried yeast once it gets into little slug tummies … I feel another experiment coming on …

  3. mike April 20, 2011

    i suppose you know this… plant something more attractive to them nearby, like fennel.

    anyway, intensive covering will give you better odds, overall. win some lose some

  4. Helen May 1, 2011

    I also failed with the copper but was then told to stick it firmly round the top of a cut off plastic container then push half the container into the soil. The slug then has to climb up and can’t get past the copper.
    The best method is bran and damp newspaper! The slugs fill up on bran (which also needs to be dampish) then sleep it off under the papers. Then you can pick them up and feed them to your hens or ducks. The only problem is this needs the paper checking everyday. My friend is organic but was allowed to use newspapers in this way because it works so well. Plain paper with out ink might be better if you can get some. Happy hunting!

  5. Quinta do Vale May 1, 2011

    Ah nice idea Helen! Checking paper is no real hassle since I’m already going out every night at the moment to pick them off the lettuces, having done with experimenting with another method. Someone told me that cucumber on aluminium works as a deterrent. Apparently the cucumber reacts with the metal and creates a smell that slugs find abhorrent. Apparently. I guess the slugs here haven’t read about that. They just ate the cucumber that was left after Nelly helped herself.

    Cucumber and aluminium slug deterrent ... not!

  6. Roger May 9, 2011

    Try crushed egg shells liberally scattered around the seedlings..
    Not sure if its the fell of the egg-shell or some chemical contained but they seem to work here in the UK.

  7. Quinta do Vale May 10, 2011

    Thanks Roger. Yes I heard that one. But with only two of us I think I’d probably need a year’s supply of eggshells to surround all our seedlings. Once I get the chicken coop finished and populated, that situation might change, but I finally found some bran and am going to try Helen’s method next.

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