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.
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.