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what do slugs NOT eat?

 
Leigh Tate
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I've had minor slug damage in the past, but this year we seem to have had a slug population explosion. I transplanted something like 150 lettuce, broccoli, and collard seedlings, only to have the majority of them completely demolished by slugs. In assessing the damage, I noted that the beds that had wood chip mulch were untouched, whereas the beds with leaf mulch were heavily damaged. A closer look revealed dozens and dozens (and dozens) of tiny quarter-inch baby slugs nestled in every nook and cranny of the leaf mulch.

I put out some beer and yeast traps as an experiment, and they do seem to work--not perfectly--but I think I may be able to salvage the new transplants. The problem is that most of my beds were mulched with leaves for over-wintering, but now I need to get them planted and I'm obviously concerned. I'll continue with the traps, but also think I need a more integrated approach if I'm not going to lose most of my garden to slugs. I know folks have success with ducks, but we're duckless at the moment, so that will take some planning and coordinating, i.e. it's a future solution. I need a plan I can begin to implement now.

Another thing I noticed, was that the slugs have left the horseradish alone, and while I found them on the chicory and volunteer violets, they haven't done much damage. Which leads to my question:

What do slugs NOT eat?

I'm turning to all of you observant gardeners out there - in your experience, what do slugs seem to leave alone? If I can combine your observations with slug traps, garden bed clean-up, and a change of mulch, hopefully, I can get a harvest this year.
 
randal cranor
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Howdy,
I don't remember where I read it, but my slug deterrent over the years has been crushed egg shells. Slugs can't handle the sharp edges. I was having a real hard time in my strawberry patch, heavily multched. I just threw crushed egg shells in there and for years now I get gallons of strawberries and very few slugs. Any where I am mulching in my garden I throw crushed egg shells. This seems to work for me, and my friends LOVE my strawberries...
IMG_2910.JPG
my egg shell crusher
my egg shell crusher
IMG_2911.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_2911.JPG]
 
Leigh Tate
author & gardener
Posts: 1598
Location: Southeastern U.S. - Zone 7b
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Thanks Randal! I'll add that to my integrated plan.
 
T Simpson
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Cut blackberry vines or other pointy plants also work, maybe burn the ends though so prevent any cuttings from taking root.
 
R. Han
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I have childhood memories that strawberries that were surrounded by parsley were not eaten by the slugs.
 
Leigh Tate
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Parsley! Thank you R!

T, that would be some pretty prickly mulch!
 
Nancy Reading
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I've not convinced that slug traps do much more than make you feel you're getting revenge on the little blighters.  Getting some sort of balance and creating the right environment for slug predators would be the optimum solution.  Amphibians such as frogs and toads are one group that are supposed to eat them, as are ground beetles.  One thing I wonder whether would work is sunken beds around vulnerable crops, so that beetles fall in and are less able to get out, sort of like reverse raised beds with edges.  I have to say I haven't tried it yet though.  
When I first came here I had a lot of trouble with slugs, almost everything I sowed was eaten.  The things I found helped was transplanting strong little plants, rather than sowing direct.  Tasty plants such as cucubits can be protected with a little collar in the form of a cut down plant pot.  Here is a picture of some results of my trial of defences using lupins as a sacrificial bait.  



The full test is here.  You can see the eggshells were not effective at all in the long term for me despite a really thick layer, but a barrier, even without copper tape was reasonably effective.

These days I seem to have a better balance with the slugs, although that might be because I sow far fewer seeds outside these days, and slugs are less of a problem in the drier polytunnel.  It would be interesting to repeat the lupin experiment now though....

As far as plants that slugs dislike as opposed to ones they like, their tastes unfortunately coincide with ours.  I don't think they like tomatoes, or most herbs. I wonder whether my interest in perennial vegetables was partly inspired by trying to get a headstart on the slugs - since the plants are bigger, or grow away faster, the slugs seem to affect them less than poor little seedlings
 
Leigh Tate
author & gardener
Posts: 1598
Location: Southeastern U.S. - Zone 7b
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Nancy, so far they have left my tomatoes alone! The collard seedlings though, even with the traps and cutworm collars are still targets. I'll have to try making some out of plant pots. Maybe taller and sturdier would help. The beer and yeast traps seem to help, but I reckon there are just too many of them.

With other critters, we've noticed that populations can fluctuate significantly from year to year. One year, we were inundated with spiders. We don't mind spiders, but repeatedly walking into face-first into webs gets annoying. The next year, hardly any spiders. I don't know if it will be the same with slugs.

I'll have to add a few toad habitats to the garden too. In fact, I think there's a badge bit for that!

 
Douglas Alpenstock
pollinator
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If eggshells work, I wonder if the crushed oyster shells sold in giant bags for chickens would do the same job. Hmmm...
 
Leigh Tate
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:If eggshells work, I wonder if the crushed oyster shells sold in giant bags for chickens would do the same job. Hmmm...


Do these have sharp edges? I never buy these because I feed my crushed eggshells back to my chickens. I am going to try some in my strawberry bed, however. I know what doesn't work for slugs - diatomaceous earth. They didn't like getting sprinkled with it, but it didn't stop them.

Douglas, if you experiment, let us know what happens!
 
Paul Eusey
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:If eggshells work, I wonder if the crushed oyster shells sold in giant bags for chickens would do the same job. Hmmm...



Yes, crushed oyster shells work just as well as crushed egg shells (and so does saw dust)... Anything that is in particle form and will stick to the bottom of the slug or snail, it’s kinda like a tire spinning in mud, little to no traction, much harder to move. They hate that.

I like sawdust paths in the garden. Slugs and snails hate it, the sawdust decomposes and eventually becomes soil (after serving to deter slugs and snails). Sawdust is cheap and easy to get...

I also love copper. Slugs and snails hate copper, but if you use it, it needs to be wide enough that they can’t arch over it (2+ inches wide).

Slugs and snails will often over winter in leaf debris, so it’s better to compost the leaves and mulch with wood chips or organic straw and stuff less likely to have them hidden inside.

I was watching a video where a farmer swears by daikon radishes and uses them in his cover crop mix. He said it leaves a nice deep narrow hole, breaks up hard soil compaction, and kills slugs and snails. He pulled a big ol daikon out of the ground, it was about 26 inches long and he pointed to the skin on it where a slug had noshed on it a bit. He said the outer skin on the daikon is sweet and mild and exactly what slugs and snails love to eat, but right under it is the inside of the radish which is very high in sulfur and when the slug or snails gets into that part, it kills them. And he zoomed in on the shallow spot where the slug had munched and then stopped eating.

Now I haven’t confirmed his claim, but I am planning on testing that out. The daikons were doing a great job as part of the cover crop, and he was just leaving it all in and doing no till planting on top after rolling it all, and then using a seed drill.

So you might want to consider growing a little patch of daikon to see if it does indeed kill slugs and snails. If it doesn’t work, they are still pretty tasty and nice for salads or pickles and what not. I doubt I could find that video again, but it was an interesting little tidbit that might yield something cool.

Good luck!

 
Dj Cox
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Paul, I pulled 37 baby slugs off a daikon plant last night. I also have a large patch of it that I think has been acting as a large breeding site for them. The slugs have been migrating from that patch into my young greens. I'm at my wits end on dealing with these slugs. Right now, I have been watering in the evening every other night to help draw them out of the ground and then I hunt them all for about 2 hours in the early night. I'm also using Sluggo. I live in the Pacific Northwest and I just can't catch a break with these things. I'm also putting out fresh crushed greens in the paths to help bait them for easier murdering. I haven't tried placing pots around the young plants yet. I'm hoping that the slugs will be less of a problem next year if I do some serious slug killing in the fall. Otherwise, I might just quit planting annuals all together.
 
Sonya Noum
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What they LOVE : most baby plants, anything cabbagey, spinach, cucurbits when they are young enough to nibble at the stems and chop them off just below anything that can regrow. Also squashes that sit on the ground in wet weather.

What they dislike : tomatoes, & probably other solinaceae

What they don't seem to be keen on :  things with red leaves, like beetroot, red lettuce (not crazy about lettuce anyway unless it's a tiny baby), alliums, radishes...

Peas seem to please snails more. Not sure about beans.

I used to have trouble with slugs, things seem to have calmed down, maybe because I use less leaf mulch, maybe because my soil has changed, maybe because the climate's drier ?

Still, I sow everything in pots and only plant it out when it's big enough to cope with slugs.

When the pots are outside, I put them up in the air (more difficult to smell for slugs) on metal grills or metal tables. They virtually never climb up those.

I no longer really bother with eggshells, nettles, etc, too fiddly and not really efficaceous enough, except that I put a litle collar of cat's fur felt (that's what I've got, sheep's wool is supposed to work, too) around the lower stems of cucurbits, cabbage family (notably Oleracea) and anything else I think might get damaged when I plant it out.

I have a cold frame on the ground, which I only ever use for tomatoes. This year I've put some grass trimmings in there to ferment and warm it for warmer nights, I've put some flower seeds & stuff in there and so far the slugs seem to be unwilling to tackle the fermenting grass (but it's been very dry so not a very good test).

I also vertically garden, which helps, and am going to look into making a strawberry tower this year, in the hope of getting more strawberries for me and sharing less with whatever wildlife eats them (even the blackbirds stay mostly on the ground).

 
Crt Jakhel
pollinator
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In my not very systematic experience slugs have a much lesser appetite for things that are purple instead of green. Ie. red cabbage, certain red-colored lettuce and amaranth varieties, etc.
 
Anita Martin
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Leigh Tate wrote: know what doesn't work for slugs - diatomaceous earth. They didn't like getting sprinkled with it, but it didn't stop them.


DE in the garden is a bad idea, as it will indiscriminately kill any insect that comes close and you will lose lots of beneficial wildlife.

What works in my garden:
Swiss chards (also spinach, hardly any damage), beets, onion family; for peas and beans I have to watch out when they are small. Cucurbits are the most endangered plants, cruciferous (like pak choy, cime di rapa) come next.
I am breeding a salad (in the third generation now) that is apparently not very appetizing for slugs, so I will stick with it.

Regarding solanacea like tomatoes: In bad periods slugs will nibble leaves and fruit. Even worse with egg plants, last year I was not able to harvest.
Peppers are also in danger in wet spells.

All in all, I am keeping up with them now - mostly - I encourage a diverse habitat, I do have leopard slugs and bugs, and I go out on damp evenings to mechanically reduce slugs.
 
Ben Zumeta
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Our NW CA native banana slugs eat everything, living or dead, but redwood. Undoubtedly they have co-evolved. First of all, redwood is almost impossible for anything to digest on its own (no single insect, mite or fungus species can kill it, but it also supports more diverse soil life than any other plant), and it can make more chemical compounds than an acre or diverse wildflowers can combined. From the banana slugs’ perspective, it provides more biomass/food in its understory than any other plant could, as well as shade and moisture (trees condense 2x the precipitation they consume, or more). So banana slugs eating redwood would be like going to an all inclusive resort in paradise and eating the buildings.

I would bet western red cedar has a similar relationship to banana slugs farther north in the pacific NW, and that european slugs have a similar relationship to climax canopy trees from their native environs. Slug manure is undoubtedly good for soil fertility, and I would speculate slugs are evolved to do a weed and feed service for the canopy trees that provide them shade, shelter and moisture. Not really a solution, but the predators that also get shelter, shade and water from these forests when undisturbed would keep them in balance. I would lean into slug predator habitat, look on the fertile side that they are at least leaving rich manure behind, and realize that our “pests” exist because we give them habitat and often fail to allow their predators to keep up by intervening in a way that knocks down their population more than the pests’.
 
Paul Eusey
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Dj Cox wrote:Paul, I pulled 37 baby slugs off a daikon plant last night. I also have a large patch of it that I think has been acting as a large breeding site for them. The slugs have been migrating from that patch into my young greens. I'm at my wits end on dealing with these slugs. Right now, I have been watering in the evening every other night to help draw them out of the ground and then I hunt them all for about 2 hours in the early night. I'm also using Sluggo. I live in the Pacific Northwest and I just can't catch a break with these things. I'm also putting out fresh crushed greens in the paths to help bait them for easier murdering. I haven't tried placing pots around the young plants yet. I'm hoping that the slugs will be less of a problem next year if I do some serious slug killing in the fall. Otherwise, I might just quit planting annuals all together.



That farmer in the video said that slugs and snails liked to eat Daikon, but once they chew through the sweet mild skin on the root and they actually ate the inside of the root, that the high sulfur content killed them. I have no doubt that they love to eat the tops and the root skin, I’m just wanting to confirm whether or not they die after eating the inside of the daikon root. Perhaps that farmer is totally mistaken, but I thought it was interesting and worth testing for myself. Also, some soils are higher in sulfur than others. The sweetest onions are grown in soil with very little to no sulfur. So everything is relative and local.

I grew up on an organic farm on Orcas Island in the PNW and with sawdust on the paths between garden/crop beds, garter snakes, beetles, and other slug and snail eating critters, slugs and snails were never a problem.

I highly recommend not using the Sluggo or any other iron phosphate slug and snail killers. The iron phosphate by itself isn’t toxic to anything, (including slugs and snails), they all add EDTA to it to make it toxic and in turn, it also makes it toxic to dogs, cats, birds, earth worms, etc.

Here is one of many websites to read about it (and a Google search can lead you to many more).

https://www.loghouseplants.com/blogs/greengardening/2015/11/we-need-safer-slug-baits/

Not everyone can have or wants to raise birds to help out with keeping slugs and snails in check (a garden duck is awesome and they don’t tear up the plants like chickens). But there are many other techniques and methods that can help make it much easier and far more manageable. The above link I shared covers a few methods.

There are many other sites that cover other control methods. Kill boards in and around your garden are easy and can serve as something to step on if things get muddy in the rain. Spray bottles with soap, salt, instant coffee can be handy and wipe out the tiny ones really fast. Beer traps work, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc. Also, not having anything but kill boards to hide under. No leaf mulch, etc.

Good Luck!
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