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slug problem: Solutions ?

 
Lisa Safarik
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I'm wondering if one has some advice to offer for a viable solution to a serious slug population. 2 years ago beds were mulched (this year in particular the soil is gorgeous). I'm not sure if the slugs came with the straw or if they just love the straw, or, probably both. Needless to say they eat everything minus the herbs, prickly plants and the odd smokin hot pepper. Boy do they love the clover. Our chickens enjoyed hand-picked and served slugs last season -a lot of them- but a time-consuming back-breaking endeavour that doesn't feel good to do at all and didn't seem to help much. i guess their tag team approach works well for them. I am not necessarily looking for a quick fix here, but hesitate to let the chickens scratch everything down. I've tried the beer, egg shells and DE don't work on such a scale. How can I find some balance?
 
Su Ba
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Slugs have caused havoc on my place too. I found that wood ash, eggshells, and coffee grinds just don't work. I haven't tried DE because I get a tad of rain or heavy dew every night. Beer didn't work out because stray dogs drank it every night. So I resorted to Sluggo, iron phosphate. I also grow some plants, such as lettuce, up off the ground and thus away from slugs.

...Su Ba
www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
 
John Elliott
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Toads. Toads love to hop through the garden, swallowing slugs whole. During our extremely rainy July, every night was a cacophony of toad calls and my pond had hundreds of little tadpoles in it. I was finding toads and frogs everywhere. Funny thing is, now I'm hardly finding any slugs at all to feed to the chickens. Not nearly the number when I turn over their favorite boards to hide under.

If you make a shallow pond, just a few inches deep, maybe a concrete birdbath or a clay pot sunken flush with the ground, you can stock it with tadpoles from a local stream or pond. Make sure it doesn't dry out, filling it to the brim with non-chlorinated water (let any tap water sit for 2 days before adding it). Then you too can have little toadlets hopping through your garden.

A mosquito problem? Please, they last as long as popcorn at a crowded movie. The toads will spread out and occupy your garden, particularly if you have half-rotted half-logs or overturned clay pots or flat boards sitting on a couple of bricks strategically placed as toad abodes. Any toad you have in residence is a hundred less slugs in your garden.


 
Landon Sunrich
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Slugs. They never go away. I've tried many things. I have managed to mitigate the slug pressure in several ways.

1) Hunt them. Put them in a bucket to die. A sprinkle of salt or wood ash on the slug does kill them.
2) Get ducks. Run them around the patches you want to keep slug free. Use them as guard ducks.

Then again we don't have toads around here. The toads I know of are invasive.

Regarding mosquitoes: personally I would be slightly worried as temperature and moisture increase that they're might be a corresponding increase in range of several mosquito born illnesses including malaria. Mosquitoes lava don't like moving water, and mosquito flyers cant hack it in a good breeze. So avoid stagnant conditions and you wont have mosquitoes
 
Landon Sunrich
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I also think Su has the right Idea with growing the real tasty stuff like lettuce above ground (in an aquaponics system perhaps). Slugs climb. but at least they have to come out into the open to do it.

Also - look under and inside of lettuce leaves - slugs love the shady wet hiding spots. They will lay their eggs there
 
Su Ba
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We have a nasty slug transmitted disease here called Lung Rat disease. As a result, many gardeners and commercial growers are switching to above ground growing methods for foods that are eaten raw. Those systems include hydroponics and aquaponics. These systems are easier to make slug proof. I've also used table top gardens which are designed to prevent slugs from accessing the growing area. The simplest ones are four legged tables where the legs sit in a bowl of salt which is protected from the rain.

Our community garden uses Muscovy ducks to help control slugs, but we discovered that they won't eat the tiger slugs. What a pity, otherwise they would have been a good solution. So the volunteers there make slug baiting stations and use Sluggo.

...Su Ba
www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
 
Lisa Safarik
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Thanks a lot for your notes.

On picking:
I really haven't had any success after all the efforts of picking them off by hand, there are just too many and the garden is too big. I read somewhere recently that only 5% of your slug population is above ground at any given time.

On toads/frogs:
Do you think the toads/frogs would prefer to eat the valued inhabitants of your space more than the slugs? insects, spiders, worms etc.

On ducks:
I've always wondered if it is possible the ducks would bypass the tender plants, but Landon says run them around, do you mean fence/block them out of the beds? Is the idea that they keep the pop down or keep them from getting into the beds in the first place? I think all our beds are permeated with slugs...

I like the idea of raised beds with salty legs, for working in as well, but I'm hoping to work with what I've got at the moment. Maybe the ducks and toads/frogs can co-habit a water feature.
 
John Elliott
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On balance, toads eat far more nasties than they do beneficials. I still have plenty of spiders all through the garden and judging by the number of egg sacs, next year there is going to be a population explosion.

Another trick for trapping slugs is the rotted log method. If you have a chunk of well rotted log, like a good size piece of bark with most of the inner wood rotted away, this is a slug magnet. You can make it even more attractive to them by painting some sourdough starter on the underside. Slugs really have an appetite for yeast, and the reason beer traps work for slugs is that they are attracted to the brewing yeast scent. A rotted log trap can attract dozens of slugs overnight, and if you turn it over in the chicken coop, the slugs are gone in seconds.
 
Lisa Safarik
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Thanks John, that's really helpful on the toads. It never occurred to me. I will try that out in the spring. Looking forward to seeing them snatch mosquitoes like popcorn too. In the meantime, I'm going to find myself a bunch of rotted logs. Have you ever heard of slugs making chickens sick? Last summer they got a lot of them, all the ones we picked, and I wondered if it was a bit much.
 
John Elliott
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Lisa Safarik wrote:Thanks John, that's really helpful on the toads. It never occurred to me. I will try that out in the spring. Looking forward to seeing them snatch mosquitoes like popcorn too. In the meantime, I'm going to find myself a bunch of rotted logs. Have you ever heard of slugs making chickens sick? Last summer they got a lot of them, all the ones we picked, and I wondered if it was a bit much.


I've read where slugs can host an amoeba that is pathogenic to people, but I can't recall seeing where it is a problem with chickens. I'm sure some avian parasitologist could correct me, that there are all sorts of nasties that can make chickens sick, but I'm not seeing it. Whenever one of my rotted log traps fills up with slugs, it's buffet time for the chickens and they do seem to enjoy it.
 
mike williams
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John has the right idea. Toads are our friends. You need not be too close to water either. I fostered toad cultures simply by provideing toad habitat. Toads like to moderate their body temps. Hide in the shade during the day and hunt slugs at night. Leave a bowl of water out for them, put an old board that they can hide under and they'll move in if any are around. My little girls used to bring home toads to let go in the garden. They became permanent residents.
 
Akiva Silver
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This last year I mulched some pawpaw and mulberry seedlings in the nursery with sawdust after the slugs were decimating the little plants. I used fresh sawdust and it really did keep the slugs away for the rest of the season. It seems to be worth further experimenting.
 
Adam Klaus
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Beer!

Classic Beer Trap-
Slugs are attracted to beer. Set a small amount of beer in a shallow wide jar buried in the soil up to its neck. Slugs will crawl in and drown. Take the jar lid and prop it up with a small stick so rain won't dilute the beer. Leave space for slugs to enter the trap.

and you thought beer only served one purpose in the garden...
 
                                
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I have a lot of good luck with the "beer" traps, but beer is too expensive, so I make a bread yeast/sugar/water mixture to pour into buried small cottage cheese containers, buried so the rim is just a bit above soil level, filling them half full. 4 C water, 1 Tbsp bread yeast, 3 tsps. sugar, mix in an open container or it will explode. Let sit overnight, slosh it around a few times. Lots of critters love this mix, so they attract the good and the bad, but it does pay off. If it evaporates, just add more water. Empty and refill if more bugs than liquid.

We have lizards, so I leave logs around for them to hang out on, and puddled pieces of shade cloth (easy to move when mowing), they do a great job on lots of crawlies.

I also keep garbage cans of water around in various places so I can grab a bucketful at the last minute, and put the lid on upside down and askew so little tree frogs can go in and out. They eat the mosquito larvae and eat bugs as well.

It also really helps to walk out in the garden just after sunrise and catch them and the snails heading back to where they hide during the day.



 
John Elliott
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Biodiversity Gal wrote: pour into buried small cottage cheese containers, buried so the rim is just a bit above soil level, filling them half full.



No need to bury them, just cut a small window in the side of the container. That way you can keep the top on and only trap things that can climb up the side to get in -- like slugs and snails. Nothing more disgusting than a trap with lots of dead slugs floating in it -- although chickens seem to regard this as a gourmet soup.
 
Guy De Pompignac
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Start farming nematodes

Slugs are prey to not just frogs, hedgehogs and birds but microscopic bacteria and nematodes that live in soils. It’s these nematodes (microscopic eelworms) that gardeners have been buying as a form of biological control since the early Nineties. They really work on those slugs that you don’t tend to see, but which do a lot of damage to underground shoots and potatoes. In a garden, micro-predators live in symbiosis with their slug hosts and only significantly dent the population when slug numbers become disproportionately high.

The mail-order sachets of nematodes infected with deadly mollusc-killing bacteria temporarily raise the proportion of nematodes and brings down the slug population. I’ve been an advocate for years.

However, there is also an allotment-owner’s trick for making your own slug-killing nematode potion, using nothing more than a bucket, some weeds, tap water and the slugs from your own garden. If you are already used to killing slugs by drowning them in a bucket, you’ll find this method right up your street.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardeningequipment/8675592/The-war-on-slugs-starts-at-home.html
 
Jeff R Hodgins
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Anairobic leaf tea sludge with (nickel free) cast iron in it (if you have sulfur water it will work much better). One can put nasty leaves (leaves that you have noticed that the bug do not eat) in a large drum and ferment them for two weeks the liquid can be a stinky deeturent or if you use good leaves like Neem it is a chemichal weapon. The really good stuff is the sludge on the bottom the iron and sulfur combine to make iron sulfide witch kills slugs. You want to put the liquid on the leaves and the sludge on the ground because it will burn leaves. I have used this technique before but with lots of wood ash as a trace iron source and with garlig and neem. I had a lot of success especially with older batches that were aplied generously. I used it to control (Palomita blanka) parden my spanish it even seemed to control barinillo in my chiles.
 
Dave Miller
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I always take an old pair of scissors with me whenever I am in the yard. You can kill even tiny slugs which are way up on your plants. You don't have to cut them completely in half, any good wound seems to be fatal. If you are consistent it really does seem to make a big difference.
 
Brad Cloutier
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ducks or chickens if possible. you'll be blessed and so will your ducks/chickens
 
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