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What are slug/snail predators and how can I encourage them in my garden?  RSS feed

 
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I live in the cool, moist, coastal pacific northwest. Our soil is rich and filled with wonderful creepies and crawlies and anything that doesn't require lots of heat or sun grows like gangbusters. However, we also have an outlandish slug/snail population. It is something that everyone I know who gardens/farms in this area deals with continually and the only solution that anyone has come up with all agree works is Sluggo, which is a bummer because you have to buy it, regularly apply it, dispose of the plastic container, and wonder constantly about what's really in it and how it really affects your soil long term. We are bouncing around the idea of ducks but who knows when/if that will happen, but more and more I've been wondering about inviting in wild predators.
Do any of you know what eats slugs in this part of the world? What can I do to make my place more hospitable to them?
Thanks as always
 
gardener
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Sprinkling some ground eggshells around can really help deter them. I think it can be more effective when ground into teeny bits (think ground pepper from a pepper mill size pieces) rather than just crushing eggshells into small pieces that are sunflower seed and larger size. Some methods are making a ring of eggshell around the base of the plant. If you raise chickens and eat eggs regularly like I do, it doesn't take long to amass pint and quart mason jars full of eggshell for use in the garden.

Another technique I've read about is using sawdust as it seems to work based on the principle of acting like a desiccant and drying them out similar to salt. The downside is, especially in the pacific northwest, is it soaks up rain and dew therefore becoming useless as a slug deterrent.
 
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Location: Tecate, Baja California
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I also think that crushed eggshells are a good deterrent. Like James said, make sure they're ground into a fine material or else they'll just go right over them. This video shows that slugs prefer soil over crushed eggshells most of the time.



Also, I had a garden where my neighbor's hungry chickens would sneak in and surprise, they took care of all the slugs and even the snails! Although they did decimate my garden they got the job done without me realizing it. I looked online and some people don't recommend this so, I think that ducks could be your best bet.
 
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Egg shells never did much for us.
I've read a few times of using copper or zinc strips as a slug barrier, more often copper. We've yet to try this in our garden.

Garter snakes and toads are known to be predators of slugs, we keep our garden pretty toad friendly with some cool dark hidey holes around the perimeter.
Our ducks love slugs and chickens get trained to eat them by cutting them up first, they don't like the slime on their beak, unfortunately both our ducks and chickens decimate our pea plants.
 
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stephen lowe wrote:I live in the cool, moist, coastal pacific northwest. Our soil is rich and filled with wonderful creepies and crawlies and anything that doesn't require lots of heat or sun grows like gangbusters. However, we also have an outlandish slug/snail population. It is something that everyone I know who gardens/farms in this area deals with continually and the only solution that anyone has come up with all agree works is Sluggo, which is a bummer because you have to buy it, regularly apply it, dispose of the plastic container, and wonder constantly about what's really in it and how it really affects your soil long term. We are bouncing around the idea of ducks but who knows when/if that will happen, but more and more I've been wondering about inviting in wild predators.
Do any of you know what eats slugs in this part of the world? What can I do to make my place more hospitable to them?
Thanks as always



There are salamanders in my garden and they seem to be interested in the local slugs, although I'm not sure they're making much of a dent in the population. But if you create more ideal conditions (a small pond, some nice rocks etc), you might be able to attract a greater amount. As far as deterrence goes, I've found that they don't like crossing mounds of coffee grit, and ground nutmeg or ginger also seem to protect plants to some extent.
 
pollinator
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Ducks are the best! I am not allowed to have ducks though. I hand picked many snails from our garden. It dramatically decreased their numbers and eliminated the invincible ones (the ones that are really big with a very thick shell, so thick that it wouldn't break when I jumped on it). I no longer hand pick them because snail-predator population caught up with the snail population and now I believe it is in balance. The only maintenance work I do, is to walk around the garden when I come home as I always do (like 8-9pm), throw snails to the stone path, crush them and leave them be. At night time snail predators and other critters stop by for an easy meal. By providing easy meal to beetles, snail eating snails, snail eating slugs, mites, the over all predator population increased. When the sun comes up it dries whatever is left and lizards love it. Or ants. Usually it takes only one night and a day for only broken shells are what are left behind. I know it is not sightly, but I didn't need to hand pick snails in the last 2-3 years (except the ones destined for koi). Sometimes vegetable beds are targeted by snails, all I do is to crush couple of snails (not more than 10 in total) for a period of 4-5 days to "invite" predators. Usually problem gets resolved in a week and so I can plant lettuce. Another thing is that snails check crushed snails and they themselves get targeted by predators (especially Oxychilus genus like to hunt this way wiki).
So in short, provide an easy meal for predators!
Hope it helps
Ps: Hedgehogs also drop by to check beetles that are feasting on crushed snails. So that is how I control beetle population ;)
 
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Velacreations the web name of a member here, Abe Connolly is his name, I think.
He has used quail to fight pests in his caged raised beds.
They even reverted to sitting on their own eggs!

If I where to use ducks, I would choose runners because they are less dependent on water, or muscovy for their quietness.
 
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Location: Fryslân, Netherlands
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I believe voles can be good slug predators, although involuntarily, because slugs are not what they like to eat. Voles' populations can explode in mild winters, food can get very scarce and then not much is safe for them. Voles are always digging away just under the surface, and what I would like to know if they actually eat eggs of slugs as well, so that slugs don't even have a chance of appearing.
What is certain is that I have many voles and related creatures in my garden, and I have zero slugs. On my allotment, a mile further on, they are a pest. There are mice there, too, but only a few. A friend of mine, who also has a lot of rats and mice around, also has no slugs. I'm not saying you should like voles, they do damage to some garden plants as well, but I believe we could see them in a more positive light than we usually do. Voles also protect our song- and meadow birds by being the first draw of attention for birds of prey, thus keeping them from nest poaching. I don't think you can be attracting a large number of voles - if you even would want that - without being in control of a wider bit of landscape. 
We do have other predators around that are a threat to slugs, like ducks, moorhens, coots and thrushes, to name some of the more common ones. But I see those birds as well in places which are still slug-infested. These wild birds that come and go will pick up a few slugs here and there rather than decimate their number.

But it does happen to be that my garden with no slugs, and also the gardens of this friend of mine with no slugs, are in an area where the ground water level is kept very high to keep the soil moist, and this can also have led to the slugs' death. When the ground water level is higher, creatures that live in the soil move higher as well, and become an easier prey for birds. A moist soil will make it also easier for birds' beaks to penetrate the soil and dig up prey, and predator birds will be naturally attracted to those moist areas.

So I can't be sure what the main reason is I have no slugs in my garden; is it the voles or the birds aided by the high water level?

Of course I also observe that in a garden with open, dry bits as well as shady, more moist bits the slugs will inhabit the moist bits, but I think it would be a mistake to think that by eliminating moisture you can eliminate slugs. Slugs will always find places to hide, and a dry, hard soil protects them from predators as well, and I see very wet areas with no slugs.   
 
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Oh, my goodness. Near and dear to my heart!

Here is what I have found works, kinda, after a decade growing food here on the Olympic Peninsula and on the eastside out by Kent (soggy boggy, anyone?)

Also - CHEAP. I hate having to buy stuff.

Our approach is multi pronged:

1) Fence the garden (ours is around 1000 sq feet - with an extra bump out for raspberries and strawberries)
2) Spend the money and time building up incredibly rich, diverse, amazingly nutritious soil. (This is key)
3) NO SHEET MULCHING - no lasagna gardening. (Sorry, die hards). It just proliferates slugs like mad. Also - NO black plastic. I learned the hard way on that one. So....no melons for us!
4) NO BURLAP OF ANY KIND ANYWHERE. Not on walkways, not on beds. Nowhere.
5) Till up walkways and put down wood chips and/or hog fuel. Build up beds so they hill up out of the walkways. A good thick layer, every year. This spring I laid down 6 inches. It's barely enough.
6) Spend time making the habitat around the garden snake and frog friendly. Fun places to hide, sticks, berms made out of fallen scotchbroom, etc.
7) We run ducks and chickens around the perimeter of the garden  - the chickens are in runs and the ducks free range. They get all the nasty buggies just by dibbling and scratching.
And last - soaker hoses or drip tape in the beds. I over head water when I'm getting seedlings going and them switch to soaker hoses. Maybe next year I'll invest in drip tape, but so far the soakers are holding up well. This prohibits weeds growing in pathways by overhead watering and saves water.

Our only expenditures every year are wood chips (if I can't find them for free), seeds and starts, and compost, if I can't get enough going from our gardens. The initial expenditure was big for hoses and fencing and chicken runs, etc, and many years I completely screwed it up, but I figure the time passes anyways - we just keep building as we go. Also spreading all those wood chips every year really helps my waistline. Like, I can actually see it now. So that's a cool bonus.

Good luck!
 
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