Monday, June 26, 2006

Slugs and snails. Like all gardeners, we’re not without our nocturnal slimy visitors. The Centre for Alternative Technology’s tipsheet on slugs says that, in their experience, “unfortunately there is no single magic formula that guarantees success” and that different approaches and combinations work best at different times.
Our number one method is to go out after dark with torches and pick up as many as we can find. Permaculture being about inputs and outputs, we tried feeding (inputting!) these undesirable outputs of our vegetable patch to our chicks. We started by giving the snails to our neighbour, Annike, for her chickens who only eat snails. Strange but true, we’ve found that our chicks only touch the slugs, so we share them out accordingly and Annike always tries to press eggs or lettuces on us in exchange. In addition to our night time sorties, we also check underneath stones and other such hiding places during the day.
We have also bought some nematodes to try. They cost £17/€25 (including p&p to France) to treat 40 square metres, must be used at one hit and provide cover only for six weeks. The economics must also be considered, however, and these sorts of expenditures could make our home-grown vegetables very expensive.
We’ve just started to free-range the chickens during the day and it has been a heart-warming site to see them thrashing through the undergrowth of hypericum on the bank adjoining the garden, frequently emerging excitedly with a slug in their mouths, which cuts out the middle-man!
One more thing we do is to disturb the soil around any plants that have been chomped. According to the CAT tipsheet, slugs and snails follow slime trails, so plants that have been attacked stay victims, often until completely devoured, even though plants wither side remain untouched.
This isn’t a scientific comparison, and so we can’t really say what’s most successful. We can, however, say that we noticed a distinct reduction in their population and the cultivation of soil around victim plants does seem to work: we’ve managed to save some plants, which we’d have otherwise lost and have gone on to completely recover.