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Joined: Tue May 12, 2015 8:23 pm
Location: Labrador City, NL, Canada

Slug Control in Vegetable Gardens

Im sure Im not the only dealing with this issue. SLUGS! Its been about 6 weeks now, and they are absolutely everywhere. There in my tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli... even inside my damn greenhouse crawling on the walls, and obviously on the plants in the greenhouse.

Im looking for sure fire ways to kill them... aside from laying the useless pellets that evidently do very little, besides get wet and grow mould on the soil. Here's what I have tried and does not work:

1. Copper tape- useless! I may as well put in a 4 lane highway for them to zip across. I have literally captured slugs and placed them on the copper tape (4 inch wide). Yeah it does nothing. FAIL!

2. Iron Phosphate Pellets- may have killed some, over the course of a month, but I seen no difference even after applying them for 2 weeks every two days. Eventually the damn pellets got wet and the cabbage leaves covered them, and mould started growing in that area. I placed a few slugs in a mason jar with a cabbage leave and some pellets (SLUGGO, not cheap either). I turned off the lights in the shed for three days. YUP... slugs still moving. To me this is a FAIL!

3. Beer Traps- If i had to compare the number slugs i can remove manually each night, over the course of a week, and compare it to the 16 beer traps I placed in the cabbage garden, I would say its a ratio of 1:100, Beer Traps: Manual Removal. Not too mention expensive. FAIL!

4. Fire/ Flame/ Extreme Heat: Takes about 5 seconds and they pop. Works like a charm, too bad it kills the damn plant also. FAIL!

5. Salt: Takes about 60 seconds to completely destroy the slug. Extremely cheap. About $1.00/ Kg. Also kills the plants. FAIL!

6. Manual Removal: Literally means waiting until almost dark to spend a good hour examining every leaf for slugs and removing them and placing them in a solution o f water and ammonia. PASS! Too bad it takes an hour every single night for almost 6 weeks. Meaning Ive spent over 40 hours picking slugs in my garden this year so far. To me thats a FAIL! That almost two full days picking slugs. Cant get that time back. And I'm not done yet.... so it may as well be two full days.

7. Egg shells/ coffe grains/: Useless. Ive sprinkled coffee on them, and nothing happened. it flinched and kept going it merry way. Coffee is a FAIL. Egg shells did nothing. They just slimed their way over the top of them. Eggshells are a FAIL!

I know everyone raves that these methods work great online, but in reality Ive tried these and to me they are useless methods. I can easily pick 20-30 slugs every night form the garden. I may cancel vegetable gardening and just harvest slugs. Id make a killing at it.

My question is not how to kill slugs. I know the bottom of my shoe is no match for them!

Q1: How do I prevent them? How do I destroy the eggs so that they are not back next year?

Q2: A chemical mixture of 1 part water: 10 parts Ammonia, with some dish soapworts wonders in the bucket I throw them in. Can I put this in a spray bottle and spray the soil (under cabbage leaves) where they hide? Can I spray the plant leaves the slugs are on with out damaging the plant? Will spraying the soil help kill the eggs? If I spray the soils, will this destroy the plants roots?

Q3: What about a mixture of bleach and water? I know it kills the slugs but will it damage the plants?

Q4: Does sawdust actually work? Or will I just have another mould problem once it gets wet?

I hate sounding so negative toward these methods that so many swear by as surefire ways to rid yourself of slugs... but they don't work. Manual removal with a sewing needle is the easiest and cleaned method so far for me. But its so time consuming. Not too mention, i don't see and end to it. seems like they just keep on coming.

If I were able to keep the cabbage leaves off the ground I believe that would help a lot. The leaves provide a home for the slugs.

I've also thought of trying to design a hoop house with a sealed bottom and a plastic covering to keep the soil dry. I would also put an inch of sand over the entire surface. But how do I water the plants then? The cabbage need a good bit of water. A drip watering system build into the tunnels?

Im open to suggestions. Im just very intolerant to these damn slugs.

Will nematodes do anything to them in the soil. Ive sprayed a lot of nematodes in the past two days. Will it kill the slug eggs?

If I could buy a pesticide that would destroy them right now... I would. Im fed up picking slugs every night, only to see just as many the next night.

I appreciate any responses that other members have.

How do commercial cabbage farmers control these things? I doubt they are laying beer traps each night, or hand picking them each night.

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Re: Slug Control in Vegetable Gardens

Several years ago, I was dealing with massive numbers -- I was joking that I can make it rain -- it seemed like every time I collected a 100 of them, it started to rain. (I use a container of weakly soapy water and pour in the compost pile when they are dead) that year, I did get the smallest bag of organic slug control (like Sluggo, but I think Espoma brand) and used it when my frustration level demanded alternate solution/control. I also left out scooped out citrus rinds -- lemon, orange, grapefruit -- as bait-stations where I could pick up slugs.

These last couple of years, I still get them, but not as much as before. I routinely look for them and pick them off and pick them up, but don't feel the need to actively seek them out... Looking at my sweet potato photos, the holes in the leaves makes it obvious I do still have them, though.

But I'm not sure if I can tell you how the numbers have been reduced....

First of all, I was going to say, "Weren't you going to try using beneficial/predatory nematodes?" ...then saw you mentioned them. I am pretty certain they DO prey on slug eggs and newly hatched slug babies, so you may see some results from this treatment. Find out and be sure you are not using any control measures that will kill the nematodes. I think often, people end up eliminating the predators that would have helped to control the pests.

-- I haven't applied any additional predatory nematodes in ages, but I'm pretty sure they are part of my garden's soil foodweb. I don't use any chemical control in my garden and try to encourage and promote biodiversity in my Garden Patrol.

So, I also have ground beetles and have found firefly pupae in my garden soil, and they both prey on slugs. (Less adult fireflies showed up this year and yet another summer drought will not improve their numbers... )

I have watched grackles marching around the garden paths, flicking mulch away and plucking and eating, and sometimes they are eating cutworms, but more often, I believe they are eating slugs and snails.

I have always tolerated and encouraged moles and they prefer earthworms, grubs, and cutworms, but I hear they also eat slugs.

Lots of frogs are showing up in the garden -- some are species I didn't have before , and some are actually growing up in my new pond. I hear more often that TOADS eat slugs, but I'm not sure if I have toads. I did see a mature Green Frog with slug slime in the corner of its mouth, so they eat slugs, too.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

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Re: Slug Control in Vegetable Gardens

One other thing, be careful HOW you use BAIT type control. The bait ATTRACTS them -- some people have said beer bait will DRAW slugs from hundreds of feet away. So you don't want to put the bait under the cabbage -- put it a little distance AWAY.

I would sprinkle the Sluggo along the outside of the raised bed frame, and put down the beer traps on the path or on the other end of the yard from your garden beds.

If I'm not mistaken...somewhere in our archives, Scott, the original Helpful Gardener joked that the best way to use beer slug traps is by convincing your NEIGHBORS to use them.

BTW -- back around when I was having so much trouble with slugs, my neighbor on one side had a landscaper put in a beautiful foundation bed with a neat row of hostas. -Hostas are slug magnets- I think that year, they had a contract with this landscaper to maintain the bed and yard. I did not see significant slug damage on their hosta garden. ---ergo, maybe they DID use some kind of bait/poison and managed to draw off the slugs and kill a bunch of them.... :twisted:
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

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Re: Slug Control in Vegetable Gardens

Beer traps never worked for me very well. This year I tried the iron phosphate pellets. I think they probably reduced the numbers some, but definitely didn't eliminate them.

Things that have been most helpful for me are laying a board flat on the ground next to where you are seeing the slug damage. Come back in the heat of the day the next day and you may find a bunch of them hiding on the underside of the board. Also diatomaceous earth sprinkled on and around your plants. None of these is perfect (the diatomaceous earth has to be re-applied after rain, but since we are in extreme drought, this is a good time to use it), but they help keep the levels manageable.
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Senior Member
Posts: 132
Joined: Tue May 12, 2015 8:23 pm
Location: Labrador City, NL, Canada

Re: Slug Control in Vegetable Gardens

I appreciate the patients you all have with my frustration! LOL... I actually woke up this morning and realized I was dreaming about slugs all last night. They are the focus of my attention as of late.

Where ever I laid out the iron phosphate pellets, mould appeared shortly after a few rainfalls on the pellets. The SLUGGO pellets did not do this. I believe I used a brand called "Safer" at first.

I was considering the car battery method... with completely covered beds. But then I realized the problem is really inside the raised bed. They have to be laying eggs and multipling inside the bed. The soil in my greenhouse is from the outside garden as well. So Im thinking thats why they are inside my greenhouse.... slug eggs hatching.. more being laid... etc etc. etc.

I would like to say they are not really causing me much problem aside from on the cabbage. They've pretty much well destroyed my dreams of cabbage rolls from those huge leaves on the heads of cabbage. It just doesn't look appetizing with all the holes in them.

I did spray the nematodes, but it hasn't been a week yet since the spraying. And the evening temperatures are getting down to 10 celsius this past week. Hopefully they are able to kill some of the slug eggs. I should be able to get 9 heads of cabbage this year. 3 that are probably about 8-10 inches, and 6 or so that are about 6-7 inches. Which is plenty!

I've collected 3 already that are about 6 inches. As I cut the stem I noticed some root maggot. Nematodes can hopefully get rid of this. I also noticed that I need to peel off a few layers of leaves in order to get rid of the one or two slugs that made there way between the leaves at the base of the plant. My only fear is giving the cabbage away and someone cutting the cabbage and discovering a slug in the base of the plant. I peeled off about 2-3 layers of leaves and found nothing. So Im hoping that should be good.

I have another question but will need to post pics in a different topic. Hopefully you guys tell me its nothing to worry about! LOL.

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Re: Slug Control in Vegetable Gardens

Like beer, the iron phosphate pellets attract the slugs. So the best way that I have found to use them is to scratch them into the top couple of inches of soil, before planting the greens. This does seem to help a lot with my greens, which I plant in a long double row in spring and fall, then cover with a very thin Agribon, mainly to protect against rabbits - their worst pest around here. One season I forgot to put the sluggo in, and the seedlings were severely damaged by the slugs. I usually don't even remove the cover for a few weeks, so I don't even see any slugs, but that spring, I could see the damaged leaves through the fabric. Fortunately, applying it late helped them recover. Usually, when I remove the fabric about 3 weeks after planting the seedlings there is no sign of slug damage; later on I see a few holes here and there, but that's after there is a huge number of leaves, and I don't bother with another application, since it is past the rainy season, and I don't see too many slugs.

Slugs are also attracted to basil, and even find mine up on my deck, so I always put some sluggo in those windowsill boxes.

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Re: Slug Control in Vegetable Gardens

I have chronic snail problems so I know exactly how you feel. It has been raining lately so it has gotten worse. Not to mention the monster weeds in my yard gives them lots of hiding places.

Slug bait actually does work but you have to apply it once every two weeks, not every two days for two weeks.
It is true the bait attracts as well as kills. You don't need a lot of bait but it has to be spread around as slugs and snails do not travel in a straight line and will not go out of their way to eat the slug bait. II think it was like a tablespoon per square yard for heavy infestations. However, birds love sluggo and will eat it all up, so you do need to put sluggo down after the birds have gone to roost. It will take months of regular snail bait to get them under control. Control will be the best you can do since elimination would take years. You would still have to bait the perimeter to keep them from coming in from other properties.
Slugs and snails hatch out just about every two weeks. Snails once mated can lay 40-60 eggs in a cluster. Snail bait does not kill eggs so you have to keep applying to reduce the numbers that are reproducing. In times of drought snail eggs will remain dormant (up to 2 years) and will hatch when it starts raining.

Other things that do work
Beer traps need to be set and cleaned daily

Hand picking - It works and it makes you feel like you are doing something.

Sanitation. Clean every thing out and find their hiding places. They like to hide under debris, on the sides of pots and under tables and they really like to go into the pot drain holes during the day and feed on the roots. Line the pots with window screen.

You can control snail on a bench if it is not up against anything they can climb or touch like leaves of another plant. Copper banding can work on the bench. It assumes you have gotten all of the slugs and snails off the bench and out of the pots.

Chickens and toads eat slugs and snails
If you want to encourage toads you cannot use slug bait because apparently it does kill them.
Hens make good pets and they do eat slugs, snails, and other bugs and critters in the garden. They also love seedlings, especially lettuce so you have to watch them and cage the plants you don't want them to get into. Birds poop and eat at the same time. You don't want to eat bird poop on your veggies - you have to make a choice here. Around ornamentals, it depends ,they like some plants and leave others alone. Don't get a rooster- they crow at all hours of the day and night and they roam. Hens stay put.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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