Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Gardening

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Gardening

Article excerpt

UNSURPRISINGLY, given the amount of rain we had last year, slugs and snails were the UK's most troublesome garden pest of 2007, according to the Royal Horticultural Society, just beating the recently established harlequin ladybird.

Over the years, many of us have tried all sorts of preventative methods to stop slugs and snails, from placing mulches of sharp grit, eggshells, crushed oyster shells and lime around vulnerable plants such as hostas, to a variety of slug pellets, beer and grapefruit traps.

But one of the best ways to stop slugs and snails is to pick them off by hand after a downpour, often in the evening when they are most active, sometimes by torchlight. They do their worst during mild wet weather in spring and autumn.

If slugs and snails are particularly rampant in your area, it may be worth putting young leafy plants, which these pests love, in pots and placing the pots on either metal stands which slugs have trouble climbing, or putting copper strips around the pots to deter them. The copper contains a minute electrical charge to deter the slug or snail.

Each slug or snail produces around 500 offspring every season, with the majority of eggs being laid in the summer and autumn.

You need to start control methods from early spring. Firstly, ensure your garden is tidy and free of plant debris where slugs and snails may congregate. Any cultivation of the soil will help to disturb slugs and may bring them to the surface, where they can be eaten by predators. Surround raised beds with grass or slabs, as slugs don't like travelling over open ground.

Encourage predators such as hedgehogs, frogs and toads into your garden by leaving a patch of wild area or installing a small pond. You can also encourage snail-eating birds such as thrushes into your garden by planting shrubs and trees which bear berries and create a nesting area.

Slugs love young tender shoots and are particularly fond of newly emerging delphiniums, lupins and peonies.

You could try protecting young plants by cutting a serrated collar from a plastic bottle and placing it around the base of the plant. …

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