Who is chewing all those ragged holes in the leaves of your beautiful plants? It could very well be garden slugs. Snails and slugs may be small but they are notorious garden pests.
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Garden slugs like to hide in dark, moist places during the day, and at night they crawl out of their hidey holes to munch on your plants or ripening vegetables. The evidence these night stalkers leave behind will tell you that snails and slugs are the culprit. They leave plants pockmarked with irregularly shaped holes and a silvery slime trail to show where they’ve been. Garden slugs will eat holes in ripening tomatoes and crawl right inside the fruit, giving you a nasty surprise when the tomato is harvested.
Garden slugs get a bad reputation but they do have some redeeming qualities. They are actually beneficial creatures who recycle organic matter and help build soil. Think of them as tiny slimy composters. Garden snails perform the same service; they’re just slugs who carry their homes around with them. Snails and slugs are also a food source for other wildlife such as birds, snakes, toads, small mammals and even fireflies.
But when snails and slugs cause damage to our plants or ripening vegetables, it’s time for them to go. There are a variety of products available that claim to eliminate slugs, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money on gizmos and concoctions to rid your garden of slugs.
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Snails and slugs thrive in moist, shady conditions. They like to hide under debris, under plants that offer the deep shade they love, and under logs or rock piles. To help prevent slug damage, water your garden in the morning so the plants are dry by evening when slugs are active.
You can also use their attraction to shade to trap garden slugs. Set out boards, shingles or damp newspaper in the garden overnight. The slugs will see these items as new places to hide. In the morning lift the boards or newspaper, collect the slugs that have gathered beneath it and drop them into a container of soapy water. Do this for several nights and the slug population will be significantly reduced.
Another simple way to eliminate snails and garden slugs is to use ordinary household ammonia. Add 2 ½ cups of ammonia to a gallon jug, then fill the jug with water. Spray this solution at dusk when the slugs are active. Be especially careful to spray under the leaves and on the ground beneath the plants where slugs hang out. If you’re using boards or damp newspapers to catch slugs you can also spray this solution on the slugs that have gathered there to hide overnight. The spray will kill slugs on contact, and since ammonia is a source of nitrogen the spray will also give your plants a little boost. When spraying the ammonia solution, be careful to not get it in your eyes.
Snails and slugs are both rather delicate and they don’t like to crawl on surfaces that will scratch their tender hides. Collect eggshells and dry them well, then crush the eggshells and apply the broken bits in a strip around your tasty plants. Garden slugs won’t want to crawl across this barrier and will go elsewhere to feed.