Slug damage on Big Mama Tomato

We were warned that this would in all likelihood be The Year Of The Garden Pest. The warners were right. It is. Stink bugs, rabbits, deer, ground hogs, voracious caterpillars of all varieties, blister beetles, (aptly named; their squashed bodies can bring up a good-sized blister, even through your pants), Japanese beetles, Mexican bean beetles, harlequin beetles and more. It’s a pest convention out there.
Slug trap to which you add beer

Slugs in particular have been my bane this year; I’ve never seen so many. And such climbers!  I find them sliming their way up the fence pickets, along the pathway, in the straw mulch, and especially over the tomatoes, peppers, and cukes where they methodically drill holes into the now-slimy produce.

In general, I’m a believer in tithing to the critters – both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ – as I think the variety keeps the garden in balance, ecologically speaking. I’m assuming Nature knows way more than I about what kinds of many-layered webs make the enterprise truly healthy and ultimately sustainable. And having gardened and researched for decades (where’d the time go?), I’ve also seen a lot of change. What were once expert absolutes about how we should be gardening have been changed more than once over the years, so I’m a bit jaded.
Slug tavern with all the drunken slugs

Because I have so many things for them to eat, birds of all kinds share the space, which usually keeps the insect population down to a dull roar, but the pestiferous bugs are getting ahead of their useful (to me) predators this year. My big gripe is that as far as I can tell, the birds won’t touch the slugs, which eat everything. Not that I blame the birds. Slugs are revolting. They’re squishy, which makes them tough to kill.  Trying to squash them with a booted foot simply mashes them back into the soil whence they came.

Some people sprinkle them with salt, but I’m not keen on adding even a small amount of sodium chloride to the garden; it could potentially destroy some of the things I want. For years, people have advised: Set out pans of beer, which attracts them (yes) and drowns them (no).  A pan of beer is actually a slug tavern. They come in, drink themselves silly, lie around looking drowned but in fact are drunk out of their tiny gourds. When they sober up, (if you haven’t done anything else to actually get rid of them), they ooze off again to go back to work drilling slimy holes in my produce. I only hope they have massive hangovers. Incidentally, slugs can apparently survive being drowned for 48 hours in a bucket of water as well, something I tried with a drunken collection.
The only thing that’s worked for me – though I haven’t tried a number of the suggestions on the website I’ve added below – is the garden knife. I keep it in hand and slice the slugs in half and leave ‘em to decompose and add to the nutrient buffet. Time-consuming and fiddly, but brutishly satisfying. 

7 Comments on “Slugfest

  1. This post makes me smile. Having just started my garden again after Winter, I found i have so many snails and slugs. I love that feeling of crushing them under my boot.

  2. That tomato looks like my last batch. No way am I wasting my Heineken on some stupid slugs though : )

  3. I've found hand-picking while wearing a headlamp to be the most effective. It's time consuming, but you get the satisfaction of pulling dozens to hundreds of slugs. Do it a couple nights in a row and you can really see the effect. Definitely use gloves and place them in a 3/4 full jar of water with a tad of dish soap added. When you're done, top the jar off with water, put on the lid, shake it up, and they'll all be dead in the morning.

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