Mountaineering molluscs

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Slugs and snails. They are the bane of my life right now.  A week or more of wet, miserable weather has enabled them to slide wherever they like. They’ve emerged from hiding in the thick, dark, sheltering foliage of things like bergenia, shasta daisies and carex and are everywhere. You can’t walk up the path without crunching them (well that is a few fewer I suppose!).

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I daren’t plant out my climbing and runner beans yet, even thought they really, really need to be out of their modules and in the ground. The supports are all in place, waiting. But the beans would all be gone the next day. It has happened more than once before. I grow extras to prepare for losing a few plants, but couldn’t cope with losing the whole lot.

I can’t put in the sunflowers yet. They are getting so tall in their pots that they are a continuous wind hazard, falling over so easily. I will need to stake them with canes when I plant them out, but canes are like magnets to slugs. Canes are such a doddle to scale, if you are a snail!

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All my lovely blooms are being shredding and devoured. It is tragic. The meadow flowers that I sowed a few weeks ago are now gone. (I’d been so pleased with the hundreds of little seedlings that germinated within days of sowing!) I’ve lost my monarda and aster divisions, which were in pots by the greenhouse. The new hosta I bought three weeks ago has been eaten to soil level. Where are the thrushes? I haven’t seen any in the garden this year come to think about it.

Alas, there is not very much that I can do about the molluscs, because the garden is surrounded by agricultural ditches and hedgerows. They are inevitable. I’ve tried sand, egg shells, grit, wool pellets with no success. I run daily snail hunts in the greenhouse. To a certain extent I garden relying on the dry East Anglian summers.

Today I am going to order nematodes to tackle the problem in the raised vegetable beds. I know that the slugs will still emerge from the surrounding grass and wooden sides of the beds though, so I will have to treat more than the planting area. I’ll report back on the success or failure of this experiment, but has anyone else got experience of using them?

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Meanwhile, I am desperately waiting for this afternoon, or maybe it will be tomorrow, when the sun is supposed to finally make it’s June appearance. Hopefully, all those damp surfaces will dry off quickly and the slugs will go back to having to make a big effort to move away from those dark damp hidey holes.

 

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About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
This entry was posted in The home garden, Wildlife and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Mountaineering molluscs

  1. Sam says:

    I feel your pain. This week’s wet weather has brought whole armies of slugs and snails out here. I was pulling little snails off the stems of my long-awaited Allium sphaerocephalon yesterday – three stems had been munched right through and the flower buds toppled. Arrgghh. I’ve taken to stomping on them in fury rather than lobbing them over the hedge (I know they come back but it takes them a while…). Good luck with the nematodes.

    • So the nematodes are ordered. I hope that they come soon. Meanwhile I too am stepping on snails I’ve found munching, but I can’t bring myself to do the same with the slugs. They are too massive! Sorry about your drumsticks, that happens here too and it is so frustrating.

      • Sam says:

        I’ve lost at least 5 sunflowers too – munched right through the stems. Curses!

      • I am so sorry to hear that. One of my sunflowers (still in pots) has now lost its top, but since there are two lots of leaf axils still present so I am hoping to get side shoots.

  2. Cathy says:

    I’ve no experience with the nematodes – have always been put off by the cost. I do what you do – protect and delay planting if necessary. Also give them something else more attractive to eat – lettuces in the borders?

    • Cost has always put me off too, but I feel like I will get it back if this experiment works. Sacrificial plants do attract them, but there are too many slugs this year for that to detract from my prize specimens for long. At least the sun came out today, so there are dry surfaces now.

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Wish I had a solution. This looks terrifying (and frustrating). I’ve noticed more snails here this wet spring/summer but nothing like what you’re experiencing.

    • It’s an unfortunate consequence of the fen environment we all the ditches everywhere, but also the winter/spring weather this year has numbers booming. Those big fat slugs (Arion rufus and A. ater) are scary, ugly beasts aren’t they?

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    OMG, I won’t complain about my slugs ever again. This is horrible! You must be so frustrated. Ducks, perhaps? I read they can be trained to eat slugs. But then you would probably have a ‘duck problem.’ There are no simple solutions. I’ve ended up planting hairy plants and herbs that they don’t have a taste for. I’ve used Sluggo in the early spring just as things start to emerge and then for a month before there is much else to eat and it seems to help. It takes a couple years to knock the population down, but it is worth the effort. Good luck with the nematodes.

  5. Commiserations, country gardens are nigh on impossible to keep pest free. I have used nematodes for vine weevils, not molluscs. After failing with those supplied by mail order I spoke to the regional Nemasys rep, his advice was very helpful. Pest specific nematodes are temperature sensitive (soil & storage), keep them in the fridge or whatever until you’re ready to apply and reapply them, apply to coincide with the emergence of the pest at the right point in its cycle, to make a dent in a serious infestation will take several applications over many seasons …. The use of sacrificial ‘lures’ and hunting them out is top of my list with pests like this. Sorry for the lengthy answer, hope it helps a bit.

    • Thanks for this pertinent advice Kate. I remember coming across some mention of soil temperature limits, but it hadn’t occurred to me that I would have to store the nematodes in a fridge. Could prove interesting! I was assuming that the slug and snail lifecycle was pretty continuous, so I could apply them immediately.

      • You’re most welcome, best of luck with combatting the slimy beasties. At some point I will get to the painful subject of vine weevils – until then Anne Wareham wrote up my notes in a segment in her book ‘Outwitting Squirrels …. ‘ . If you haven’t read it the book is an informative and witty take on a wide variety of pesky problems.

      • That looks like a fun book. Thanks

  6. Julie says:

    Oh Allison, thats a whopper, the slug in your first photo looks like a snakes head its so large. The tiny ones are doing more damage here as I missing them on my slug walks. We heard a Thrush tap, tap, tap with a snail today but hardly any other Thrushes have been visiting our garden. But we have wild ducks visit which I feel are helping with molluscs. No hedgehogs though and very few frogs about. Interesting to read Kate’s comments on nematodes.

    • Definitely, especially since I know very few people who have any experience of using nematodes. You might imagine that we would have frogs everywhere with all these ditches around, but I’ve not seen any this year and they are usually obvious when we cut the grass (lots of stopping required). Unfortunately, since we introduced fish into our pond they stopped breeding there too. That large orange slug was the first thing that I saw when I opened the door on Saturday and unhappily each red hot poker had a similar occupant. They are impressive climbers aren’t they? Ducks sound good!

  7. nexi says:

    I’m experimenting with a steel framed grow house, and so far its slug free – but like you am waiting for a dry spell to plant out tasty plants. I’ve given up on salad types – trying them as micro greens in trays with some success. Suppose you’ve tried beer traps?

    • I’ve largely stopped trying to grow salad vegbecause of slugs and flea bettles, but I can’t resist at least one attempt at lettuce each year. Last year I started to grow kale and mizuna instead and I’ve had much more success with those. Never tried beer traps’ ‘cos those big slugs are massive and I’d need a bucket!

  8. Tina says:

    I groan in sympathy! When I saw that first photo, I thought we’d been invaded by outer-space aliens. Well, maybe we have been.

  9. Oh, this sounds worse than my rabbits. It would drive me insane! I hope you get dry, sunny weather soon!

  10. Pingback: Tomatillos: A successful seed-swap experiment | Frogend dweller's Blog

  11. FlowerAlley says:

    I was amazed by this. I had to examine each photo.
    I know you are frustrated, but these snails are lovely. Our slugs are all grey and dull.

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