The Q&A Archives: eliminating slugs

Question: Dear Garden Expert: picture this: 200 running feet, 12" wide, of elevated brick planter around the outside of our house, on a drip system, full of annuals, usually about 300, until slugs came to our place! We have tried it all: metaldeyde, only effective if it doesn't get wet, copper pipe, diat. earth, mulch, vinegar, salt on them...they still ate up the marigolds and petunias, so we tried impatiens. They must not like them; while they were still present in the garden, they were manageable...CSU extension doesn't know how slugs reproduce; I think they winter in the planter, ready to eat... do you know? Any other thoughts for us to try this year? thanks!

Answer: Slugs reproduce in an ugly manner; they're hermaphroditic (having both male and female sexual organs). When two encounter each other, one decides to be the male and the other decides to be the female. (Don't ask me how they come to this conclusion!) Anyway, after mating, the female lays a clutch of eggs in the soil. The eggs hatch in the early spring and eat whatever plant material is convenient. Slugs are especially fond of marigolds - as you have discovered. Have you tried making traps for the slugs? Use old yogurt or cottage cheese tubs, make a couple of one-inch square openings in the sides, bury the containers up to the openings, pour a couple of inches of beer in them and pop the plastic tops on. The slugs will be attracted to the beer, crawl in, and drown. Just empty the traps and refill with beer every few days. You can help keep the slug population down by removing debris from the garden (they love to hide in dark, damp places), and by going on slug patrol in the evenings when the slugs are most active. Just pick them off the plants and dump them in a bucket of water with some ammonia mixed in. If you're diligent, you'll eventually lower the slug population in your garden.

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