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READY TO SLUG IT OUT! They slither in when it's wet or dark but your choice of plants can keep slugs and snails away.

or many, they are enemy No1, the pest whose destructive power leaves gardeners feeling angry and frustrated.

FThis is because they thrive in our damp climate and when they're hungry they dine on the most tender and lush foliage they can find.

And, to add insult to injury, they often do this at night when we are tucked up in bed.

There's nothing like foliage shredded by snails and slugs to make gardeners feel like a failure and get the blood boiling. Our tolerance for these creatures tends to be very low. I'm a "live and let live" gardener. I love everything to be rosy but life on our planet isn't like that. That annoys a lot of people.

I don't seek utter perfection from my plants because that's not the way of nature.

My hostas have already been ripped apart. Maybe I should stop growing them? And I can't collect these night-time visitors by torchlight and throw them over the neighbours' fence because our neighbours are SO nice! It's a dilemma. But, putting aside my moral quibbles, how do you control these garden invaders? Well, from the very start of a plant's life they attack... their love of tender growth makes seedlings vulnerable.

So if you allow seedlings to toughen up and grow them into small plants before planting out they'll be less attractive to eat.

Slugs and snails also seem to prefer some plants over others.

Hostas are the caviar of the plant world but they have also stripped bare my newly planted heleniums and omphalodes, while completely bypassing the peonies, thalictrum and hardy geraniums.

pped the ve no Elsewhere they have stripped the eupatoriums bare but have no interest in the day lilies.

he s, They tend not to like the tough foliage of bergenias, acanthus, ferns, grasses, Japanese anemones and echiums, whereas they feast on dahlias and delphiniums, with strawberries and lettuce for dessert!

PREDATOR Hedgehogs devour snails So sometimes it's a matter of watching the gourmet tastes of your local snails and choosing r es ng plants accordingly. Slug pellets will kill snails but can be dangerous if you have pets and aren't good for snails' natural predators, such as birds and hedgehogs.

There are organic slug pellets that are less environmentally harmful but you are still killing the snails.

An alternative approach is to encourage the nat snail the natural predators so that snails are eaten as part of the food chain.

g The wildlife-friendly garden will have birds, hedgehogs and frogs to help keep populations in balance.

Slugs are happiest in damp conditions so one tip is to water plants first thing in the morning.

i on first th This This way the surface of the soil will have dried off by nightfall, which is when these creatures like to come out and play.

It's also a good idea to keep vulnerable plants clear of rotting vegetation as this attract slugs and snails as well.

Or you can make an obstacle course for them. This could take the form of a copper band, either around flower pots or even as a barricade in the soil. This gives them an unpleasant electric shock.

Gritty or spiky substances around the base of the plant can make terrain difficult for slugs and snails.

You can buy it ready made or make your own, with crushed eggshells or lava rock.

Seaweed is good as it's salty, which they don't like, and it dries to be crusty and difficult to traverse.

Other remedies include luring them using beer traps so they fall in and drown and patrolling at night to destroy and kill them when they are most active.

Whatever happened to gardening being a peaceful activity? If you have any good methods you'd like to share with our readers, I'd be delighted to hear from you. Email or write to me at the addresses above.

Hostas are like caviar to them... and mine have been ripped apart


ESCAPE Snails and slugs shun foliage of acanthus

PREDATOR Hedgehogs devour snails

INVADER Slugs and snails fascinate youngsters but infuriate gardeners when tender plants are eaten. Using crushed eggshells (above right) is one way of fighting back
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 7, 2014
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