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Slug it out with the pests; STAY HOT ON THE TRAIL OF SLUGS AND SNAILS USING THESE SIMPLE, CLEVER TRICKS BEFORE SUMMER'S SLIMY ARMY TAKES OUT YOUR PRECIOUS PLANTS.

YOU may have noticed we had a mild winter and warm, damp spring. And that means one thing this summer - masses of slugs and snails feasting on your plants and veg.

Make no mistake, the slug and snail armies are gathering their forces in serious numbers. And they are ready to gobble up many of your favourite plants and crops.

Getting on top of them fairly early in the season is the way forward.

Many people aren't comfortable using slug pellets, even though the latest organic varieties are safe for garden animals and pets.

The good news is there are some DIY methods that won't hurt plants and other wildlife.

The first solution is the simplest. Slugs and snails love damp conditions and are most active at night, which is why walking outside in the evening after rain is like navigating a minefield sometimes. So help matters by watering your garden in the morning instead of the evening.

The surface soil will be dry by the evening and studies show this can reduce slug damage by up to 80 per cent. However, if it is raining very frequently, this option will not solve your problem.

If you can get hold of seaweed, it makes for great mulch - and a natural slug and snail repellent. Lay it three to four inches deep and it will shrink down.

Seaweed is salty, which slugs hate and, during hot weather, it becomes a rough gauntlet for them to climb over. Just don't let it directly touch the plant stems.

Another good obstacle for the slug hordes is strips of thin copper, cut to about two inches wide.

The exact reason they avoid copper is not known, but it's thought the copper reacts with their slimy coating to produce an unpleasant neural signal, similar to a mild electric shock.

You can buy copper on a roll like Sellotape from garden centres and wrap it around plant pots or set it in the soil on its edge.

Make sure there is nothing hanging over that these devious critters can use as a bridge or they will probably find it.

Our slimy friends don't tend to like sharp edges to climb over, so making a barrier around plants of the right materials can turn them away.

Rough grit, coffee grounds or broken eggshells are all good options that you can get for free.

And it seems even slug soldiers love going out for a beer at the end of the day. Bury a jar with some beer in the bottom and position the rim so it is 15mm above the soil.

That way beneficial insects don't fall victim but slugs will dive right in. You can also prop the jar lid up with a stick over the top to keep the rain out, if you like.

Attract frogs, toads and hedgehogs into the garden as allies - they will eat loads of slugs for you. Create amphibian habitats, such as small ponds. And leave wood stacks and let areas in your garden grow wild so hungry hedgehogs can make themselves at home. One fabulously simple method of controlling slug and snail populations is actually to attract them. Put down something they like to hide under during the day. Try a wooden board, black plastic sheet, an overturned flowerpot or - even more tempting - an empty grapefruit half propped up like a trap.

In the morning, pick it up and you will find plenty of the slimy creatures to dispose of.

If you are willing to fork out for something, then there are a number of products you can look into that won't cause environmental damage. Check out garlic-based slug repellents, caffeine-based poisons, commercial slug baits, an electronic slug fence, nematode water mixture and diatomaceous earth. Or you can wait until after dark, grab a bucket and put on some rubber gloves then simply pick them off your plants. It's slimy but effective.

If you are planning to use slug pellets there are two different types: metaldehyde and methiocarb. Methiocarb is about ten times more poisonous, so more dangerous to wildlife. So go with metaldehyde pellets where you can and you only need to apply thinly - one every 10cm or so.

Look out for organic pellets - they are said to be equally effective and less damaging to the garden.

I have spoken to so many people over the years about how to combat slug and snail populations and I have noticed that different methods work for different people in different places.

You may need to try a few options to find what is best suited to your garden. But with these handy tips under your belt, you should be able keep the hungry hordes at bay.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 24, 2017
Words:797
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