|They’re long, and slimy and gross as the kids would say. They’re slugs, one of the most common and hardest to discourage of garden pests.
Slugs are basically a snail without their mobile home, the shell. Their body is structured the same, and they both belong to the mollusk phylum, being known as “gastropods”. This literally means “foot and stomach”, which is essentially all a slug is. The single foot at the end of their body helps to propel it along, as the slug contracts and stretches out. The rest of the slug is basically a long stomach. They are hermaphrodite creatures, much like worms, having both sets of sexual organs, which means they mate and fertilize at the same time. And reproduce in what can seem overwhelming numbers in your gardens and on the lawn.
For the most part, slugs are only seen in early morning when it is moist on the ground from dew, or after a rain. They also come out at night when the temperature goes down, and moisture starts forming on grass and plants. The slug’s greatest enemy is dryness, so they avoid exposure to the sun, wind and other harmful elements during the day.
The sensitivity to dryness is the source of one of the favorite home remedies for killing slugs, and that’s to sprinkle salt on them. The salt will draw moisture from their bodies, and they die. But you may want to be careful how much you are sprinkling and where, because your plants and lawn, may not care for the extra sodium.
A popular solution to slug control, is to use nematodes, something that is fairly common in organic gardening practices. Nematodes are a microscopic, multi-cellular worm that helps to break down organic matter, such as in your compost heap. But you don’t need to dig for what you can’t really see. Just buy a package at your garden center, put it in a watering can full of water, and sprinkle it on your slug visitors in the morning or evening. Not only will the worms invade and kill the slugs they fall on, but they will multiply in the grass and soil, and go on to kill other slugs that come along.
Less popular due to the concern over poisoning wildlife or pets, are slug pellets and other types of chemical bait. Depending on the extent of your infestation, you might want to settle for simple picking off slugs, or for putting out saucers of beer in your garden. Snails will be drawn to the moisture, and once in the beer, they die. This is a very old remedy, but also a very effective one.
Other alternatives are to surround plants with copper strips or sheeting (which could be expensive and unwieldy), because copper causes damaging chemical reactions in the slug’s body. Or, you can try sprinkling diatomaceous earth around the edges of your gardens. This “earth” is actually made of finely pulverized exoskeletons of salt and freshwater creatures. The resultant sharp particles will cut and damage the slug’s body as it attempts to slide over the earth.