SLUGS and snails and puppy dogs tails aren’t a combination you would choose to mix up a delicious potion – and gardens are no different. Many gardeners dread the day they check on their beloved cabbages to find a patchwork of holes nibbled through the would-be luscious leaves, or narrowly avoid crunching a snail as they pick the summer’s strawberries.
The slimy critters are guests nobody wants at the party, but there is no hard and fast agreement on the best ways to prevent the unwelcome additions showing up uninvited.
Andrew Hole, 52, who runs Andrew's Garden Magic in Allt-yr-Yn, knows all too well the dangers slugs and their ilk can wreak on a garden.
He said there are various ways to protect your plants, but none of them are foolproof.
“Oatmeal is one way”, he said. “Any old oatmeal will work, like Quaker Oats. It dries them out a little bit and they have a natural death. Another option is to put little bits of slate around plants; slugs and snails don’t particularly like that. You can also put copper bands around plant pots and they don’t like crawling over them.”
One option sounds more like a potential trap for the Homer Simpsons among us, but it seems that slugs and snails enjoy a drink like the best of us.
“You can use a beer jar, “ Andrew recommended. “If you dig a little hole and get a jam jar and put beer at the bottom, they are drawn towards it and fall in.”
In the past he has found Guinness to be particularly effective, he said.
Mr Hole said he was not sure whether any studies had conclusively shown that slugs and snails have a homing instinct but that personal observations suggested that to indeed be the case. He recommends that if you want to rehome a snail, leave it a good distance away from your plants. 100 metres away should do the trick, but make sure you don’t make any enemies with your neighbours by accidentally presenting them with some new additions.
“I used to work in Cardiff and we had a courtyard at the back covered in slugs and things. We tried the beer trap which usually worked the best. Or we tried to throw them as far as possible away.”
But although salt is famous as a way to kill the animals, he would not recommend it. “There are more humane methods,” he said.
And many do their best to avoid poison as well, as aside from destroying pests it can have unintended consequences. For example, if a bird were to catch a worm that had ingested some of the slug pellets or other poisons, it could damage the songbirds many love to welcome into their gardens. Equally, for those wanting to protect vegetable gardens, poison is not something most of us want with our lettuce leaves. With lots of traditional ways to keep your garden safe there is no need to fear an invasion of creepy crawlies.
But if you have greenfingered leanings then now is the time to choose your weapon, as this time of year is prime slug season.
“It seems to be mainly this time of year,” Andrew said. “It’s usually a bit too cold in the winter and sometimes it’s a bit too hot and dry for them in summer. It’s usually April, May, June that they’re more prevalent. They’re a bit more active and at the same time it’s often quite damp outside. You tend to have a lot of overhanging plants starting to grow, providing a little bit of cover.”