By Megan Cassidy
So you’ve gone out and you’ve bought a whole supermarket’s worth of seedlings. You’ve done the hard yards and put them all in the ground. Wonderful! Now you just have to sit back and soon enough you’ll be eating them instead of having to go out, right?
No! The work of growing your own food does not stop there, unless you want to come out the next morning and find that all your precious seedlings have been gobbled up by hoards of hungry snails/slugs/slaters/millipedes/caterpillars etc. It’s very de-motivating to see all your hard work and future harvest vanish in one night, but it’s happened before and it will happen again unless you take steps to prevent it.
The following methods are not the only methods out there, nor are they going to be successful all of the time. But they are some methods that have worked for us, that we wanted to share with you in the hope that you can keep your plants safe and sound until harvest time.
For slugs and snails, a beer trap (the best beer you can afford – homebrew even better) will attract the slimy critters and give them a booze-fuelled send off. Place shallow containers around the vulnerable plants (we’ve used an old butter dish from the sandpit toys here), and pour in a few centimetres of beer. You will need to check it every day and replenish it if needed and after rain.
Working together with the beer traps, you will find some slugs curled up inside these that you can then ‘move on’ however you feel comfortable.
These attract the slaters. What we found was that once we had reduced the numbers of slugs, the slaters came out in bigger numbers, so again, we used pumpkin skins to concentrate them in one spot.
By far the best method we’ve employed though is 2 weeks of Night Patrols – that is, doing a walk with a torch every night a few hours after sun-down, and searching out those hungry mouths before they’ve done too much damage.
The first 3 nights were quite busy, but after that it’s dropped off to manageable levels that only take a few minutes now. You really just have to keep it up until the plants are big enough to handle a few nibbles, and are less palatable for the bugs.
It should be noted that everything in your garden needs to be in balance, including the bugs, good and bad. A healthy garden is one that has as big a diversity of life as possible. We are not trying to get rid of every slug and snail. We just need to keep the numbers in check so that we get some produce to eat as well.
Healthy, happy plants that are well on the way to providing healthy food over the coming weeks and months! It’s well worth the extra effort, and will ensure that your time and energy investment in your future is not wasted.
What methods do you use?