Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dogs Tails In the Garden. Hmmn - no...
Maybe - Slugs, Snals and Slaters??
We don't mean to cause offence to any dog derrieres out there. It just kind of rolled off the tongue! At this time of year the three "S's" can appear in large numbers to assault your winter vegies.
Slugs and Snails
These creatures can survive in a state of hibernation over summer, but once moist conditions return, they can make an appearance in our garden once again. Most snails that do damage in our gardens are introduced species. They like to shelter during the day in dark, secluded hide outs, so the first thing to do is go around your garden. Look behind retaining walls (especially under any overhanging edge), under stacks of pots, amongst piles of wood or prunings on the ground, and on the sides of your compost bin or worm farm. Keep watch on these places regularly, remove the residents, and you can start to make a dent on their numbers.
Go out at night time with a torch and gumboots - you can hunt and despatch many in one night! Apparently mature eggs inside the squashed snails may still develop, so perhaps removing the snails is a better option. Take out a bucket of hot water with a handful of cooking salt dissolved in it (or you can use soap instead of salt) and throw the snails into the bucket. They will drown, and can then be buried in the garden or added to compost. If you were to do this two times a week for a couple of weeks, you would almost eradicate snails completely from your garden.
Barriers. You can protect young seedlings with cut down plastic bottles or containers to pop over each plant. You must make sure that seedlings still receive adequate light and airflow - some people remove the covers in the day and replace them in the evening. A physical barrier of rough, dry material like ash, sawdust, coffee grinds, crushed eggshell - etc. does work, however once the material is wet with rain it becomes ineffective. (The rough surface is not pleasant for the soft bodied slugs & snails to cross.) Continually reapplying the same material in the same spot over time may also affect soil composition, so do mix it up. Copper tape or copper wire apparently gives a mild electric shock to the snail/slug, so this method is also worth trying. Copper tape used around a ring of PVC pipe is reusable for many years.
If you have seedlings growing on a bench or table, a band of petroleum jelly applied around each leg will also discourage them crossing it.
Traps. These are effective, but need to be checked and replenished once a week or so. Traps are commercially available, or can be easily made from old containers. It's best to use one with a lid, so as not to allow the bait to be diluted in rain. The best bait to use is beer. Snails love it, will enter the trap, and drown. Use an old margarine container (or similar) with the lid, and cut some holes in the top edge (but so the lid will still fit) - big enough for snails and slugs to enter. Half bury these into the soil, and simply put in some beer. Stale or otherwise - it will work.
Cleaning up areas like piles of wood, prunings and pots will also remove areas where slaters like to populate and hide away. These creatures do have a role to play in gardens. They assist in the breakdown and recycling of organic matter, which in turn makes nutrients available to plants. The problems appear when they breed up to large numbers.
Slaters love decaying organic matter, and generally feed on mulch and compost in the soil. There is debate whether they actually eat your seedlings, or are actually eating a fungus growing on your seedlings (still causing damage and ringbarking) - but who really cares when they wipe out your newly plated babies overnight??
Slaters are difficult to control organically. Chooks or quails allowed to free range in your garden from time to time will certainly help to get rid of a lot. (Of course they will also demolish seedlings, so it's best to use this strategy as part of a crop rotation system between plantings.) You can try laying down a sheet of cardboard in an area. After a few days, especially when it's nice and damp, slaters will collect underneath. You can quickly flick the cardboard into the chook pen and give the chooks a protein treat - this will get rid of a few slaters. Replace the cardboard later and repeat every few days.
If you have left over citrus halves from juicing, upturn these amongst your plants. Slaters (and also slugs and snails) will shelter inside, and can be easily disposed of in the morning. Another trick is to take a newspaper and roll it up with a lacky band at each end. Make sure the open edges of the paper are outermost. Soak it thoroughly in water and put out in the garden. The slaters will go inbetween the pages along the edge - again it's a simple thing to pick up the whole paper and dispose of it. You can also try wet newspaper sheets crumpled up in an old pot on its side. Same theory - damp & dark = nice spot for slaters!
Leaving potato peelings in a pile on an icecream container lid for a few days will also work as an attractant. The decaying skins provide food and a place for them to hide - again the whole lot can be easily removed. Beer traps will also work with slaters, so give it ago. I have also heard of people using off yoghurt or sour cream to attract slaters in traps. Surely it's worth a try!
If you have a place where slaters congregate over night, take out a kettle of boiling water in the morning and tip it all over them. Again - you won't get them all but it will help knock some.
Most organic treatments are things that work in conjunction with others, and because they are gentle and don't impact on the environment long term, you will often need routine applications or treatments.
Recipe to try - this was found on the internet but I confess I have yet to try it myself... (Please let me know how it works for you!!)
Home made slater spray
1/2 teasp of pure eucalyptus oil
1/2 teasp of dishwashing detergent
1 litre of warm water
Mix together well and spray immediately, and directly onto insects. Avoid spraying too much on plants, as oil can burn, especially in bright sunlight. Also remember eucalyptus oil is toxic to humans (in reasonable quantities).
Birds, bandicoots, frogs and lizards will eat your slaters, snails, slugs and other insect pests. By encouraging the wildlife in your garden it will be a healther and far more interesting place. Refrain from using poisons - it will always have an impact down the food chain.
The only kind of pellet we would recommend are the iron based EDTA compounds (eg. Muiltiguard) which do not contain a pesticide. Or DE (Diatomaceous Earth) is useful, particularly against slaters.
Sorry we can't give you one magic, silver bullet - but hopefully if you try a few of these tactics in your garden, you will gain the upper hand and beat the pests this year.