Hi Ho, Hi Ho, A Gastropodding We Will Go!
[Aka Snail’s Pace Slug Out!]
Season 3 – Autumn/Winter 2019/20
Sam, who some of you may recall is my next door neighbour, that’s right the train conductor in his 60’s who grew up on a farm, and is also an organic vegetable grower like me, when he has the time and is not playing sax down in Deal. We are like a couple of old fish wives and on the odd occasion, once every five weeks or so, we have a bit of a catch up with local news and ideas, but also we exchange ideas with regards gardening, as well as discuss the new season’s agenda.
Yesterday was our catch up, and the heated topic was ‘Gastropods!’ – Aka Snails and Slugs. There is some strangeness to this village, and some of the readers to this particular series may recall a couple of seasons ago when l remarked the oddest of things – that being, that on the street l live which is a hill. On one side, my side we all have from the top of the hill to three quarters down the street – serious problems with snails, and on the other side from the top to three quarters down the hill they have serious problems with slugs, it then gets stranger still, the remaining quarters of the street on both sides have problems with both snails and slugs. I have no idea why it is this way, but it is!
Now l do have some slugs in the garden, not all are bad – l do have the occasional problem with yellow slugs Limax flavus, and even more occasionally those horrible dark brown black beasts – the old Arion Ater large black slug. Both of the species mentioned can attain lengths of inbetween 14 – 17cm long, and for those still in Imperial that is between 6 -7″ in length, that’s actually a lot of slug and for those who may not know either – but slugs can bite and have up to 27000 teeth!!
Large Black Slug
When l lived in Lincolnshire, l was once bitten by a black slug, and in the village where l lived on the Fens, when we had infestations you knew it. The Fens is notorious for the series of water dykes that are aside the fields and the slugs would come up from the dykes and it was like a plague. You could see literally thousands some days attacking grass and fields alike.
The other slug type l do have here, and l am only too pleased to have them here is actually the Leopard also known as the great grey slug limax maximus a beast! The average length is 16cm, but l have found some to measure 19 cm, and that is huge! Now the reason l don’t mind these slugs is because they are predators to other slugs, decaying matter and fungi. I know that l have at least a dozen of these in the garden, most of them live out back near the compost heap, although there appears to be four wintering in the bug hotel – so they are very welcome!
With regards snails, we have a few types but most notably is the Girdled variety. But hey as Sam and l discussed yesterday, a snail is a snail is a slug is a slug right? As in it doesn’t matter specifically what the fancy latin names are when they are ploughing through your vegetables does it?
Sam asked what l would be doing for the spring to winter months of next year, the new 2020 garden season with regards the snail and occasional slug problem? Would l be opting for a new easier chemical method or still going for the organic approach as in a ‘no kill policy?’
I confirmed, that Suze and l would still be operating a no kill zone and that if anything what l would be doing is offering alternative methods.
Earlier this year, l went out over the course of a given week and hunted down the snails, with one particularly successful night and capturing 305 snails and then l simply placed them into my compost heap. This proved to be a hugely successful move. That week l removed a total of 700 snails from the garden!! All went into the compost heap and there they remained for the duration – very few ventured from the back of the garden to the front again, but what l also noticed is that my populations of toads, frogs and slow worms increased and l also enjoyed the occasional visit from hedgehogs. We saw more thrushes in the garden especially the back garden this year, so transferring the stocks to the heap system, served a lot of purpose.
The snails had a feast with the compost and the wildlife had a feast on the snails!
My plans for the garden the 2020 season is to further encourage more wildlife diversity to both the main garden and the back garden and compost area.
Slugs and snail have a purpose, l know at times it is very hard to understand that when they are eating your beautiful flowers and prized vegetables – but they do and my philosophy is to identify that purpose and try and work it to my benefit. I am doing this because l am simply tired of all unnrcessary killings irrelevant to what is being slain, l am done with the death.
Snails are an essential part of the ecosystem – they are low eaters really and yet they are a valuable part to many other animal’s diets – sure they will always take new crops, but prinicpally like slugs they are here to eat dead and rotting vegetation, they will also eat fungis and on occasion soils. Predators that thrive on snails and slugs are many also such as mammals, reptiles and insects. Birds love snails because of their calcium nutrients.
So, what l will be working on over the winter months prior to the spring and summer are methods and strategies that will allow me to benefit from both slugs and snails, but more importantly to further encourage more wildlife into the garden itself and therefore allow for more of a natural ecological process to occur.
So what species love to eat Snails and Slugs?
Toads, frogs, hedgehogs, slow worms, newts, wild rats, some ground beetles and thrushes amongst a few for starters. Badgers are not adverse snails either, nor are foxes. Chickens and ducks adore both. But l have also seen in my garden, Robins, Starlings and Blackbirds too, munch down on the nom nom. The Robins tended to go for the smaller snails, whilst the other species basically picked up the shells like the thrushes and battered them against the paving slabs we have here. We also have a lot of seagulls here because we are so close to the coast and after the rains especially l have seen gulls swoop in and pick up snails, fly high and drop them onto the roads, swoop down and then consume them like a delicacy!
How can you protect your garden from the species?
Well in addition to drawing wildlife in, you can additionally plant certain things like plants, herbs and certain vegetables that the species don’t like.
So, if you look at introducing some very pungent and strong smelling plants to your flowers beds, raised beds and pots you might find this very helpful … so, the likes of onions, chives, garlics – but also certain mints are seen as bad for slugs and snails too. But Lavender, Hydrangeas, Ferns, Rosemary, Begonias, Fuchsia and Geraniums are also good plants to use in your natural organic battle against the species.
Other Non-Chemical methods of deterrence?
You could use coffee grounds, egg shells, scooped out grapefruit and use the upturned skins to protect your plants, holly leaves, spent tea leaves. If you are not adverse the drowning of slugs, you could set beer traps, however these worry and concern me because they can also trap other species like beetles so l tend to avoid this method,plus l don’t drink.
How can l make my garden more wildlife friendly?
Bug Hotel 2018
Well there are many ways to achieve this …
1] Encourage the local birdlife to feed in your garden – also ensure you provide drinking and bathing water.
2] Don’t be in such a rush to mow the lawn – let your grass grow, this is way friendlier towards insects and especially bees. So where you can leave the grass uncut, or designate certain areas of the season as no cut zones.
Later Season Bug Hotel 2018
3] Build yourself a bug hotel – l have one here made out of old pallets, and it has sticks, and rocks, and bamboo, pots, logs and growers around and on top of it. The bottom of my hotel is home to one hedgehog, various slugs and toads and frogs alike – it is very pleasing! But also, l noticed a couple of newts and slow worms there this year!!
4] If you have the room for it, consider installing a pond – these are great areas for frogs, toads, newts and also great watering holes for other species.
5] Check your fence line, make sure that hedgehogs can travel through the gardens, and invest or build yourself a couple of hog hotels or hideaways, they will always appreciate it, and so too will you.
6] Don’t forget to plant flowers that insects and bees love, okay they as in the bees are not going to hurt the snails, but they are nice to have visit! Grow from a wide and eclectic range for colour and fabulous scents. Sunflowers are fun too!
7] Have you ‘thought’ of having a compost heap?? Well you know l have mine here – but a compost heap is superb for so many reasons. If you capture slugs and snails plant them in your heap, they’ll stay where the food source is and will seriously aid the decomposition process! But equally, the heap will serve as a drive through natural restaurant for other species – mine does! Slow worms, frogs and toads – worry not about rats – to avoid them, you should really only be composting ‘raw food types’ and not cooked food types like meats.
8] Allow some weeds to grow, hide your disdain, weeds are awesome for the garden and wildlife too.
Check out the videos below, if you prefer to watch rather than read ..
So this year, l have bigger plans to encourage more wildlife to the garden. I will be rebuilding my bug hotel and planting to it again, l have a dedicated bee hotel which l shall secure to the shed in the very latest months of winter ready for the spring. I have upped the bird feeding strategies in the garden and have been deliberately hanging very different bird feeders to encourage a much wider range of birds to the gardens. I will also be building a few smaller wood pile hubs in various locations to the garden itself to encourage more frogs and toads.
Sam l believe will be doing the same, but he is lucky to some degrees he has a badger visit and stay a while in his garden, l have the foxes come through mine, earlier this year they were more interested in digging out the potatoes than catching snails however! Ha ha!!
As l start the building and planting of these new ideas, l’ll keep you informed all the way.
Anyway l’ll take my leave of you now
Thanks for reading everyone, till the next time …