A Slug Blether

Got a slug problem? Haven't we all. Hostas, Geums, Oriental Poppies, Lupins, Nasturtiums, you name it, they eat it. Big black ones, little grey ones, they do the same damage, nibble, nibble, nibble, and the plant is destroyed.

Better nip down to the Garden Centre to buy a chemical to kill them with, slug pellets, something like that, to further enrich the chemical arsenal that's already stashed in the garden shed. Just hope the teenagers of the house don't take up smoking in there, eh, in the garden shed? Chemical concoctions, cigarettes, matches, could be a mighty explosion in the offing.

Of course I never use chemicals myself. Far too expensive. And do they always work?

If you have a slug problem then get a hedgehog. That's the answer. Hedgehogs eat slugs - the slugs that would otherwise eat your plants. Problem solved. But where do you get hold of a hedgehog? Not from the Garden Centre, that's for sure. "I want a hedgehog, please," you say, "a slug-eating hedgehog." "We don't do slug-eating hedgehogs, just slug pellets." "Oh," I say, "and what happens if a passing hedgehog eats the slug pellets?" "It dies of course."

And therein lies the problem. Catch 22. Use slug pellets and you have to keep using them. And a very costly business it is too, for you simply kill off the natural predators that would otherwise keep the slug population down to an acceptable level. Dead hedgehogs in the garden are useless, whereas live ones are like gold dust.

Now you can't buy hedgehogs in the Garden Centre of course, but what you can buy is hedging plants - hedging plants that will grow into fine hedges and provide just the right sort of environment for passing hedgehogs.

Now if all this sounds too complicated, too time consuming, then a patch of scrub land in the garden, a small over-grown area with weeds and a bit of long grass (a miniature 'wildlife' garden really) will attract them as well.

While you're waiting for passing hedgehogs to turn up and populate your garden, of course, you'll have to tolerate a bit of slug damage now and again, that's inevitable. But if you have a particular plant in the garden that's a cherished one, then sprinkle a handful of salt or some grit around it as a slug barrier. Slugs don't like this. Slugs like to glide over smooth surfaces, not sharp or salty ones.

But the best method of all, the guaranteed 'one hundred per cent' method of eradicating slugs, is to buy a torch, go slug hunting at night and then pick them off by hand. Simple as that. A fun activity, and an activity that will surely enrich your personal life.

What is it tonight, then? The pub, the cinema, early to bed for a bit of 'this and that', or a spot of slug hunting by torchlight? It's got to be slug hunting, hasn't it? Slug hunting by torchlight. Great fun.

Now if all this sounds too complicated, too wishy-washy, a load of horticultural mumbo-jumbo - pure hogwash - then there's nothing to prevent you from buying an assortment of chemical applications from the Garden Centre to kill them with. But be careful, because one man's chemical solution to the problem is another man's time bomb. So there we are.

(Copy write 2002. Patrick Vickery)

Patrick Vickery runs a small garden nursery in the Scottish Highlands growing and selling hardy perennial plants. His first book was published in January 2002 by Capall Bann Publishers, UK: "In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden" (ISBN: 186163 1480)

A book about propagating and growing hardy perennial plants outdoors in an environmentally friendly way using an innovative raised bed system, about how to make your garden self-financing, and even how to sell surplus plants if you so wish.

The book is available via the internet from Amazon Books, from Capall Bann Publishers or from bookshops of course.

Capall Bann Publishers

Amazon.co.uk

Patrick's e-mail: aldieburnplants@aol.com