When I picked lettuce yesterday it was overcast with a slight misty rain and about 55 degrees. Perfect day time conditions for slugs who are usually active at night.
This is one garden pest that if not controlled can make you want to give uphome grown lettuce and a few other plants like hostas and strawberries that slugs and snails consider gourmet fare.
Drought Decreases Slugs
Over the years I’ve noticed that after a year of severe drought the slugs numbers are greatly reduced and I don’t usually see any big (3 to 4 inch slugs) the following spring — just the tiny ones that have just hatched.
It follows of course that after a year of rain and cooler than usual temperatures you see lots of medium and big ones. Yuck!
Years ago I remember going out almost every night with a flash light to “handpick” slugs (with gloves of course) to keep the numbers down. (It is still probably the most effective way to get rid of the creatures.)
Using a trowel to transfer the slug to the wide center garden path I’d sprinkle salt on it. (This method of killing them should be confined to one place outside the garden since salt increases soil salinity.)
Damage Slugs Do
They chew large, ragged holes in leaves of plants they like. Lettuce seedlings can be devoured overnight. A couple of years ago they destroyed 3 consecutive plantings of lettuce in one bed. I never found the culprits, but I finally just moved to another bed to plant.
When they get into a larger sized plant of lettuce it looks as if it rotted overnight. Not very appealing at all.
They like certain daylilies as well and can ruin the beauty of the leaves. I have over 150 beautiful varieties and of those, the slugs seem to noticeably enjoy about 5 of them. It just so happens that 3 of them are in the front borders and get more visibility than the other lilies.
Now there is Escar-Go, an environmentally friendly product, offered by Gardens Alive that allows me to take care of this problem without much effort. And although scientists or whoever it is that studies slugs tells us that only about 60 % of a given slug population will be destroyed, it is enough to take care of the problem.
When Escar-Go came on the scene, I can’t even remember. I do remember being very skeptical. The means to research via the internet was not available then and I pretty much depended on the fact that Garden’s Alive was offering it, and I trusted them.
Blind trust is probably not a good thing with ANY company, but for years they had been the only company (that I knew of anyway) offering environmentally safe alternatives to pesticides and I trusted and believed what they said.
I have been buying from them for almost 30 years. Nonetheless, I now do my research on any new product I may want to try.
Safe to Use
The active ingredient for Escar-Go and its competitor, Sluggo, is iron phosphate which remains active up to two weeks even after rain.
It was reported somewhere in one of the documents on the net that the inert ingredient is wheat gluten. You can use it with confidence because it is suppose to be safe for children and pets if they accidentally get into it.
It is also safe for birds, fish and other wildlife.
Be Conservative Anyway
A word of caution: No matter how safe documentation tells me that a product is, I think it is good common sense to be a little cautious. Even though iron phosphate is already in soil and granules break down and revert back to soil I am conservative on how much I treat any one area.
This product is effective and in most cases once or possibly twice each year is all I have to treat a section. Still — I do so conservatively. And of course, don’t allow baits to contaminate the edible portions of plants.
How to Use
Bait granules are scattered (rather than placed in piles) on moist soil around or near the plants you want protected. Evening is the best time. If the infestation is severe or if there has been a long period of heavy rain, you apply more heavily.
Slugs and snails cease feeding after eating the bait. They crawl away and die within 3 to 6 days.
The Good News
I’m delighted to report that folks who are suppose to know say 90% of slugs are underground at any one time. I like the “fact” that 90% of them are doing the job of helping to recycle the organic matter in my garden rather than attacking my lettuce and other fruits and vegetables.
It’s a must-have in my garden.
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