Once you have raised your chillie plants from seeds and nurtured their move outside to take advantage of the spring sunshine there is nothing more annoying than seeing your future crop decimated by slugs or snails. In just 3 or 4 nights slugs or snails can do a huge amount of damage to chilli plants as well as other plants or vegetables in your garden.
Tell tale signs or slug/snail damage
As can be seen in the below photo, the typical sign of snail damage is holes appearing in the leaves of your plants. In addition both types of mollusk prefer young tender plants. Damage also often occurs around the lower stem of plants. Not only does the damage look unsightly but it can have a serious effect on the future growth of your chilli plants.
image by SuiKa
Of course the most famous sign of snails is the slimy trail they tend to move behind. This will often give you some idea of their movements the night before. When tracking these trails it can become apparent how much ground they can cover.
Both snails and slugs tend to be nocturnal meaning that you will rarely find them during the day time. They tend to come out and feed at night when the temperature is much cooler and more humid, particularly after it has been raining. Unfortunately this means that they do most of the damage to our plants while we are sound asleep.
How to be rid of slugs and snails
1) Go picking – Head out about 2 hours after sunset armed with a torch (this is the time when mollusks are at their most active). Simply look around and remove any offenders you see. They can either be launched over your garden fence or should you prefer permanently removed!
2) The Barrier method – Mollusks are known to dislike crawling across various substances including copper, eggshells and gravel. One effective approach is to create a ring around your plants with one of these substances. This will hopefully encourage the slugs and snails to go elsewhere in search of food.
3) Encourage predators – Frogs, hedgehogs and birds all love to eat mollusks. Attracting all three to your garden by creating a small pond, nesting sites for hedgehogs and birds is a great natural approach to control these pests.
4) Slug / Snail Traps – You can create your own trap by sinking a plastic cup (or half a plastic bottle) into the ground so the rim is level with the ground and half fill with beer. Traditional beer works well (ale not lager!) or if you don’t have any beer to waste then a mix of warm water, sugar and yeast will work well. This should attract the mollusks in to drown a happy death. To be most effective you will need about 1 trap per square meter of plant beds and try to position the traps in a shady dark corner of your garden.
5) Chemical Warfare – This is perhaps the most un organic method. Slug and snail pellets do work well however they can be harmful for children or pets if consumed. In addition should birds eat the poisoned mollusks, they too can become ill. If possible opt for an organic non-metaldehyde bait.
6) Nematodes – Nematodes are a great way to see of slug problems on badly affected areas of plants. Nematodes are microscopic organisms (invisible to the naked eye) that are harmless to humans and other wildlife but deadly to slugs. They kill the slugs by introducing bacteria to the slugs that causes death. Nematodes are mixed with water prior to watering, ideally just after a rainfall in the evening (to minimize evaporation). One watering should last a few weeks. The best time to use nematodes is late spring when they breed the most and your young plants are at their most vulnerable.
The best method to control slugs and snails is…
… Use a combination of all of the methods discussed above. Be persistent and try to go out into your garden mollusk picking every night, refill beer traps regularly and ensure barriers are well maintained. If you do this you should manage to control any infestation. Try to avoid using pesticide if possible, think of it as a last resort.
If you have got any tips to help control mollusks please share them by leaving a comment below.