Saturday, May 12

Fine dining for molluscs

For some reason hostas feature highly on slug's and snail's menu of favourite food. The problem is that they also feature quite highly on my list of desirable foliage plants. The key word here is foliage - I know hostas also have attractive flowers but their main claim to fame is in the leaf department.

So the battle is on to protect our hostas from the rasping mouthparts of the hoard of slimy molluscs intent on crafting lacy leaves as a by-product of their overnoght feasting.

Due to our poor weather conditions I was a bit late in my hosta protection regime and some of the young shoots had already been set upon but I am hoping the belated preventative measures will call a halt or at least slow down the devastation.

When it comes to protecting our hostas I try not to put all my faith in one method of protection - I don't even rely on just belt and braces. It's a case of belt, braces, sticky tape, elastic bands and anything else I can think of.

Planting hostas in open ground in our garden would be a total waste of time and so they are each planted in a large clay pot. These sit on the wall around our garden pond and double as weights to keep the heron deterrent in place.

Some plants, that had been moved from wooden planters that last year were sitting on our patio, were potted up and others had the top layer of compost refreshed and slow release fertiliser added.
After removing any nibbled shoots, my attention turned to the serious matter of setting up the defences. A circle of copper tape was stuck around each pot - this is supposed to deter slugs by administering an electric shock to any mollusc that tries to cross it. Just in case any slugs were already lurking in the compost or we happen to have some that quite like to go tingly, I have surrounded the shoots with something called Slug Off. It's a granular material which is supposed to absorb mollusc mucus which they need in order to slide along. I first used this around some pansies last year and it seemed to have some effect.
A ring of petroleum jelly was smeared around the pot as again slugs don't like to cross this substance.

As the plants are watered (or as the rain continues to fall) the saucers holding the plant pots fill with water which also provide a barrier that any mollusc without a life jacket shouldn't be able to cross.
The next precaution will come into effect once the leaves unfurl. If the leaves touch anything that a slug or snail can climb up then abseiling molluscs will gain access that way.

Maybe I'll apply some organic slug pellets too! If our hostas do fall foul of slugs and snails then at least I'll feel that I have tried my best.

Not long now before our summerhouse arrives, so whilst I was busy dealing with hostas, Martyn was working on the base which can be seen in the photo below.
Does anyone have any other effective mollusc deterrents other than night time collections _ I really would like to leave that to the hedgehogs. One method my sister used, last year, to protect pansies in containers was to mulch around the plant using poodle wool and that seemed to work too. Has anyone used the new wool slug pellets?

Footnote:
Issue 3 of the City Cottage free magazine is now available here

16 comments:

  1. I have to say I haven't tried any deterrents at all....I haven't had much trouble with them so it hasn't been an issue for me however after having a little look I found a great website you might be interested in having a look at here....http://www.weekendgardener.net/how-to/snails-slugs.htm.


    Hope you have solved the problem

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    1. All these methods seemed to work OK last year so I'm hoping for a repeat Tanya - I'll check the link though. You are very lucky to not have a mollusc problem - do you have hostas as well?

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  2. Have you tried WD40?

    I know - sounds crazy but I find it the most disgusting smelling invention of the modern age and it appears that slugs think the same (don't even think about making a connection!!!)

    I spray it along the bottom of the greenhouse door and it seems to stop them coming in and I've sprayed it around pots with some success. Be careful on terracotta - the oils in WD40 can stain the pot. Let me know how you get on.

    I have also just taken delivery of two beautiful copper tools - a hand fork and trowel from Implementations.co.uk. Only unwrapped them this morning so cannot yet tell you whether their use deters slugs from attacking whatever you have just planted.

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    1. I seem to remember you mentioning this before BW. Maybe the clay pots are a bit too near the house for niffy WD40

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  3. I think you can safely say that you've done everything you can. I don't have much slug damage to my hostas which are in pots, but they're on the patio far away from soil so that's probably why.

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    1. Ours used to be on the patio and managed to get devoured Jo. On a night the patio was crawling with the things. Maybe because we hadn't any pointing vetween the paving so they could come up between them

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  4. I only occasionally get them - sometimes in the greenhouse and sometimes on smallish pea plants in the raised beds. I don't have any deterrents as they don't have a huge impact but my one solution if I find any is to feed them to the chickens. The same goes for small snails. When growing up there were loads in my parents' garden. Woe betide if we left it to after dark before shutting the rabbits away - it was then a case of picking your way down the garden path with a torch to avoid stepping on the hordes that came out at night. Uuurgggh - horrible creatures. I know they do a good job in organic matter breakdown and humus production, but I just can't stand them.

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    1. You are lucky Jules we are often plagued by the things - the hedgehog has even been known to turn up his/her nose at them

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  5. Isn't it a drag that you have to go to such great lengths to deter the slugs? It's about time someone invented a Hosta that TASTES horrible to slugs.

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    1. The trouble is that it isn't just hostas is it, Mark? Then we would have problems with something else like lettuce.

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  6. With all the rain we have had there are loads of slugs and snails out there. I've had to get the slug pellets out this year, hiding them where the dog can't get them. It's reminded me of my old neighbour, he used to go out at night with his torch and collect them, then he would paint numbers on them to see if they came back. He was a bit strange!

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    1. I think collecting would be a full time job, Liz. Did he find that they came back as I've read that they have a homing instinct when they find a good place to dine?

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  7. I know the bowdens hosta catalogue does recommend some varieties as being particularly resistant if that helps. I tend to tip coffee grounds around them and I have put the dogs hair in too after he's been clipped! We don't seem to have a big problem with them here but when we lived in the city they ate the lot!

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    1. Ours came from Bowdens FRG and a couple were supposed to be less palatable to slugs. They tend to be the thicker plain bluish and bright green ones. They maybe are attacked a little less vigorously but they still suffer damage. I guess like us although slugs have preferences they will eat the less tasty foods as well. Maybe having located them they feel after all the effort they'd better have a nibble.

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  8. I've never grown a hosta that wasn't shredded within a week. I used to use slug and snail pellets but they made my garden look like the snail version of gallipoli. Not pleasant. Fortunately our climate here isn't really suitable for hostas so I resist the temptation to grow them.

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    1. Just hope my defences work longer than a week Liz.

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