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During the build up for the RHS Tatton 2016 show one of the neighbors suggested we might be getting some questions from visitors about how we had such perfect Hostas.
On arrival from our nursery, Hortus Loci, the was not a single bite out of them. Of course this made me worry that a rout (also called an escargatoire of snails!) of voracious snails, or a ‘bed’ of slugs, might be making their way up the hill to us for an overnight feast on our 20 super healthy Hosta Purple Heart plants. So emergency measure were taken. Every pot lifted in search of stray beasties, two slugs found and squished, then the Hostas separated from other plants. In fact these were the only measures we took in the end as we didn’t have the usual resources available to us on site and they all survived the entire show without a single munch mark. I put this down to robust healthy plants and regular attention to snails/slug hunting, twice daily!
At home I employ a number of other methods because to be honest twice daily beastie hunting isn’t terribly practical. So my 3 favourite methods for protecting my Hosta’s are as follows:-
- Nematodes in early spring – Tiny microscopic eelworms called nematodes like to eat slugs, mostly the ground dwelling ones, so getting them into your soil early in the season stops the slugfest in it’s tracks. It prevents the rampant breeding and cuts the chomp problem down considerably. Nematodes feed on slugs so naturally as the slug population reduces so do the nematodes. Watering vulnerable plants at a 6 weekly interval will reintroduce the predator.
- Watering with garlicky water – Now this is a new one to me and to be honest I was a tad suspicious BUT the gardener who told me was displaying spectacular huge Hostas in her garden with not a single damaged leaf at the end of a damp season. They were in large terracotta pots so this may have helped! Simply crush a couple of cloves into a watering can of water and leave to steep for a day, or two, then use to water your Hostas. The tonic is very potent so keep it somewhere cool and out of the way!
- Water feature and wildlife homes – Slugs and snails provide a nice snack for quite a few garden visitors, hedgehogs, frogs and birds are all partial to a juicy slug or snail, encouraging them to visit your patch to eat the beasties on your behalf is a great time saver. Try adding a water source in the form of a small, or large, pond make sure a it includes a shallow beach area to allow easy entry and exit, somewhere quiet to retreat to like a pile of old logs in a quiet back corner, perfect for a hedgehog house, bird feeders and insect hotels also increase the biodiversity of your garden making it a more interesting smorgasbord for hungry visitors.
I’ve also tried but like less
- Beer traps – Fill a small plastic carton with an inch or two of beer, place it in the garden and wait. Slugs like beer apparently, get drunk fall in and drown, effective but messy to clear out.
- Grapefruit skin – placing half grapefuit skins upside down in the planting draws certain slugs to them, where they enjoy munching the pith, so this is more of a collection point where you can deal with them once you’ve collected them.
I haven’t used coffee grounds (Waitrose and Costa often supply their coffee grounds waste to customers free of charge) because it is illegal in the EU to use an active ingredient (coffee and caffeine) as a pesticide unless it has been approved for this purpose. It hasn’t. So until we exit the EU I can’t recommend it. I can recommend mulching with it though as it is an excellent organic soil improver.
Do let me know your favorite method for slug and snail control in the comments below.
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