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What's Bugging You? Slug Management in Your Garden

Breana Kiser, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent

8-29-19 Garden Slug 1Have you been finding leaves chewed on similar to this? Your culprit could be a slug.

 

 

 



Slugs are slimy, soft-bodied animals, described as shell-less snails. They are present from spring to fall, in cool, moist areas8-29-19 Garden Slug 2 with shade.  Population increase during rainy season and on well-irrigated gardens. Slugs feed on leaves of many plants (especially seedlings), ripening fruits and vegetables, and decaying plant matter. They feed at night and hide during the day because they can’t handle the heat of the sun. To try and find them, near the stem of the plant that has evidence of being eaten and lightly dig up some of the soil. They should be near the surface so you can now manage for these little pests.
A few ways you can protect your gardens from slugs if they are already an issue is to bait them so you can remove them from your garden. Baits and pesticides can be used in combination with a few other control methods. Baits are not effective in controlling slugs, if used alone.

Baits should be applied before fruits (especially berries) become ripe, because the slugs might prefer ripe fruit over slug bait.  Irrigate the patch just before applying a bait. This will create an ideal condition for slugs to become active. Apply the bait in the late afternoon or evening close to the time when the slugs will begin activity. Sprinkle some bait in areas where slugs might be hiding (close to walls or fences). Another bait technique is to use an old yogurt container, bury it into your garden until the opening is level with the soil surface, then fill with beer, and the slugs will crawl into the beer, final step is to remove the container with beer and slugs.

To keep the slugs out of your garden you can create a barrier to keep them out. Materials that are effective barriers is Copper strips or tape sold specifically for slug control can be purchased from garden suppliers. Copper barriers are most practical for small gardens and containers. One can also use Diatomaceous earth (tiny fossilized skeletons of ancient aquatic diatoms) is coarse and can scratch up slugs. It is most effective when used in dry conditions and has little effect when it absorbs moisture. It is not as effective as a copper barrier.

Try to keep your garden clean and dry so you don’t attract slugs.  Rake your garden in early spring to remove leaves, plant debris and slug eggs. Be sure to remove mulch and leaf litter near plants, these can be potential hiding places for slugs. It is important to do this in early spring to remove any slug eggs that may be present. Also remove boards and other material to reduce favorable areas for slugs. Avoid using large wood chips as they provide hiding places for slugs. If you maintain wood mulch for weed prevention, keep only three inches near the plant themselves.

Water your garden only when necessary. Slugs do not like warm, dry conditions. Water your plants in the morning, so that plants are dry by evening (when slugs become active). Place drip irrigation tape close to the plants and avoid creating wet mulch situations.

Take the following steps to keep the soil surface dry:
          o    Thin or divide plants if they are too crowded.
          o    Prune lower leaves or stake large plants to allow better air circulation.
          o    If you plant in rows, keep the width of the rows narrow (12 to 18 inch).

Choose plants that are not attractive to slugs   Plants that perform well in shade but are less desired by slugs include astilbe, dicentra, lobelia, ranunculus, vinca and viola. Plants for areas with partial shade: phlox, campunula, hemerocallis and mentha. Mentha, ranunculus and viola spread vigorously and may not be suitable for some sites.

If you need help identifying what is causing issues in your garden, please call the office (701)349-3249 ext. 2. We can help solve your problem and keep your garden looking beautiful and producing fruits and vegetables for your enjoyment.

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