As a long-time gardener and Oregon resident, the battle to prevent slugs from devouring the garden has become an annual ritual. The first time I saw one of the enormous slugs that live at 5R Farm I knew I was in for a challenge. After spending a few rainy days working outside, I had seen how many slugs there were crawling all over the flowers, the grass, the deck, the stairs, and even on the back door. Vast hoards of enormous slugs would be on the prowl in my veggie garden, and I was going to have to take my slug control efforts to another level. I knew there was no point in trying to get rid of the slugs altogether, so I decided to focus my efforts on the veggie garden and let the slugs have the run of the remainder of the the 4.5 acres.
I did some research into chemical-free methods of slug control. We all know about the tried and true beer trap, but I was looking for something that didn’t require frequent baiting and removal. A few weeks ago we implemented three slug control strategies. First, we installed copper wire around the tops of all of the raised beds. Supposedly slugs will not crawl over copper because it gives them a mild electric shock when they come in contact with it. Second, I put crushed eggshells around the veggies planted directly in the ground, and slugs are supposed to avoid crawling over the sharp edges of the shells. Lastly, I spread wood ash around some plants, which is supposed to work similarly to eggshells because slugs avoiding crossing the abrasive surface of the ash.
Prior to this weekend I had noticed holes in the leaves of some of the plants in the garden, but it wasn’t too serious. Things took a turn for the worse during the rainy weekend, and the slugs were out in full force having their way with my bok choy. Much to my chagrin, I saw a slug crawling right over the copper wire, holding his body off of the wire as he went! The eggshells seem to be doing a pretty good job, although they have a tendency to move around a bit due to watering. The wood ash does not seem to be effective for very long since rain or watering causes it to mix in with the soil. Upon doing a bit of further research into the copper method, it appears we need to use a wider strip of copper for it to be truly effective. Based on the slug census this weekend it looks like we need to redouble our efforts by installing thicker copper and more eggshells. Next year, we may just have to get some of those Indian runner ducks I’ve been pining away for – in addition to being absolutely adorable they are apparently excellent at slug control!