Slug control with Nematodes , microscopic roundworms that prey on slugs and kill them, is an option many gardeners will now be considering.
The ugly molluscs munch their way through prized fruit and vegetables destroying everything in their path. Young plants and seedlings are particularly vulnerable. The dreaded slugs destroy the leaves of older more established plants and work their way to the centre of veg like lettuces or cabbage.
Faced with the loss of your crops it's difficult not to reach for the pellets; however organic a gardener you might aspire to be. Slug pellets work by dehydrating slugs and snails so they can't glide along on their trail of slime and dehydrate in the sun.
Beer traps, copper tape & barriers of grit, holly leaves or egg shells and similar natural remedies are all very well and picking off by hand is always a good idea but with the mollusc population reputedly doubling this year heavier weapons are called for. Many gardeners swear by a new method of slug control that is 100% organic and is proving very effective.
Nematodes are gardeners' new best friend. Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that prey on slugs and kill them. They occur naturally in the soil but by encouraging their presence gardeners can give nature a helping hand spreading infection among the slug population and bringing it under control. Infected slugs develop a swollen mantle, stop feeding and die within a few days.
Nematodes are totally organic and so harmless to wildlife, pets and children. They give up to six weeks protection reverting to their natural level after that period.
Nematodes are less effective against snails as snails can climb up into plants where the nematodes can't reach them. But snails are relatively visible and easier to pick off and destroy.
Nematodes are freely available as proprietry brands with names like Nemaslug and Nemasys and can be ordered by post or online. A small pack covers about 40 square meters with a larger pack covering about 100 square meters.
Nematodes are best applied in spring, at the start of the growing season. They usually come as a powder that is mixed with water and are easy to apply with a watering can to the affected area. They can be relatively expensive to buy compared to slug pellets or other remedies but they can be a cost effective method of control on intensively cultivated vegetable patches such as you might find on an allotment.
It is possible to make one's own Nematode mix. The method relies on collecting slugs in a bucket and mashing them into a slug stew that other cannibalistic slugs will feast on. In an average vegetable plot it is always likely that some slugs will have the Nematode parasite but at too low a level of density to affect the overall wider population.
Collect as many slugs as you can; they are easiest to track down after dark or when it has been raining and put them in a bucket with a little water in the bottom and some weeds or vegetation to feed on. Seal the bucket with a concrete slab or similar and leave for two weeks or more. The idea isn't to drown the slugs but o create an environment where the parasitic nematodes can breed. After a fortnight, by which time the slugs should have died, you mash up the slugs and top up with water. You then sieve the mix and water it around the plants you are looking to protect. Unlike slug pellets it will kill slugs that breed underground such as species that will attack potatoe crops. You can speed the whole process up by using a proprietry brand to hasten things along.