After all the recent rain, you may have discovered a large influx of gastropods weaving their merry way across your lawn. I’m talking, of course, about slugs and snails: that great nemesis of your clematis or harasser of your hostas, but could they actually be beneficial for your garden? According to Gardener’s World, they could be. The main benefits highlighted were that they can improve your soil, eat rotting plants and are a fantastic and important food source for wildlife.
Some of the many surprising things about these nocturnal garden guests are:
- There can be as many as 200 slugs per square metre of your garden.
- Slugs are asymmetrical, with a large breathing pore on one side.
- They actually have teeth – which explains the bite marks in your cabbages! Slugs and snails have thousands of tiny teeth that act like sandpaper, scratching into the material below.
- Slugs are often meat-eaters, about 30% eat both plants and animals, 10% only eat meat, whilst the rest eat plants and fungus.
- Many slugs often prefer to eat rotting materials – including dog poo!
- Some slugs, such as the leopard slug, are very territorial and will fight other species of slug – therefore keeping those other species away from your plants.
- Slugs and snails help with composting in your garden.
- They are a vital source of food for other garden visitors such as birds, hedgehogs, toads, frogs and ducks.
With these benefits in mind, along with how incredibly common slugs and snails are in gardens in the UK, one of the best ways to deal with these pests, is to learn to live with them. Some suggestions from Friday night's episode are using particularly helpful plants, such as those with poisonous sap like the euphorbia, or hairy leaves like the tellima, or oily-based leaves like the geranium carefully positioned to protect other plants. Other defences could be raised beds or pots, and sharp gravel around particularly delicious plants (have a look at our fantastic range of aggregates here), or, as Gardener’s World suggests, a sacrificial plant such as a nasturtium that is there purely as slug food – and will hopefully distract them from other plants. The good news for your lawn is that they will rarely cause it any issues thanks to the small leaves of the grass plant, though it won’t stop then from using is a highway to more delicious leaves! Try keeping your lawn well mowed (have a look at our zero-emission EGO lawnmowers here) in order to help you spot them early, and maybe even redirect them to your compost heap.
What is vital to remember is that a healthy garden is a sustainable garden that has a good balance of both predators and prey.
Want to find out more? The whole episode is available on the BBC iPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000xpc8/gardeners-world-2021-episode-17