Casual Gardener: Pest protection the natural way

The threat from slugs and snails is best tackled with a holistic approach...

Slugs enjoy young, tender plants
Slugs enjoy young, tender plants Slugs enjoy young, tender plants
Snails feed mostly at night
Snails feed mostly at night Snails feed mostly at night

PEOPLE of a certain age won't need reminding why Bryan Adams's (Everything I Do) I Do For You holds a special place in the history of pop music. The same generation will also likely recall how dominant of English domestic football Liverpool were in the 1980s – a whole decade spent under Conservative rule. Yet the gravel voiced Canadian singer-songwriter, Anfield's Red Army and Margaret Thatcher have nothing on slugs and snails.

In almost every survey ever compiled listing gardeners' least favourite pest, these two slimy molluscs, coupled together due to their lifestyle and anatomical similarities, are top of the list nine times out of 10. Their unpopularity stems from the fact that both have voracious appetites, and their favourite food is tender young plants, of the sort that populate our gardens in spring. In the weeks ahead, we'll be seeing more slugs and snails – and potentially more of the damage they leave in their wake. During the day, they will hide in dark, cool and humid places to shelter and rear their heads at night to feed.

Sustainable pest prevention specialists Green Protect have detailed the top five tips for humanly dealing with slugs and snails during peak season. Thankfully, the days are numbered for toxic metaldehyde slug pellets that kill not only the slugs and snails but poison everything up the food chain. While banned in Britain, old style slug pellets are still technically legal here in the north – another border in the Irish Sea that former environment minister Edwin Poots kept in place.

Slugs enjoy young, tender plants
Slugs enjoy young, tender plants Slugs enjoy young, tender plants

A favourite for protecting potted hostas is copper tape attached all the way round the planter. It deters the pests by giving them a small electrostatic shock that while not causing any serious harm or long-term damage, is enough to stop them from attacking your plants. It's also a very subtle solution in terms of aesthetics, with the tape being a similar colour to most plant pots meaning it will largely be unnoticeable.

Green Protects own barrier pellets offer an eco-friendly, chemical-free solution for keeping slugs and snails at bay. Simple to use, in that all you do is place them around the stem of the plant, forming a physical barrier. Meanwhile, a common sense approach is avoid plants that are susceptible to mollusc attack, such as hostas, and instead populate your garden with more robust species like aquilegia or foxgloves. Or you can even offer the slimy blighters an alternative food source scattered freely around your garden. Things like orange peel (or any other citrus fruits) and cucumber slices will help keep the pests away from your plants.

The best solution is of course create an environment where natural predators thrive. Making your garden appealing to song birds, hedgehogs, frogs and ground beetles is a surefire way to control any pest population. Take measures like installing a pond, creating wild niches (twigs, logs, dead plants, etc) and having dry stone walls and hedges as boundaries.

Sophie Thorogood, from the technical team at Green Protect said: "Slugs can wreak havoc in any garden, especially in those growing hostas plants, bedding plants and vegetables.

“A garden with biodiversity is a healthy one, so attracting other garden-friendly creatures can also act as a defence from slugs. Hedgehogs, toads, frogs and ground beetles are natural enemies of the slug, so creating inviting environments for these creatures to thrive will certainly keep slugs at bay.”

For more information visit