New allotments – slug damage

How everybody hates the slug (except hedgehogs perhaps) and how little there is you can do about the beast! I lost one of my celery plants to slugs yesterday and at least six of the brassicas Duncan put in have been eaten back to the stem in a single night – not much chance of any of them surviving. Not all the brassicas are labelled and some went in before we became co-workers, so I’m guessing from the stems what these were and I think they were purple sprouting broccoli, a particular favourite of mine, which makes it even more annoying.

The usual routes for slug prevention are slug pellets or slug traps. The former is simple but works out as quite an expense if you have to ‘protect’ an entire allotment and may harm wildlife. The latter is cheaper but time-consuming and if, like me, you’re fastidious (not a good allotment trait) it becomes increasingly horrible to empty the drowned slugs out of the traps and refill them.

Another route is the nematode, a parasitic creature of microscopic size that is watered into the soil where it searches out slugs and creeps inside them (think of the alien inside John Hurt in the film Alien and you’ve got the picture). Once inside, the nematode releases a bacterium which it feeds on and as that bacterium multiplies, the slug dies. The nematodes multiply inside the slug and within 3-5 days the slug stops feeding and will burrow underground to die. As the slug decomposes in the soil, the nematodes are released back into the soil to search out more slugs. I’m thinking we might have to order some.

Here’s the problem though – a lot of our plot is covered in black planting membrane through which holes have been cut for the seedlings – I can’t find any information about whether nematodes will work in those circumstances. Normally you water them across the whole growing area with a watering can and they burrow down into the soil – so will it work if you just pour the nematode water through the small holes in the black plastic? I don’t know, and nobody seems to be able to tell me.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Friday, June 20, 2008

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