I am locked in an epic battle with slugs determined to destroy the cucumbers and squash in my garden. They have taken the initiative repeatedly and struck from the shadows. In fact, I had cucumbers and squash growing in May that were completely destroyed long before I knew what was hitting me.
I have prior gardening experience, but gardening in the Pacific Northwest — with its slugs — is a new adventure for me. We have slugs in Iowa, but they are not even worth mentioning when discussing the shell-less land mollusks living here.
A couple weeks ago I planted new cucumbers and squash (I know, it’s late), and the slugs are back in lesser numbers. I have spent time investigating my options. Did you know that slugs do not like moving over copper? Aside from copper, various types of molluscides are available, but that’s not for me. The most appealing option to me is the judicious deployment of defensive structures, and I found the information in “Slug Fences” very useful.
Unfortunately, I am working with entire hills of plants, so I had to modify the most attractive portions of the slug fence design and installation method. After purchasing the necessary materials and finding a time when nobody else was around, I set to constructing my first fortification. It did not take long to realize the large time investment that would be needed to construct all of the walls, and they would not even be that great when finished! Desperate, I fell back on the beer trap trick: bury a cup (or some suitably-sized vessel) up to its brim and fill half way with beer. It sounds a little ridiculous, and the guy in the grocery store clearly thought so too. Slugs apparently like the smell of beer, fall in, get drunk, then drown. There is no need to tell me that sounds evil; I already feel bad about it. Remember: they started this. Of all of the plants at my garden site, the slugs have a strong preference for cucumber and squash seedlings. Once the plants have grown a little, I will remove the traps.
I deployed the cups and beer last night and checked the traps this morning. Regrettably, the system is not at all discriminating. Of the creatures large enough for me to see, three spiders and one slug were eliminated.
If I ever find myself brewing beer, it will be named ‘Slug Harvest Ale’ to memorialize my worthy, fallen opponents.