Of all the posts I have written so far, the slugs post has had by far the greatest number of readers and responses. (By the way, did you know, even if you are receiving this as a newsletter, as well as replying direct to me you can also come to the site and share your slug-killing tips with each other? Frankly this site doesn’t have a high enough profile to have attracted any trolls (yet) so I think it’s pretty safe environment. Unless you are a slug.) We are all, it seems, engaged in the Great Slug War, a battle on innumerable fronts and fought through innumerable weapons, from drowning them in beer to poisoning them with Sluggo, the amazingly-named supposedly-non-toxic slug pellet. I was particularly appalled by this, on the website of the latter:
With Neudorff's Sluggo Slug & Snail Killer all slugs (Garden Slug, Iberian Slug, Red Slug, Grey field Slug...) can be effectively controlled.
How many types of slug are there? How much heavy lifting is that ellipsis doing? How did the Iberian slug even get here? Did it swim round the Bay of Biscay? I wouldn’t put it past the fuckers.
(Incidentally, I just googled “how many types of slug are there?” There are 40 in the UK, and I wouldn't suggest googling them yourself and especially not before lunch because Google puts pictures of them all in a row across the top of the results and the very first one is called the Leopard Slug, which are two animals I never wanted to imagine mating let alone having offspring but here we are.)
If for some reason you don’t want to kill your slugs, other options are available. I was recommended copper tape by someone who falls into the [possibly slightly larger than I realised] category of regular reader of this newsletter and fan of Gardeners’ World, and so spent a surprisingly fiddly and uncomfortable afternoon wrapping tape around all my pots, tangling up with tape, accidentally tearing tape, slicing my fingers open on tape, realising that tape does not stick to brick walls or anything damp (such as my entire garden) and finally standing at my kitchen sink washing blood and slime off my hands only to look out and see, in my freshly-wrapped lavender pot, a giant slug sitting merrily in the middle of the leaves, chomping on what little remains of the plant. Meanwhile, in by far the most outlandish response to my original mail, another friend told me about someone he’d sat next to at dinner who designs and makes 3D-printed miniature electric anti-slug fences. (I recommended the copper tape to him instead - I hadn’t wrestled with it by then - and he says he’s had great success protecting his sage, which either means that he is more skilful with the tape or his slugs are less determined than mine. I know what I believe.) Alas, throwing them over the wall is less effective than I had hoped - apparently if you paint nail varnish on snail shells and deposit the snails miles away, the exact same snails will reemerge in your garden with surprising alacrity. (I don’t think the nail varnish is the causal factor no matter what the structure of that sentence would have you believe.)
Things began to get desperate the other night when I was having dinner in the garden with my housemate and a guest, and as darkness fell, slugs began to emerge from under the decking all around us. We were surrounded. It was like a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds, except that it wasn’t birds it was slugs, they move slower, have no beaks, and our guest used a bamboo pole to flick them to the sides of the garden and we carried on having dinner.
As ever in a crisis, I turned to my mother for help, and as ever in a crisis, she turned to Waitrose. And while in the slug aisle of Waitrose (yes, obviously Waitrose has a slug aisle) she got chatting to a young woman who told her that it has been a particular bad year for slugs, because of how cold the spring and early summer was. Apparently everyone’s plants came up so late that the slugs are all starving and desperate and willing to go to extreme lengths to eat. So extreme that in the case of this particular woman, the slugs had destroyed all of her hydrangeas… and she lives on the top floor of a tower block. (OMG, said my friend with the mini electric fence when I told him, it’s like when the Daleks learned to fly. This is surely the end of days.) Anyway my mother came over with a big bottle of bird-friendly slug pellets and a big bottle of goo that you put in rings around your plants and supposedly the slugs can’t get past. And so far so good. Or so it would seem. The thing is, by now the slugs have eaten everything they could possibly eat, so it’s not a good experimental environment. This weekend I go to the garden centre to replenish my destroyed flora, and only then will we know for sure.