Monday, May 25, 2020

Garden Report: Slugs and Raccoons - Garden Companions or Pests

Pacific Banana Slug
Here on Vancouver Island our gardens are enjoying spring rain which happens mostly at night. This coincides with the emergence of slugs. The Pacific Banana Slug, the second largest slug in the world is the only native slug residing in the Pacific Northwest rainforest ecosystem. It plays a vital role in recycling litter on the forest floor converting it to rich dark soil.

The 2020 vegetable garden bed
Knowing rain was in the forecast that night, I spent the afternoon planting out some of the small plants I had grown from seed thinking I would leave the rain to water them in and save me a garden task.
The next morning I was crushed to see the rain had activated an army of waiting slugs who then proceeded to devour most of the seedlings I had planted.
In desperation, in the hope of saving the few remaining ragged plants, I erected a copper mesh forcefield around the bed. 

The jury is out on how effective copper is as a slug deterrent. Does the slime & copper combo cause the slug to experience an electric shock? I'm not sure this is true but I figure at least a copper mesh acts as a physical barrier. It would take a lot of slime to glide up and over the mesh fence and may put off some slugs.

While the large Pacific Banana Slug hangs out mostly in the forest it is the nonnative European Black Slug that is the garden pest. It crawls four times faster than the Banana and has a voracious appetite for garden vegetables.
There are many slug deterrent suggestions out there. Any that involve sprinkling the deterrent on the soil such as salt, coffee grounds, wool pellets, or beer doesn't work here on the North West Pacific Coast where rain is a regular occurrence. People have also tried making the ground difficult for the slugs to slide over by sprinkling around plants coffee grounds, eggshells, nutshells, petroleum jelly.... For every suggestion Grandma Google has articles debunking the same.

Last fall I did try putting pots of diluted beer in the garden beds. A few slugs lured by the sweet smell fell in and drowned but the beer also attracted the raccoons who couldn't resist the slug-beer combo and cleaned up both. Gardener friend, Sharon, suggested I try again only to place the beer pots away from the garden beds to lure the slugs in the opposite direction, especially since we haven't seen the raccoons this year, yet.
The raccoons are great slug eaters and rarely disturb a plant when digging for worms so I don't want to deter them.

But they do enjoy tasting a ripe apple. 
One proven way of eliminating slugs is practiced by my sister, the Garden Queen. On rainy nights she and her husband make it a date night and venture outside with flashlights/torches to handpick the slugs. This is effective and I have the brave members in my household join me on these nightly forays.
In the meantime, I am holding off on planting out my seedlings until they are a little bigger and their leaves less succulent so they have more of a chance of surviving night-time slug raids.

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