Relocation, relocation

Previously on Edinburgh Garden Diary I reported that coffee grounds would be a deterrent to snails. This week an urgent news update: what rot.

Seedlings in slug-infested back garden
Seedlings in slug-free front garden

Spreading coffee grounds on my pot of cornflower and night-phlox seedlings has NOT deterred the molluscs. If anything it has attracted more slugs and snails, while the caffeine appears to have stimulated them to new levels of seedling-consumption efficiency. Since adding the coffee grounds to the seedlings, almost every single seedling has been quickly, silently and ruthlessly eliminated. It’s heartbreaking and makes my blood boil. I want vengeance upon these criminals. I have been researching ways of doing them in. (Greenly, of course.) The internet tells me to pour salt on them or drown them in beer traps. Right-but-one neighbour tells me with relish, ‘ I squish them’.

IMG_0151But hang on a minute. Gardening is supposed to lower your blood pressure, bond you with nature and bring peace to your soul. It is not supposed to make you angry and blood thirsty. After all, let’s face it, if you put tasty food out for the slugs and snails, duly they will come out and eat it. This should neither be surprising nor cause anger.

So, the moluscs can’t stay, and can’t be poisoned, and won’t be eaten (there are no hedgehogs or toads in the back garden as it is enclosed entirely by four-storey tenements) and I just couldn‘t squish one. One of the few options left is physical removal, ie. taking the slugs out of my garden and releasing them far away.


I knew exactly where the damned things were hiding. I opened the lid of the old wooden box bench, and there underneath the lid were fat, pulsating giant green slugs an inch long. I enclose pictures lest it has not been adequately conveyed how dégoûtant these beasts are; not even the French eat slugs.

Using a spoon and marigolds, I flicked every single slug into an old tupperware pot, put the lid on, and walked across the Meadows where I released them in to a hedge (not someone’s garden hedge, that would be too unfair) where hopefully they will be eaten by a hedgehog.

Combined with beer traps, which I am tempted to try in the future, regular physical removal does seem to be the greenest solution and I think it will be effective as long as I persevere and keep hunting them and taking them out.


3 thoughts on “Relocation, relocation

  1. Oh dear oh dear. The distant hedge is the King Canute take on slug control. Believe me, there are plenty more slugs where those came from. Don’t forget that they live in the soil, especially the smaller sorts, and can come up at your plants from below. Here are 6 green ways to get ahead of them:

    Deterrents better than coffee grounds :
    – wood ash (very effective, but needs replacing after rain)
    – crushed egg shell
    – horticultural grit (in bags from garden centre)
    But these three are probably too thick and heavy for seedlings to sprout through. They are for well-established perennials like delphinium and hosta which slugs like to eat as they reappear in spring. For seedlings try:
    – copper rings or tape (will deter snails, but in open ground slugs can burrow beneath). If using pots make sure the compost is clean and try to raise them well above ground level.

    Slaughter. This is the King Herod take; you may remember that he missed his mark and for all we know slugs have guardian angels, too. Surely one has better things to do than to squish slugs, or catch them and drop them into a jar of brine, satisfying as these acts of vengeance may, possibly, be. Do not, I beg you, try neat salt. It will do your plants no good. Well, just once, if you never have before, put a little salt on a slug to see what happens. If you catch yourself doing it a second time get psychiatric help. The beer trap sounds quite satisfying and may be a good backup to physical deterrents. Be sure to dispose of the beer and contents responsibly.

    Subversion. Is now all the rage. Sorry, no king to illustrate subversion comes to mind – perhaps it is essentially a non-regal approach. This may be the proper attitude, where slugs are concerned. You infiltrate millions of tiny slug-haters into the earth and let them do the dirty work for you. They are called nematodes. You mix them with water and irrigate them into the soil. I do not know it they can be used in pots, but cannot see why not if the compost is kept moist.

    You probably have time to plant your seeds again, especially in Scotland. Good luck.

  2. Yes, I’m keen on the nematodes and the beer traps. Copper tape sounds expensive. I’m rather put off seeds… ready-made plants are a more tempting option right now.

  3. What I’m also going to do is transfer some of the seedlings from the front garden pot to the back garden (once my boozy copper nematode traps are in place). They need thinning out anyway, so the packet said.

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