While doing a spot of weeding the other day, in preparation for potato planting, I came across an alarming number of slug eggs in the soil. Doing a bit of internet research on the subject made for worrying reading:
- A slug can lay 20-100 eggs several times a year
- Slug eggs can remain dormant in soil for many years, hatching when conditions become suitable.
- A cubic metre of garden can contain upto 200 slugs
- Slugs are hermaphrodite (possessing both male and female reproductive organs) so can mate with any slug of the same species they come across.
- They can also reproduce without a mate by producing eggs without the male gamete being transferred (parthenogenesis).
- Only 5% of a slug population will be above ground at any time. The remaining 95% will be below ground, laying eggs, feeding on roots and seed sprouts, and digesting your newly emerged seedlings.
(slug facts courtesy of slugoff.co.uk)
Last year was just awful - I'd never seen such a rampage of slime-secreting leaf-eaters that ploughed through my seedlings last spring. Previous years I've not had such a big problem. They occasionally hit a particular plant – salad leaves are usually popular – but 2013 was notable for virtually nothing being safe. They worked their way through so many of my crops – they put paid to the first sowing of rocket salad and of beetroot. I sowed carrot seeds three times and had the grand total of two carrots reach true leaf stage. They took down a lot of my pea, borlotti bean and sugar snap plants when they were first planted out, they nibbled lots of the potato haulms and had a really good go at the courgette and squash plants. I feared they might have finished off my Hooligan pumpkin plant but thankfully it rallied and went on to produce a single fruit. One after one they decimated my baby nicotiniana plants. I kept some replacements in the greenhouse, but even there they didn't seem to be safe – a few nibbled leaves and even telltale trails on my 4 foot tall tomato plants. It seems there is nowhere a slug won't go for some dinner.
Having had such a mild winter, I fear for the 2014 crops already. A less than frosty winter means that the slug population has avoided the natural population control of freezing temperatures, so I may well employ the services of nematodes to keep the hungry hordes at bay. My finger is hovering over the 'Buy' button as the weather warms up and hoping that there will not be a shortage of the product as many fellow gardeners do the same.