Slugs and snails… Hosta enemy number 1

What do you do about slugs and snails? This is one of the most asked questions of a Hosta grower. It is a fact that although Hostas are one of the most reliable perennials in the garden, slugs and snails love them. The perfect solution would be Hosta varieties that are resistant to slugs and snails but, despite some articles in garden magazines, there are no completely resistant varieties yet. The Hostas with thinner leaves are more appetizing to slugs and snails than the varieties with thicker leaves. This is easy to recognize by just feeling the leaves and there is no need for years of study. Replacing all varieties that have thin leaves with thick-leaved Hostas does not solve the problem totally, the Hosta is, and remains, the best restaurant in town for the slugs and snails…they will just have to bite a bit harder to eat their meal if nothing better is around. It is like they say: If you’re hungry….you will eat anything. It all comes down to what the Hosta lover wants to do and is able to do to solve the problem.

Prevent Slugs / slug holes

In most cases it is the slugs that cause holes in Hosta leaves, and in fewer cases the snails as they really prefer composted leaves. When dusk comes the slugs and snails leave their hiding places (e.g. organic mulch, boxwood hedges and ivy) and eat Hostas. This is also the best time of day to catch them. Many hosta gardeners go for a “slug hunt” in the evening and catch all the slugs and snails they can find by hand. It might not be the most fun job but many see it as a positive thing as you can observe your Hostas closely every night. Covering the area around the Hostas with material that slugs and snails don’t like to crawl over (e.g. bark, cacao shells, and broken shells) will prevent the next invasion of slugs. It has been proven that coffee grounds and a garlic solution spray can kill slugs and snails and keep others at a distance. This is something that has to be repeated on a regular base as the caffeine and the garlic will wash off with rain.

Exterminating slugs and snails

Aside from catching and chasing the slugs and snails there are different ways to attract them to destroy them. One method is by placing beer traps in your garden. Simply bury jars filled ¾ full with beer and the slugs and snails will be attracted to them, crawl in and will drown in the beer. Also, almost all slug-pellets have a special ingredient to attract the slugs so they can easily find the pellets which will kill them. There is a wide choice of either organic or chemical slug-pellets and the choice is up to you. It is advisable to have a briefing at your local garden center about this choice and availability as it differs in each country and each year. Generally, we can say that slug pellet applications must be repeated and it is best to start in the beginning of the year. When it looks like the slug problem is somewhat under control it is best to use only the pellets where new damage is observed. You can place it under a roof tile or in a pipe to prevent the pellets from being washed away by rain or eaten by other animals.

At the nursery we are using nematodes to kill the slugs. The nematodes release bacteria and it kills the slugs and snails. We have had varying degrees of success with this method and need more experience with it. Hopefully, we will soon be able to tell you more about how you as gardener can use this method.

The above mentioned solutions are only a small selection of the many tricks and ways to get rid of your slugs and snails, but it all comes down to what methods each gardener wants to utilize.

Here a recipe of a garlic extract that works extremely well. So it goes with “the battle against slugs and snails”…the power is in repetition!

Garlic Extract… recipe to deter slugs and snails.

  • Take 2 whole garlic bulbs, not just the cloves.
  • Crush the garlic bulbs.
  • Boil 1 liter of water and add the garlic to the boiling water.
  • Let boil for 10 minutes.
  • When cool sift the extract, you can use gauze or even panty hose.
  • Store the garlic extract in a bottle that can be locked.
  • 2 tablespoons are needed for every liter of water you want to prepare and the mixture should be in a spray bottle.
  • Stir well and you can spray the Hostas and repeat every 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Hint: spray late in the evenings when the Hostas stay moist longer and the effect of spraying is clearly greater. The eggs of slugs and snails that are touched by the spray will not develop. Side effect: many beetles, aphids and aphids eggs will not survive when sprayed with this garlic water.