Slug Pubs

Slugs appreciate damp straw and cardboard (both often part of sheet mulching), they relish the dark, damp habitat. The first year, emerging tulip leaves showed telltale holes. Slugs are mostly a spring phenomena here – they like the winter-wet but not the summer-dry part of our weather equation.

Washington’s famous and huge native slugs, decomposers of dead wood, I relocate to the forest or leave alone. Small field slugs and others introduced by gardeners like me do the real damage. All gardeners come to terms with slugs, and develop personal strategies.

Traps – slug pubs – are a start. That first year I made traps by cutting slots in the rims of plastic containers. I buried them almost to bottom of the slots (slugs will climb up but ground beetles and other beneficials hopefully will not) and poured in the cheap beer. (I read some study revealing that the cheaper the beer the more dangerously alluring to slugs.)

Mostly I have tough, resilient plants now. Handpicking helps with new plants. Fragile things I plant in a pot or window box, theoretically out of slug reach. But one April morning, after a warm rain, I picked a slug off a clematis bud – four feet off the ground. And in a quick walk around the Quad garden I noticed the day lilies.

Other people’s day lilies seem sturdy and robust, withstanding all sorts of insults. Here they act as a trouble magnet. Last summer I moved them from deer reach, and this day, they’re a page from a slug catalogue, all sizes and shapes: small dark, medium gray, and bigger.

Ominously two of mismatched size, one on each side of the day lily’s well-chewed leaf, belly-to-belly, promise more slugs if left to their tryst. I took them, along with the too-many-to-count who festooned, adorned, slimed their hungry way over the leaves, and carried them down the driveway. I dumped them on the gravel, hoping the mail truck might come up the driveway, and turned my back on their disarray.

Such a clustering of slugs signals time for traps. This year, I could just clean out containers now weathered with age – lids faded and sides crumpled but intact. Last summer’s leftover sludge smells rich with bacteria.

May the beer entice slugs to slither over their brethren to slug paradise.

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