It’s Never Too Soon for Slug Baiting – Part 2

By Mike Darcy

Although it is not yet spring, I sometimes believe slugs will not be so present this early in the year. Oregon has had a few spells of cold weather beginning in December. As the temperatures dipped into the teens, I hoped the slugs would not be prepared for the cold. That was certainly not the case.

Photo: Mike Darcy

Already there are many signs of slug damage in my garden. Though many plants have not even leafed out or emerged from the soil, quite a few of those that have are already showing telltale signs of damage. When I was asked to write this article by Meta®, the title was originally going to be “Plants that Slugs Just Love to Eat.” As I thought about it, it seemed “Plants Slugs Don’t Like” would be easier to list! For example, I rarely see slug damage on roses. Perhaps slugs do not like crawling around the sharp thorns to get to the leaves? Also, slugs usually do not eat leaves that are rigid, such as holly, and it seems they are not attracted to most conifers.

Certainly though, there are plants that seem to be “slug magnets.” In early spring, primroses are a slug delicacy. As the season progresses, petunias, marigolds, many hostas, dahlias, lilies and leafy vegetable plants succumb. In my own garden last summer, I planted basil in a large pot and within hours I saw slugs climbing up the sides of the container.

To digress for a moment, I always find it interesting that a plant may be poisonous to us, but not to slugs. Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet) is a good example of this. All parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested by humans, yet I have seen slugs crawl up a large plant in my garden to specifically target the flowers.

A key to slug control is using baits early in the season and at the proper time of day. In my garden, I use products with Meta® active ingredient, primarily Corry’s®, in the meal formulation. Sometimes I will use Deadline®, a liquid formulation, to make a protective circle around new transplants. This application forms a barrier between the plant, and hungry slugs. When applying slug bait, I’ve found that I get the best results by applying on damp soil in the early evening. If the soil is dry, I will wet it lightly and then apply the slug bait. It is especially important to bait around new plants in their critical growth stages, so the slugs do not have a chance to start eating and cause damage.

Remember, when using any garden products read the label and follow directions closely.