Slug Damage in Gardens of Asheville

slug crawling off a green leaf

This month begins our 16th year as the owners At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn.  The lush vibrant colors of this garden have offered us peace, a great work-out, a healthy outlet for frustration and a complete sense of accomplishment in creating a place serene beauty.
  They have also provided  a frontier for some fierce fighting & strategic moves the likes of which have not been seen since as the southerns like to call it    –  “The War of Northern Aggression.”  My worthy and currently victorious opponent-the lowly slug.

I know some of you are thinking there are a million things that work on these slimy, night stalking creatures as they drag their small but perilously efficient, eating machine bodies through  my flowers, coleus, sweet potato vines and more.

My previous position before inn ownership was science based so all the information provided moving forward is not anecdotal in nature but tried, true, research conducted in the fields of our garden.

Diatomaceous Earth:  Also called D.E. and is the remnants of fossilized diatoms, a form of hard shelled algae.  In the treatment of slugs, this substance is to be sprinkled about the affected plant and it is to create an razor like effect on slugs.  In other words,  death by a million cuts.
Despite the purported efficacy of this substance, I am here to tell you that the plants remain eaten, I see no dead or suffering slivers of slugs and other than the fact that the white visage of the treatment remains in evidence, it proved completely ineffective.

Beer Containers:  Put in small yogurt containers sunk into the ground about a 1/2 ” up.   Ok, this can be useful if you can keep your neighbors out of the beer & you don’t mind your property smelling not unlike the local pub.  That said, the most distasteful aspect of this method is the rather off putting spectacle that becomes your greeting at mornings light.  The slugs have arrived at the beer bar-hence are both drowned and submerged in the cup.  As you might imagine, this is not for the faint of heart.  It presents a most grizzly way to begin the morning plucking slimy, corpses out of cup.  Failure to remove this dead, organic matter is even worse I assure you.

Slug and Snail Bait:  This treatment is also to be sprinkled around the affected plants. This treatment my take the form of emulsion, pellets or a mealy like substance.  The most popular chemical and longest used of these baits employs metaldehyde.  It is to be used sparingly and too much can actually prove an attraction rather than a detriment.  Unfortunately, should you have either young children or pets…this stuff can be lethal
I have however seen some results with this.  

All of the aforementioned must be repeated again if there is any rainfall. 

Plant Marigolds: A neighbor told me to plant marigolds and assured me it would function very effectively as a deterrent.  Alas, it was as though I’d held a smorgasbord for snails and all their friends.  My lovely marigolds now bear little resemblance to their former glory looking more like small, chomped on, green, airy like waif stems that tried and failed.

Hand Pick the Snail at Night:   Yeah Right!  NOT! I wonder if I could sell this as a Eco-vacation experience at our inn…..  Hi There Inn Goers- Book 2 nights at our inn and join us in a moonlit, snail picking event.  

Copper around the Affected Plant:  Unless you plan to build a fortress over the entire plant they simply crawl over it much like young, able recruits vaulting over obstacle courses in basic training.

Coffee Grounds:  Sprinkle around the affected plant.  All this scattering of coffee grounds takes more time than it looks like it would and renders nothing.  My thought is that caffeine is a stimulant and perhaps when the slugs tired and sated might have called it a night and gone home-  It gives them their “second wind.”

As has likely become very evident by now readers.  There is a full blown war going on at our inn and right now, this very minute, I hesitate to believe I will emerge the victor but I remain on the case.


Patti and Gary Wiles, Innkeepers

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