Thursday, 3 July 2008

Coffee grounds and eggshells? I don't think so...

Raining as I write which (naturally) brings out the slugs and snails again. There do seem to be more of them about after the very wet summer last year.

A couple of recent pieces referring to the coffee grounds technique of keeping them down prompts me to ask, how? As this is another respect in which I've failed to maintain organic standards this year.

I started the season well, my garden has in any case quite a residue of eggshells from the compost heap but my family get through a dozen a week, so supplies were not difficult. I upped my consumption of fresh coffee to three jugs a week (normally just one on a Sunday morning) and diligently sprinkled the grounds around the newly planted salad leaves and cosmos as I planted them out. I also spent a couple of evenings clearing out the little buggers, throwing snails over the fence onto the concrete drive or into the wood along the railway cutting behind the house. I dropped the slugs into salt water.

I felt really smug as I'd given the birds a free run on this juicy food source and for about a week afterwards, I didn't lose a thing. And then I realised by the end of the second week, that my salads weren't growing and by the week after that, the few leaves that emerged were somewhat ragged, a quarter of the cosmos had disappeared, and lo the snails and slugs were back.

I cannot bear to lose so many plants to them. So I've succumbed to the dreaded pellets. But I still don't win the battle. I can cope with the empty snail shells all over the flower beds. I feel guilty, but I can cope. What I cannot bear is the slime trails and dead bodies scattered all around.

I used beer traps over a number of years, but in the end I found disposing of the contents too disgusting. I don't mind bugs, worms, spiders, insects. But I feel squeamish around slugs. I can't bear to touch them.

I suspect that the compost heap also contributes to the problem, as it's absolutely full of 'em. I don't believe they're just eating, I'm sure there's breeding and egg laying going on too in the warm and damp interior. But I can't bear to look.

So, I'm looking for slug and snail contraceptives ( prevention being better than cure). I'd like to have a clean and effective, simple and cheap method of keeping them off my plants. (Copper bands are quite expensive). And I suppose, advice on whether and how coffee grounds work in other people's gardens. Is my technique at fault? Am I supposed to dry them out before use perhaps?

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