Teme Valley Musings, November 2018

by Stephanie Mocroft

Back in September I mentioned some slug and snail control methods in an article about slug pellets and hedgehogs. Imagine my dismay when I opened the paper today, to see a headline announcing “Gardeners are losing war on slugs”. The Royal Horticultural Society has released the results of a study that found that many commonly used remedies (yes, including those that I had recommended) make no difference whatsoever in protecting lettuces against slugs. In the interests of clarity and accuracy I therefore withdraw my previous advice!
Five remedies that the researchers tested, and found wanting, were copper tape, horticultural grit, pine bark mulch, wool pellets and eggshells. Their test methods were painstaking. They grew 108 lettuces for 6 weeks, then harvested them and measured the slug damage. The only good news about this study is that the RHS has got as many slugs as I have! They concluded that removing slugs by hand and setting traps to facilitate this, were effective, as were the use of nematodes and slug pellets (which they applied within strict wildlife-damage-limiting guidelines). They also suggested encouraging birds into the garden to help with the physical removal side of things, although they did not test any bird-friendly measures in a scientific way.
After the September article came out I had an interesting chat with a local farmer who told me about a project that has been running in the valley over the last few years. Severn Trent Water regularly measures pollutant levels in the River Teme and has introduced a scheme whereby farmers can be paid a small fee to switch from metaldehyde to ferrous oxide for slug control on their crops. Ferrous oxide is safer for the environment, but still toxic to slugs, and can be used at lower densities of pellets than metaldehyde, although it is more expensive. I was delighted to find that Teme Valley farmers are ahead of the curve and leading the way for gardeners and wildlife enthusiasts. Coincidentally, our local farmer has recently spotted a hedgehog hiding up in his out-buildings and is currently treating it to cat-food, what more can I say!
I had intended to write about hedgerows this month, not hedgehogs, but they will have to wait for another time. Until then, cheerio, and remember to check your bonfire on the 5th for any spiny creatures who might be having a quiet sleep underneath.