Slug Fest

My string beans, wax beans, and lima beans are barely out of the ground, and they’re already being eaten by something! This morning, while performing my biweekly close examination of all my plants and trees, I discovered that several of my bean plants are sporting half-eaten leaves (as my wax beans in the picture above) or are merely spindly stalks sans leaves. I see no signs of insect infestation, nor bugs themselves. So, what is attacking my beans?

While eating brunch (yes, garden first, then food), I did a Google search on my smart phone. It seems my beans are in good company among the gardening community at large. Based on pictures and fellow gardeners’ complaints, I believe slugs are the culprit. Living in the South, I have no problems believing that. Add that to the fact that my choice of mulch (wood chips) between my raised beds is considered a slug paradise, I have my work cut out for me.

Up until this point, the only solution I have known for slugs is table salt. Ever watch a slug sprinkled with salt shrivel up and die before your eyes?? Well, salt may be an effective slug killer, but it is also a plant killer and soil sterilizer. So, table salt is out. Thankfully, I read of a few easy solutions.

First, do not water in the evening, but only in the morning. Slugs are nocturnal, and a drier garden at night can reduce slug damage by 80%. Major note to self on that one.

Second, putting beer in low containers (like a tuna can) away from the plants you’re trying to protect is effective. The slugs are drawn to the beer, they enter the container, then they drown. Unfortunately, this won’t capture all of them. And I want all of them! So, rather than this passive attack, I have decided to go Rambo on them!

String bean bed with diatomaceous earth

String bean bed with diatomaceous earth

Attack 1: Sprinkle the edges of my raised beds (inside the bed and around the outside) with diatomaceous earth (DE). Used in dry weather, it will act as a desiccant to those slimy creatures. I also sprinkled some DE around the affected plants. I also read that a foliar spray can be made with DE and water, then sprayed onto the plants. I may try that.

Attack 2: A great organic, non-toxic slug killer is a product called Sluggo. Its main ingredient is iron phosphate with slug and snail bait additives. When a slug eats this, he soon ceases to feed. No feeding, no living! Apply it in the evening to damp ground around the affected plants every two weeks as needed. Because I have issues with too much phosphorus in my soil and this product is a phosphate, I plan to apply it outside my raised beds – on top of the cypress-chip slug resort – to get them before they crawl into bed with my beans.

On a happy note, some of my bean stems seem to be growing new leaves.

Eaten wax bean stem growing new leaves

Eaten wax bean stem growing new leaves

Thankfully, the stems with new leaves are not lost. However, I’m not sure about all the others those slugs have eaten. So, this afternoon, I’m off to the garden center in search of a couple pounds of Sluggo. Let the games begin!

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