Sunday, 16 May 2010

Nematode nemesis of slugs

Uh-oh.  It had to happen.  After the rain broke the recent dry spell last week, out came the slugs. My quick growing early pak choi has been ravaged.  An allotment neighbour and I have been using anti-slug nematodes for a couple of years and it really makes the difference between getting in the crops and despair.  

Generally you buy the nematodes in packets sufficient for an area 40 or 100 metres' square.  It's worth shopping around on the internet and always check the postage costs.  Put the package in the fridge when it arrives 'til you are ready.  Ensure it will be sent in a padded envelope that will fit through your letter box.  One supplier once sent it in an oversized box so it went to the post office and I couldn't get there for a few days. Check the use-by date.

The nematodes come as a springy powder.  You need to use the contents of the packet all in one go.  I divide it into eighths, as this corresponds to the square metrage of my raised beds. First I clear the beds of weeds and longer grass growing round the edges of the bed where slugs love to hide. You need to use the product on damp soil.  Although it was quite damp on this occasion, I watered over the top of it as the surface was dry in the wind.  I put an eighth of the nematodes in a watering can with a rose and make sure the coverage of the bed and edges is even.  I try to make sure I water under the 'canopy' of plants.

The producers recommend topping up the soil with nematodes every six weeks.  The slugs seem to die underground so you don't see lots of dead bodies. The nematodes breed in the body, so the more dead slugs the more nematodes.  I tend to keep an eye on whether the slugs are back and then order the next packet.  In the meantime I use a two or three organic slug pellets around each plant.  The nematodes don't kill snails but I can keep an easier eye on them. That's one pest down - anyone know a way of getting rid of flea beetle?

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