As an organic gardener the question of slug killers comes up time and time again.
While manufacturers of slug pellets explain that their blue colour makes them unappetising to animals, the dead poisoned slugs get hoovered up by songbirds and taken to the nest to feed the young.
Hedgehogs whilst welcome in the garden, do not tend to eat too many slugs unless they are hungry as slugs carry lungworm.
Some swear by salt, but this is not a good idea, it causes a lot of damage to the soil, and is probably the most cruel form of control there is.
My esteemed Mother would cut slugs in half, which was very effective but too gruesome for me. (To my horror the dead slug halves attracted slugs that feasted on the resulting goo.
So what is the answer?
I am a huge fan of beer traps. I tend to use an old (used) disposable coffee cup. If you cut holes in the side (just under the top) that are the size of a 10 pence piece will allow the slugs to slither in to their death.
The beer, (the smellier the better – real ale is best) gets poured in to the cup, until it is about 1/3 full.
Then the lid gets popped on to stop the rain from watering down the beer. The cup can then get placed into the border soil and positioned so the holes are an inch or so above soil level to prevent beetles from falling in to the beer.
It is worth noting that milk will work almost as well as beer.
Another solution, that is on trend with our new thinking on pest control is to produce an anti feedant.
An effective recipe is to gently simmer 2 bulbs (not cloves but bulbs) or garlic in 1/2 pint of water (keep the water topped up) for 45 minutes. As the mixture cools squish the garlic bulbs and strain the resulting mixture. This can be made up to about 1 pint as a stock solution. This solution can be stored in a bottle for a while, but make sure you label it!
When you want to apply the treatment apply a glug (around 1tbsp) to one gallon of water.
Water this around the roots of the plant you are looking to protect, for example a Hosta. It is better to avoid splashing the leaves.
The concept is that this will make the soil around the plant, (and the sap in the plant to a lesser extent) smell of garlic. As slugs and snails do not attack garlic they will tend to avoid your plant assuming it is not edible by them. Do take care however as this treatment tends to repel pollinating insects as well, so if the plants you are trying to protect need pollinating then this is probably not the best solution.
Mixing the beer traps to reduce the slug populations, and using the garlic tea to dissuade the slugs and snails from attacking your precious plants gives a good two tier level of control, while not harming any wildlife.
A more costly and very effective control is to purchase nematodes, which are then mixed with water and applied to the area to be treated. They move in the soil water (so the soil must be moist) and enter and kill subs, thus controlling those small slugs that stay below ground.