I have been formulating my battle plans against the slug army and as a first wave of defense I will be deploying my infantry into battle – the nematodes!
So what are the nematodes?
The nematodes that I will be using are phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita, the nematode that you can buy as part of the ‘Nemasys’ range.
It is described as a facultative parasitic nematode. This basically means that the nematode itself does not absolutely rely on a host to complete it’s life cycle. It can also live on rotting vegetation and dead invertebrates which coincidentally is probably where you will find a lot of slugs! It’s life cycle is quite simple; it finds a slug host to infect and once inside, it release bacteria which kills the slug. The nematodes then feed off the decomposing corpse whilst reproducing and producing the next generation to go off in search of more slugs.
The nematodes are already present in my soil but their numbers are generally insufficient to control the estimated slug population in my allotment. Adding more nematodes to the soil bolsters their numbers and helps to reduce the slug population. The nematodes will die back to their natural levels again when there are less slugs to feed off.
The benefits of using these minuscule worms is that they are biological control, so no nasty chemicals are used which could adversely affect other organisms and they are slug specific. This means that slugs (and snails) are the only organisms that will die! They also don’t accumulate up the food chain and have nasty effects on slug predators such as frogs and hedgehogs!
So my first batch of Nemasys slug killer has arrived and it has been sat in the fridge for the last couple of weeks (you should store it in the fridge upon receipt). This weekend , I went down to the allotment, mixed up the nematodes into the correct amount of water and applied this to the beds I think are most likely going to see slug damage.
The first bed was around the pond. I have lost many a plant there due to slugs and my hosta is having a hard time sprouting leaves as the slugs eat them before they can fully open! I also have two more hostas I want to plant out but am unwilling until I see a reduction in the number of slugs!
The second bed I targeted is the main strawberry bed on plot 2. With flowers starting to show on my strawberries it won’t be long before the fruit start developing and if I act now that should give the nematodes time to do their job! I also have watered the nematodes into the Jerusalem artichoke bed as I lost all but one of the shoots that grew last year to slugs!
I have another packet of nematodes arriving from my supplier slightly later on in the season. This packet will mainly be used on the potato beds and if I have enough left, the brassica beds. Slug damage is a big issue for my potatoes as last year I threw away a third of my maincrops away due to these slimy pests! Hopefully these nematodes will reduce the amount of damage I see this year.
So I have released my foot soldiers out to do battle with the gastropodic enemy! Only time will tell who the victor will be!