I suspect I'm not the only one but I am fighting a battle (and losing) with the quite unbelievable number of slugs I have this year. You can see them here this morning having climbed my broad bean plants (50% of which have already been completely demolished). I have been using wildlife friendly slug pellets and beer traps which have made an impact (I am getting 40 or 50 slugs a night in the beer traps) but I am still getting overwhelmed by the sheer numbers.
This is pretty grisly but I find that if I leave dead slugs in the beer traps (jam jars buried in the soil up to their necks), they attract more slugs than just the beer. Slugs seem quite happy to eat dead slugs (you can see them tucking into squashed comrades on the ground) so I presume the dead slug soup smell attracts them.
Slugs and snails are at their very worst in late spring when there is plenty of tender new growth for them to eat (including my seedlings!) so I am expecting things to calm down a bit next month. Of course, that's not much use to me now so I will need to step up a gear.
The mild winter followed by a wet spring will have been a contributory factor in the numbers of slugs but I must also accept that I don't have enough predators to keep them in check. It is not a short term solution but I need to work harder on making my garden more bio-diverse which will include habitats for hedgehogs and frogs and encouraging more birds and insects into the garden. I see that turtles and snakes also eat slugs but I might try for the thrushes and frogs first.
I will need some help with my biodiversity plan and will report back on this, I have some people I can ask but, as I said, this will be a longer term solution. In the short term, I am seriously considering building a chicken moat around the vegetable garden as a line of defence that also has the advantage of producing eggs.
I was made aware of this idea a few years ago by garden writer Jane Powers but I didn't pay proper attention as I didn't have that much trouble with slugs at the time. When she told me about it, I pictured a deep castle style moat in my head and asked if I would need to build a bridge to enter the garden. She must have thought I was an idiot.
Luckily a chicken moat does not require excavating a deep trench and building a drawbridge but is simply a chicken run built around the vegetable garden rather than alongside it. The chickens act like guards patrolling the perimeter and, instead of preventing escapees, eat any visitors before they can eat my vegetable seedlings.
If I make sure to remove any slug habitats within garden, the chickens should prevent any new intruders. Things should get back to normal where I loose the odd seedling here and there rather than whole rows of plants.
Niall has been keeping chickens for over 10 years now so I have plenty of good, first hand advice on hand. He has a separate chicken coop and says it is essential to keep chickens out of the polytunnel and vegetable garden or the place will be in tatters. He has his growing area fenced off with a 4ft high picket fence but lets the chickens roam the rest of the garden during the day. He says they don't tend to go for slugs unless they are very hungry but they do root out and eat slug eggs.
I have to replace the fence around my vegetable garden anyway so I am going to give it all a go, I will keep you posted on progress.