Friday, June 24, 2016

Slugfest in the Garden

It’s lurking in your garden — one of the worst killers encountered in horticulture. Not only does it kill; it maims and tortures too. If they weren’t so easily recognized by every gardener in the world, there would be wanted posters for this pest everywhere.

  • It is a voracious eater
  • It has disgusting habits
  • It is sloppy and slimy
  • It has a serious drinking problem
  • And it causes adults to squirm at the very sight of one

Slugs! They are the bane of gardeners everywhere. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t hate them. Even my live and let live philosophy weakens at the sight of a slug. Ugh! If it weren't for my steely nerve, I’d squirm too.

Gardeners are desperate to rid their yards of slugs. I could give you a list a mile long of techniques people have tried for dispatching this marauding mollusk. Sure, some of these tricks work, but only to a point. It seems the more slugs you slaughter, the more there are, no doubt a result of their squalid little sex lives. They bring a whole new meaning to monogamy — if you don't know, don’t ask; it's all part of slug evolution. Evolution? That’s a joke. I’d say slugs are at a bit of a standstill.

However, in yet another attempt to wipe out the slugs in my yard, I thought this year I 'd try a different approach, an approach based on the fact slugs have no friends, other than their nasty sluggy buddies. What with the whole world hating them and trying to kill them (and failing miserably), I wondered if slugs might just react differently if they thought someone, or something, actually liked them, or cared for them.

I had this great idea of using reverse psychology to make them go away. Instead of attacking them every step (and stomp) of the way, I decided to go to great lengths to befriend them, to show them compassion, even love them (okay, I may have had to fake it a bit). My theory was that this would prove devastating to their little sluggy psyches. I intended to kill them with kindness.

I began by setting out some of their favourite food on the patio — marigolds and hosta leaves, and some beer of course, but in a shallow container so they couldn't fall in and drown. I also swept the patio first to get rid of any sharp bits that might snag their little sluggy tummies. It certainly attracted them; they showed up in droves.

They were so confused by these seemingly random acts of kindness, they didn't know whether they were coming or going, which isn't surprising. They're a bit like the VW beetle that way — from a distance it's hard to tell which end is the front.

After a few days I had them exactly where I wanted them, eating out of my hand (ugh). This is when I began playing a few mind games. I thought, we’ll just see who’s well balanced around my yard. Now that I had their confidence I invited them to share a beer and chips with me — SALT AND VINEGAR — my favourites. I figured one chomp and they'd shrivel right up. They drank the beer of course, but they wouldn’t go near the chips. I don’t think they trusted me; they turned up their noses at them.

Noses? I’m not sure if slugs have noses. They do have eyes. I know that because they stick right out on the end when they get excited. One of them was obviously half-drunk and quite belligerent. He tried using his "eyes" to stare me down. Next thing you know we got into a staring contest. After 15 minutes I began to get nervous. I thought, if this sucker wins it’ll be slug anarchy around here. I stomped on it. That kinda put the end to the killing with kindness experiment.

I’m afraid my slugs don’t have a very high opinion of me now. I guess the feeling is mutual. I decided to go back to my old method for dealing with them. Instead of hand feeding, I’m hand picking. I try to dispatch them as humanely as possible — even accidentally. That way I don't feel too guilty. I use my garden clippers to gently pick them up and . . . oops, oops, oops.

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