Slugs love strawberries as much as we do and a wet Scottish summer brings added problems.

When first planning this column, we were basking in wonderful, sunny weather that was supposed to keep going. But as I write, our normal Scottish summer has kicked in and my story has changed. I was lucky this time that the bad weather came before I filed copy, but please bear with me whenever the real weather outside doesn’t match what I envisaged the week before.

So instead of the clean, succulent, undamaged fruits I had anticipated, tasteless, fusty, slug-nibbled strawberries are on the cards.

The sun won’t now stimulate the production of vital sugars and the rain washes away the flavour. Fruits rot prematurely and if they’re sprawling on the ground, you need to wash away the dirt and any remaining vestiges of taste.

To stop the rot spreading, carefully remove any damaged strawberries when harvesting. Nasty little brown patches often appear on white fruits. I carry a little compost bucket as well as a bowl, cleaning the bed as best I can.

Strawberry mats are also essential. The challenge is keeping the fruit clean while not providing a cosy damp shelter for snoozing well-fed slugs. Traditional straw is possibly the worst option. It works beautifully in dry weather but soggy straw is a doddle for any mollusc.

Commercial strawberry mats are made from different natural materials such as jute, sheepwool or coir. When manufacturers claim their product protects against slugs, they sadly underestimate molluscs’ resilience. While they’d prefer to cross smoother surfaces than these mats, they’ll make the effort. They prefer smoother surfaces than these mats but tolerate considerable discomfort for a strawberry.

Some years ago, experiments in our demonstration garden showed molluscs were made of tough mettle and would struggle manfully across egg shell, grit, coffee grounds and every slug deterrent on the market. Chimney Sheep, manufacturers of sheep and jute mats concede their product isn’t completely effective, suggesting you spray garlic oil on mats. Maybe.

Because copper works quite well, great claims are made for mats impregnated with copper. But again, we found little difference between treated and untreated mats. Both were only partially successful.

Although when applied properly, the biological control Nemaslug keeps soil clean for 6 weeks, it must be watered onto bare soil, not densely planted ground. So is less effective on an established strawberry bed.

And I’m all for regular applications of organic slug and snail pellets made from ferric phosphate. I apply it relentlessly in the polytunnel and there’s not a slug in sight. But though it won’t damage wildlife, you wouldn’t want to use it near food products you plan to eat raw, especially ones like strawberries that you don’t want to wash.

Good old-fashioned beer traps are the way forward, kept regularly topped up throughout the year. I’ve found Slug-X traps are excellent. You fill 3 little wells with beer, the yeasty aroma lures slugs in to a happy death. They fall upon the yeasty sediment from my beer bottles, cope with gnats’ piss from the supermarket, but a friend tells me alcohol-free beer is useless. How’s that for good taste?

And night patrols catch feasting culprits. Inevitably molluscs are busiest on wet evenings, so do what you can face.

Broad copper tape helps keep containers mollusc-free. But if using home-made compost check for any emerging from the compost.

The tape worked with a waist-high wooden strawberry frame I built. But keeping a mere 20-25 cm of soil moist enough in a wooden unit wasn’t easy. At the other extreme, a tall terracotta strawberry tower dries out quickly at the top so it’s hard keeping the moisture even.

Plant of the week

Geranium Eureka Blue is a long flowering hardy geranium with blooms of a strong blue. The finely divided foliage tints red in the autumn.