All the talk I’ve heard recently about gardeners having to respect molluscs as an invaluable part of the ecosystem and that we’d be knee-deep in unrecycled plant debris without them is totally misleading.

They are, of course, an important part of the environment. There are 21 non-marine mollusc species that occur in Scotland according to the Scottish Biodiversity List, but they are only one of many recycling groups.

And our gardens aren’t part of ‘the natural environment’. However wildlife-friendly, our gardens are artificial places, designed and managed as we want.

We allow ‘nature’ in on our terms and grow countless slug-friendly plants: like delicious little seedlings, succulent hostas and tasty emerging clematis shoots. This food supply lets molluscs breed and feed prolifically, much more than in an unmanaged environment.


Herbs: How to create a kitchen garden

Scottish gardening: Here's how to grow a peach tree

Shetlanders could have the answer to the first Scots tattie

This was confirmed by a recent year-long citizen science project here. In a designated plot we collected 1093 slugs during 13 hour long searches over the course of a year. Of these 764, 67% are classified as serious pests, Deroceras reticulatum, Arion subfuscus and others, while the remaining 240 were possibly harmless species. Pestiferous molluscs are the successful opportunists.

A wildlife-friendly garden introduces some slug predators but there could never be enough toads and hedgehogs to keep the population in check.

So that’s our job; we’ve created this artificial world so have to deal with the consequences. We can control numbers ourselves. Organic slug pellets work well especially under cover, a greenhouse or tunnel.

My tunnel is completely slug-free. This is harder in the open garden as rain quickly dissolves the fairly pricey pellets so they do need frequent replacing. We need to do this because the little horrors are busiest during wet weather.

Regularly monitored beer traps also help, but forget abut all the other commercial options. Slugs are hardy souls and will take grit and eggshells in their stride so spend the money on a plant instead.

Slugs love it cool and damp. Decaying wooden perimeters of raised beds are a safe haven for eggs and a good resting place, as I’ve just seen when replacing some ancient boards. Nothing eats any secreted slug eggs, but my ducks can handle the nasty little grey jobs they’ll find.

You can exploit their need for cool dampness by laying simple but effective little traps on moist soil. Try cardboard that you keep alluringly moist, a flat stone or bit of board. Anything that keeps the soil surface a bit wet. These tricks work during a dry as well as a rainy spell.

As I said recently, some mulching material can be problematic. If you’re plagued by slugs, don’t mulch with the cardboard you’d use for trapping: you can rely on slugs to wash down their delicious cardboard with the green salad any seedlings might provide.

Buying in a decent amount of mulching material is expensive for a medium or large sized garden, unless there’s a ready supply of good municipal compost nearby. Grit and chips work well in herbaceous borders. Molluscs will slither over them if necessary, but they won’t choose them as a duvet. Otherwise straw or composted muck are possible - any organic material you can get cheaply.

The Herald: Prunus ‘Kursar’Prunus ‘Kursar’ (Image: free)

Plant of the week

Prunus ‘Kursar’ is an early flowering ornamental cherry that has bee-friendly vivid, pink, single blossom. The tree grow to about 4 metres with a 3 metre spread and the spring foliage is slightly bronzy, in autumn it turns golden orange.

Flowering cherries cast only a light shade so even the later flowering spring bulbs will do well beneath them.