Slugs should no longer be considered garden pests according the Royal Horticultural Society [RHS]. Sorry, but I disagree.

As we all know, slugs and snails are vital recyclers of plant debris so are a critical part of the ecosystem. But our gardens are not natural ecosystems.

These contrived areas are a haven for many ‘undesirable’ creatures such as slugs, aphids and vine weevil and if we want our gardens to be attractive and productive, we need to protect our plants, however environmentally friendly we want to be.

It’s true that of the 44 species of slugs found in the UK only 9 damage or destroy our plants but these are the guys you’ll find in the garden and many of the other 35 are often rare and specialise in debris elsewhere, not on your plants. Only the nasty 9 munch their way though a seed tray or small pot, the smaller and fresher the leaf the better. Protect a plant or don’t waste your time growing it.

And I know what I’m talking about. In a garden slug survey last year, Jane and I spent 30 minutes each month, collecting, identifying and then posting our haul to the lucky researcher.

Over the year, by the light of a torch we found 19 different species. There were 294, 25% of the total, Deroceras reticulatum, Netted field slug, the little beige jobs described as one of Europe’s most serious plant pests. There were 426 Arion subfuscus, owenii, hortensis, and distinctus. All were found in compromising positions. A further juvenile 225 Arion ater and rufus formed part of my collection.

So my tally consisted of 763 ‘pests’ and 240 that could be given the benefit of the doubt.

Every gardener must decide what to do. I was astonished that the RHS also recommended that any slugs collected on torchlight patrols should be put in the compost heap to help recycle waste. No mention of the fact that they’ll lay lots of well-protected eggs and that a larger number will be available to continue working in the garden.

When planting out the other day, I found lots of adults and pinhead babies sheltering between the sections of root trainers. They certainly didn’t end up in the compost heap.

When patrolling the garden you can leave those not eating or close to your crops but dispose of the culprits. As for dispatching: decapitation with scissors, squashing under foot or dropping them in a strong salt/vinegar solution work quickly.

Traps, beer traps and organic slug pellets work, but they will kill goodies as well as baddies. It’s up to you.

Plant of the week

Delphinium ‘Magic Fountains Dark Blue’ has intense indigo blue, single flowers with a dark centre. It is a short, compact delphinium only growing to about 90 cm so may not need staking in a sheltered spot. Like all delphiniums it needs fertile, well drained soil and sun.

All parts of delphiniums are toxic if eaten and can cause skin irritation - but not to slugs. I love delphiniums but, sadly, I’ve had to give up growing them as our slugs love them even more than I do.