I AM aware the average gardener views slugs with the same affection Jimmy Carr has for his income tax return, but I am pathetically pleased when I see one.

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What sort of a gastropod would slime its way onto our desolate plot when, on every side, allotments boast all sorts of delicious fecundity?

It’s like passing up a Heston Blumenthal three-courser in favour of KFC.

Amid Wayne Rooney’s hair gel, Kate Middleton’s frocks and the Olympic flame, you may have missed this – but we are in the midst of a slug epidemic.

Using language usually reserved for asylum seekers, the Daily Mail is calling the invasion “a disaster”. Indeed, the situation is so grave it could push up the price of chips because potato harvests are at risk of being devastated.

The reason for the slippery influx? The mild winter and wet summer have proved ideal breeding conditions for the greedy gastropods.

According to the British Horticultural Society, numbers are up by 50% on normal. Apparently at this time of year the slimy critters should be underground, avoiding the sun. There is no sun, so they are eating my lettuces.

Slug facts you may be unaware of: Britain is home to 15 billion of them, which is hardly surprising when you consider each slug can produce up to 40,000 sluglets.

They are hermaphrodites, starting life male before growing female reproductive organs. They can travel over five metres a night and can smell food over 60 centimetres away.

The Daily Telegraph’s gardening editor, Helen Yemm, said: “Experienced gardeners will have seen this coming but there is a whole new generation of vegetable growers and allotment owners and they are going to have a shock. They are facing a catastrophe unless they act quickly. They could be left mortified.”

She’s not wrong.

Like first earlies and tomato varieties, allotmenteers have their preferred methods of dispatch. They vary from porridge oats (slugs eat them and swell up) to copper tape (they get a tiny electric shock when they touch it). Ponds come out well (frogs eat them), although canvassing reveals the preferred method is a swift downward motion with a heel (they squish).

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