Posts Tagged ‘slug control’


When I was working with Co. Clare organic grower and teacher, Jim Cronin, I got to see the amazing ability of a few ducks to ‘hoover’ up slugs. However, ducks understandably get bored with slugs after a while and look for some variety in their diet. This is where supervision is important, especially in a polytunnel where tender salad plants may be vulnerable to nibbling ducks. Jim allows the ducks come in to the polytunnel for slugs, but then shoos them out before they turn DSC07138to the salad plants.

Enthused by all that, work is now underway here in Ballytory Upper to build a pen, duck housing and a pond so we can keep a few ducks ourselves.

The picture shows Adam, Brian and Conor, Áine’s nephews lending their combined strength and humour to the task of digging out a hole which in due course will become a duck pond. The challenge will be to install no ordinary garden pond. A duck pond gets very mucky. The water will need to be changed atleast weekly, I am told by duck keeping friends. We thought of sinking an old bath and releasing water via the plughole. However, the aperture is too narrow, I’m told. A plughole the diameter of a 6 inch Wavin pipe is required to do the job, so more of all this anon.


DUCKS FOR SLUG CONTROL IN POLYTUNNEL – 3rd week in February 2015

During a week of work experience on Jim Cronin’s organic farm near Killaloe in County Clare, it was interesting to learn more about the role ducks can play in keeping slug numbers down.

Ducks cannot be let in to polytunnels unsupervised. Before long, they would get a taste for lettuce or any tasty leafy vegetable if left to their own devises. However, when the veg beds are being prepared, especially in the early spring, a few ducks can diligently search out hundreds of slugs and slug eggs. The ducks tend to focus on where the plastic sides meet

Domestic ducks on slug  and slug egg patrol in the polytunnel on vacant veg beds.

Domestic ducks on slug and slug egg patrol in the polytunnel on vacant veg beds.

the soil. This is the type of damp area where over-wintering slug eggs tend to be most plentiful.

Once the ducks have found all the slug eggs they can, it is time to drive them out of the polytunnel before they turn their attention to any precious crops which may be growing nearby in the tunnel.

Having ducks brings many benefits to organic horticulture. However, at times it is necessary to prevent the ducks from getting access to where the veg is growing. Like humans, they are omnivores and they find organic veg tasty too – and who can blame them?


Hoeing between rows of leaf beet with my trusty swan necked hoe, a quick but therapeutic daily practise. Available from

Atlast, the whole garden is planted and crops are growing in their final positions in each bed. I use a swan neck hand hoe bought at the Organic Centre, Co Leitrim, and sometimes a long handled oscillating hoe and another Dutch hoe on a daily basis almost. Preventing weed seedlings taking a hold is the main reason for hoeing regularly. However, even if no weeds were coming up, I would still hoe to deter slug movements. The slime trails laid down by slugs are used again and again by other slugs which generally lead all nearby slugs to your prized salads and other vulnerable crops. The hoe wrecks these slime trails which are virtually invisible to the human eye. Hence the obsession with hoeing even when there are no weeds to be seen.

This year, I had the hoe with me for measuring purposes as I planted out leeks, leaf beet and beetroot seedlings. The rows of each crop are therefore spaced just far enough apart to allow me to hoe each separating corridor of soil. So far, so good, the slugs are getting the message. I expect they are slithering far away to where they will not be disturbed by this obsessive slug-road-wrecker – c’est moi!