Firstly lets deal with the notion that slugs are just slimy things that whilst annoying to the gardener and not very pleasant, they are otherwise quite innocent.
1/ They will eat the rotting flesh of their dead brothers and sisters, then crawl all over your vegetables
2/ Many of them will eat dog and cat faeces and then they crawl all over your vegetables
Is this what you want?
Now I’m not squeamish about creepy crawlies, but for these reasons alone I don’t touch slugs, well not the big fat ones anyway. There area number of different species and pretty much all of the ones you find in the garden will have a go at your plants and vegetables, but some more than others. Actually the ones that do the most damage on the tender shoots of your peas and beans are more likely to be Common Keeled slugs, or Yellow slugs. The Common Keeled slug is a difficult one to control as it spends most of its life in the soil, and can attack seedlings before they have even emerged into the daylight, you also find them under plant pots where the squeeze into the drain holes during the daytime.
The nasty one is the big fat orangey brown Spanish slug, these are a relatively new invader from overseas, they are drought tolerant, lay twice the number of eggs as native slugs and are voracious eaters of anything and everything, including dog poo and dead animals. They are taking over from our native slugs and are quite a disgusting and unwanted addition to your garden.
You will read about all sorts of ways of controlling and trapping slugs, and you can spend an awful lot of time and money on it too, nasty pellets, eco-friendly pellets, copper bands, plastic traps; the list goes on. All of these take time to set up and inspect, and according to my experience none of them really work. The reason they proliferate is twofold, firstly the people that manufacture things like beer traps and copper bands want to sell you something, and secondly people that offer advice want to do so without causing offence, so they offer tame alternatives to the real way of controlling slugs and snails, which is to hunt them down and kill them, mercilessly, by whatever means you have at hand.
So my slug and snail regime is as follows; I use Nemaslug in the spring, as soon as the soil warms up, (slugs don’t come out until the temperature reaches 6°C). You buy this from online retailers or garden centres and water it all over the garden on a warm moist night. This definitely swings the battle in my favour, and hopefully staves off the population explosion until after the spring rains and into periods of dry soil when slugs lie low anyway. Nemaslug is of particular benefit in the exposed soil of vegetable patches where the damage is done by the soil dwelling Common Keeled slug. The slug that leaving you wondering where they came from and where they go to when the sun comes up. They are the ones that will get your early seedlings and also attack root vegetables and newly germinating seeds underground.
After Nemaslug there is no substitute for the nightly massacre. This goes for snails as well as slugs, (Nemaslug doesn’t work on snails). I go out an hour after dusk and slash or smash every slug or snail in sight. This is free, and actually takes less time than spreading pellets, or filling beer traps. If you drink the beer you would otherwise waste in their traps then this can help with any guilt that may build up during the slaughter. The death toll can run into the hundreds if you don’t keep on top of it.
If you keep this up you will soon get on top of them, and then from time to time on dry evenings you won’t find any, and you can ease off slightly on your nightly binges.
For some further info on slugs, and a handy identification guide, have a look at www.slugwatch.co.uk