I made a beer trap to reduce slugs in my garden, and, because it only used things I was going to throw out anyway, it was completely free. Free is my favourite kind of gardening, and reducing plastics being sent to recycling and landfill sites is always a good thing.
I noticed yesterday that something had been eating my pea plants as soon as they sprouted, and my first suspicion is usually always slugs.* However, we are on semi-lockdown so I can't really run out and buy copper tape or fancy traps right now. Also, I spent all my money on a fancy pants raised bed, and a couple of obelisk thingies that were on sale, for my squashes to climb up,** so I needed a cheap solution to my slug issue.
The peas I've been overwintering since October are staring to flower. They're lovely, but I don't want them to be the only peas I get this year.
* this may be misplaced suspicion, because it has been very dry lately and slugs usually like moist weather, but doing beer traps is quicker than sitting up all night with a torch, staking out my peas to see what's nibbling. If the traps keep coming up empty, I'll have a rethink.
**for some reason the clothes airer I used to support my butternut squash plants last year developed a...fanbase? You lot are odd. But yes, Clarence the clothes horse will be back this year too, to support the pumpkins. Again, I do love to reuse stuff I'd normally have thrown out.
You will need:
- 2 small tubs of similar sizes, with one being small enough to fit fairly snugly inside the other.
Small margarine tubs are ideal, but you can also use food packaging, the bottoms of plastic milk bottles, yogurt pots, pretty much anything.
- A can or bottle of beer or cider.
The cheapest of the cheap stuff will do nicely. In usual circumstances I'd tell you to go smile sweetly at the local pub landlord and ask if you can have the dregs from the drip trays - they'll usually be glad to give them to you for nothing. At the moment though, with pubs being closed, that isn't really an option. So get some manky own brand or have a rummage in the back of the cupboard. I found a bottle in the back of the fridge from last Christmas and that'll do fine. Slugs can't read expiry dates.
- Something flat to cover it with to keep other critters out.
- Something to dig a small hole with - a trowel is perfect.
Putting your beer trap together
Take the slightly smaller of your two tubs, and pierce some holes in it. You don't need loads, just enough so that when you lift it out of the other tub the beer will run out into the tub below, leaving the slugs in the tub with holes in. This will make it a lot less unpleasant to empty, and will mean you're using less beer to top it up.
I skipped this step by using a plastic strawberry punnet as my inner tub, which helpfully came with holes already in it, and fits nicely in my margarine tub.
Next dig a hole large enough for your biggest tub to sit in, with its edge level with the ground.
I found it easier to dig a hole slightly bigger than I needed, sit the tub inside and then backfill around it like I was planting a new plant.
Once your bigger tub is in the ground, put your holey tub inside it. Then fill the tubs with beer.
It doesn't matter if the whole tub isn't full - using a whole bottle only half filled my trap, but the slugs will still be able to smell it.
To keep other animals and bugs out, reduce evaporation so you aren't constantly refilling it, and make it even more attractive to the slugs you're trying to trap, you want to cover most of the trap with something. I used a piece of very thin ply that I had in the shed, but you can use anything you've got lying around.
I put a stone on top to stop my cover being blown away.
In a couple of days I'll take up the cover, lift out the inner tub (slowly so as not to spill all the beer!), and empty out any dead slugs before replacing the the inner tub and topping it up with beer if it needs it.
What do you do to keep your veggies safe from slugs? Tell me in the comments or come for a chat on twitter with the hashtag #VsBoringGardenTweets.