It’s Spring, for Human Beans and Slug-Americans

How to repel both Slugs and Neighbors at the same time

I’ve lived almost my entire life in Portland, where, from time to time, it rains a little.  Until I moved to the Oregon coast, I imagined that I knew from rain.  The last few years have been quite an education.  The trick – Tom McCall would be upset at me for telling you this, but he’s dead, so – is that, at least in the Beautiful, Bountiful Willamette Valley, it rains often but not much.  This place I’m in now is beautiful, but here, it Rains.  Like it means it.  Like it has some overarching point it’s trying to make, dammit, and you’re gonna lissen!

Portland rain doesn’t usually mean anything by it, doesn’t want you to get upset at it.  You can spend hours in it, and ten minutes after you come in, you’re dry again.  What Presbyterianism is to Christianity, Portland rain is to precipitation; it doesn’t keep you from doing what you want.

Not here.  Portland rain is something you feel but can’t see.  Coast rain is in your face – often literally, horizontal rain that pelts you, tries to drown you, that you sometimes have to back into.  Apostolic rain,  evangelical rain; best experienced from a distance, when you don’t have to open the door.

I haven’t had a chance to garden here, so I don’t know if this Slug Advice is of any use to anyone here, but since I believe in both Not Telling Others What to Do and Being Inconsistent –

Let me tell you what to do about slugs.

Slugs have two traits that you wouldn’t imagine they would, or could, have: They are territorial, and they are trainable.  You simply would never guess that something with such a rudimentary nervous system could possibly be either of those things, especially the second, but it’s true.  You can use this to advantage.

It’s also true for many of us that we really don’t want to get too close to our neighbors; we don’t want to have to deal with what they are evangelical about.  And for those of you for whom this is true, and at the same time, want to garden without always having to hear about your neighbor Bob’s latest operation where he just knows that the doctor left a sponge in because there’s been this pain, this soft squishy feeling under his scar, would you like to see?  Just push down right here and you’ll feel, and when he goes to the bathroom . . .

For you, this is perfect.  How to repel both slugs and Bob.

Early in the season, when slugs (and Bob) first show up, get a jar – I use cupped hands, but I have a high tolerance for yuck – pick them up and put them in the jar (the slugs, not Bob, probably; use your own judgment) and shake the jar, screaming into it from time to time.  Then, after a minute or so – let’s say, after you hear the screen door at Bob’s house slam and his phone dial a number with three digits – put the slug down in the place closest to where you got the slug that has something in it you don’t mind the slug eating.

The traumatized slug will, amazingly, remember the shock (not sure why the screaming is important, but it works much better with than without, and you can pretend you are screaming all the things you would shout at Bob if you weren’t such a nice person) and will avoid the place where the trauma happened.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t work so well if your garden doesn’t have a place close by that you don’t mind the slugs being; slugs gotta eat too, so their need to earn a living will overcome their fear, if something as seemingly advanced as ‘fear’ can be applied to the slimy little bastards.

It also has the advantage over Slug Slaughter that you keep the trained slugs in their home range.  When you kill the offending buggers, other slugs simply move in, and then you have to kill them too.  This applies to all varmints that we kill rather than train; if you kill the wolves that are eating your lambs, other wolves move in, and you end up wicking in all the wolves for miles around, and never run out of wolves to kill until they’re all dead, whereupon the deer overpopulate, diseases run rampant, and your sheep die from what the sick deer have.  Better to train the devils you know.

I’ve used this method with stunning success.  For a few years, I had the most productive strawberry patch you could imagine, yielding buckets of big, delicious berries with almost no slug damage at all.  And it was amazingly easy; as soon as slugs started showing up, I’d spend a few minutes searching in the morning and evening, finding slugs and scaring neighbors.  I’d keep up the search for a week or so, but after only a day or two, there were very few (slugs or neighbors) to find; then, for the rest of the season, just a few minutes searching a week were necessary.  During picking season, I’d almost never find a slug, or evidence of berry munching.

Granted, this doesn’t apply to every gardener.  If you don’t have something else for the slime-masters to eat, you’ll find it doesn’t work.  Also, some professions are denied this system; ministers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, psychiatrists, bankers, insurance salesmen – any field, in fact, where your image is important.  Not sure about the insurance salesman, though; his neighbors probably already avoid him.

Or if you like Bob, and want to see his scar.  In which case, I’ll give the next slug I see your address.  Or are growing strawberries to show off, and don’t really like them.

Or you really, really like slugs.

But for normal human beans, go for it.  Scream at your slugs; it’s good for the garden and the heart.  Not the reputation, true, but the heart.  This may, admittedly, be a thing that works best in Portland, where being thought weird is a good thing and a recommendation; but give it a shot.  It might work for you – and even if it doesn’t, it’ll give Bob something to talk about other than that damned scar.

And if you’re Bob – hey, get a clue, dude.