‘Sacrificial crop’ How to stop slugs eating plants using the ‘trap’ planting method

Clodagh McKenna reveals tip for getting rid of slugs

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Slugs are every gardener’s worst nightmare while trying to grow an array of plants outdoors, and can often make it hard to keep the garden looking healthy and bright. Crafty deterrents such as beer, salt and even harsh chemical products are often the go-to remedy for keeping nuisance slugs at bay, but what if planting even more crops and flowers is the answer? Express.co.uk reveals how to use the clever method which uses specific plants to keep slugs from eating their way through your green space.

Keeping slugs out of the garden is no easy task, especially in bouts of damp weather when the ground is moist and tasty plants are rich with moisture.

But while these soft-bodied creatures will slowly work their way towards soft, thin, tender-leaf plants, they are known to “ignore” mature growth.

According to the gardening blog, the Laidback Gardener, this is a key advantage for gardeners looking to “fight against slugs” and protect their gardens.

So how exactly does this slug-deterrent method work?

The Laidback Gardener said: “There are plants slugs particularly like at all stages of their growth and that can be used to divert them from other plants.”

Chervil is a biennial herb which is known to be very attractive to slugs for its aniseed scent, and is often used in organic gardening.

Red clover is another common variety used as a “sacrificial plant”, according to the blog, but the list of effective trap plants doesn’t end there.

In fact, there are at least 20 varieties that can be used to deter slugs from your hard-earned harvest.

These include:

  • Basil
  • Bean
  • Begonia
  • Cabbage
  • Canna
  • Chervil
  • Coleus
  • Corn (seedlings only)
  • Dahlia
  • Delphinium
  • Hosta
  • Lettuce – slugs usually ignore lettuce with tougher leaves like Romaine lettuce
  • Ligularia
  • Lily-of-the-valley
  • Marigold
  • Mustard
  • Potato
  • Primrose
  • Red clover
  • Soybean

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How to plant ‘sacrificial crops’

The Laidback Gardener explained that a trap plant – also known as a trap crop or a “sacrificial crop” – is a plant that you grow specifically to attract and feed pests.

Therefore, the plant must be close, but not too close to the crop you are trying to protect in order for the slugs to feed on the intended plant.

While sowing a few trap plants throughout the main crop seems like the easiest way to do this, it is often ineffective when it comes to deterring slugs.

This is because slugs are known to spend the day hiding at the base of their “favourite” food, and then spread out to other crops through the night.

According to the Laidback Gardener, it is more effective to plant trap plants in a row on the edge of the vegetable garden, followed by a few rows of vegetables that are less attractive to slugs.

You should then plant the “most attractive” vegetables such as leaf lettuce or mustard in the centre of the site, or better yet, give the trap plants their own plot.

If you choose to plant a separate plot, it is important to make sure that it is at least three metres away from the main garden.

This is the optimum distance to draw slugs completely away from the plants you want to save.

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