May I thank all those who attended my bulb masterclasses at Taste Cumbria in Cockermouth over the weekend (and it was nice to see people also attending from outside the area too).

People seemed to enjoy the classes, but I’m not too sure how much that was down to me or the free Prosecco!

Also, welcome to October, the month when we’ll see the clocks go back an hour bringing darker nights (actually it seems the darker nights are already setting in!)

Let’s hope October is a drier month as we can safely say August and September were a bit of a washout. Last year we were been threatened with a hosepipe ban; this year we have had too much water. It just shows how unpredictable the seasons can be, which all makes gardening just that bit more challenging.

Talking of which, I arrived home recently during a dark wet night and as I walked along the path I heard a crunching sound underfoot! This was me stepping on what seemed a path full of snails – I did try to avoid them.

It’s not surprising I’ve a lot of snails and slugs around the garden as the wet weather has been so ideal for them. You might not see too much damage from them as at this time of year most gardens are very lush with growth, meaning there’s plenty for them to feed on. This is also one of the reasons why I’ve not put in slug and snail controls, though I do keep a close eye on any young plants and germinating seedlings.

As winter approaches slugs and snails will hibernate (slugs tend to look for crevasses to overwinter while snails bury themselves in the soil or compost).

If we have a sustained harsh winter then the snail and slug numbers will be reduced naturally. It is over the spring and early summer when snails and slugs do the most damage in the garden especially feasting on newly emerging growth and seedlings.

Snails tend to be more easily spottable than slugs and large snails can be picked off and removed.

There are quite a few control measures, some more successful than others. Most gardeners will have heard of snail and slug pellets which tend to be blue in colour – most of these are made from using a chemical called ‘Metaldehyde’ which is a poison and works by dehydrating the slug and snail. These pellets are cheap but not dog, cat or wildlife friendly! However, they are effective and do control snails and slugs, but this comes with high risks. Dog and cat friendly snail and slug pellets are becoming more widely available which use Iron-III-phosphate, an iron compound that also occurs in nature making them environmentally friendly.

Other control measures include nematodes – slug nematodes are microscopic, transparent worms, which feed and multiply inside the slug. Sounds a bit ghastly, but again it is an environmentally friendly way to control them.

Quite a few ways include the use of barriers to stop snails and slugs getting to your plants, such as using copper tapes or foil which produce a static shock to the snail or slug when they try to cross. Other barriers include using gritty materials such as crushed eggshells, gritty sands etc. I think the jury is still out on the use of barriers as snails seem to be able cross over sharp and rough materials – I actually found one sliming up my pebble dashed wall!

Still, snails and slugs have been around with gardeners for many years and no doubt will continue to be around for many more, keeping them in the top 10 garden pest list!