Reuse plastic bottles for slug collars

Filed in Reuse, Videos by on June 20, 2009 25 Comments
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Reuse plastic water bottles in your garden to deter slugs

Reuse plastic water bottles in your garden to deter slugs

Most gardeners have a slug or two to contend with. Here at Chez Green, we have an army of them, who love our clay soil and thick hedges.

We don’t often buy bottled water, but we do occasionally indulge. This year I decided to put my old bottles to good reuse before finally disposing of them in the recycling centre. I made lethal looking slug collars / deterrents to protect my seedlings.

The theory is that with sharp edges, a slug won’t bother dragging its sensitive under belly across the spikes to munch your prize crops.

I was a little dubious, as our slugs seem extremely tenacious, but as you’ll see from the video, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results.

In the past I’ve tried crushed egg shells, coffee grounds, gravel and neem oil. The neem oil was successful, but requires reapplication and making into an emulsion; which, at the end of a busy day here at Zero Waste towers, wasn’t always very appealing.

I’d been toying with the idea of buying copper tape or the plastic protective barriers, but when I saw the prices, I realised it was time to come to my senses and find a reuse for something I already had in the house.

Unlike beer traps, my recycled plastic bottle fortresses mean I don’t have to waste good beer on my slugs and neither do I have the grisly task of disposing of the corpses afterwards. Deterrents, rather than drowning,  appeal to the Buddhist in me.

In the film I’m going to show you how to make your own slug collar deterrents from old plastic bottles!



About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (25)

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  1. Kira says:

    Brilliant idea! This time of year does find me wandering around the garden swearing about the loss of my little seedlings when the slugs have evaded everything I’ve done so I’m definitely going to try these. The only thing I’ve found successful up until now has been the beer traps but, being of Buddhist-tendencies, I’ve felt immensely guilty about killing the slugs. I also seem to be building a collection of plastic bottles that I feel need to be re-used but I do worry about the stories about chemicals leaking into the water if they’re re-used too much. I’ll be trying this out, that’s for sure.

  2. That’s fantastic. Could have done with these when I planted our peas which have now been demolished by the snails. Would have been perfect. 😀

  3. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    My first kale plants were small and easy prey for the slugs. I will use beer/cider tin can baths to see how effective they are. If successful, that will be fine. The corpses can be returned to the soil to decompose and release nutrients. I also intend to eliminate daytime venturers with tweezers and boiling water.

    Your idea should work but will not reduce their number, save through starvation. Zero slugs is my preference, but your way holds the moral high ground.

  4. Peter says:

    You might like to enter this in the reuse competition still running on the site.

    Certainly in with a chance!

  5. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    ReUse certainly has value. Strawberry tarts are a summer favourite but difficult to purchase Zero Waste. My brother Andy popped over with his ladyfriend bringing a box of the delicious cakes. These were in a plastic tray, which Andy offered to take away with him. I decided to keep the waste item and will reuse for future purchases, at Greggs bakers.

    I also gave him a Sweet Basil plant, with top leaves uncut. Gerry, my cousin, will receive one as well today. Any good feedback from their experiences will be posted here. Full instructions given should help their leaf harvests. Weather has been cloudy, but warm, and growth ticks along, ready for more hot sun.

  6. Charity says:

    Darn, I just ordered some copper tape. My peas and beans have been thoroughly snailed :(.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Kira: Hi Kira, please let me know if these work for you. I admit to being sceptical; sharing my harvest with slugs is usually par for the course here, but this year – no losses on the plants with the collars around – I’m deliriously happy about it!

    @Almost Mrs Average: Oh dear – did you replant the peas or not bother, mrs A?

    @John Costigane: Hi John, let’s hope your beer traps work too. There are more than one way to skin a cat and all that! What we are both looking for is success with our chosen method so that food packaging can be reduced for the end of the year and it’s great to compare notes.
    Good to see your family enjoying sharing in your basil bounty!

    @Peter: Thank you Peter – I hadn’t even considered it, but I’m feeling lucky so I will 😀

    @Charity: Oh please let me know if the copper tape works, Charity. I picked up some packs of it twice, but put it back again. I would love to know if it is successful – there are only so many plastic bottles to cut up LOL!

  8. Hmm…didn’t bother. We need to work on tackling the snail hotel first and trying to get them from within the plant is an impossibility. Good job the plants in the back garden aren’t affected 😀

  9. Peter says:

    Sorry you had problems entering you idea on the site. And thank you for letting me know. The IT gooroos are working on it.

    It’s worse because it is erratic. Like that noise in the car that stops as soon as you arrive in the garage forecourt.

    As there have been others who have registered and/or uploaded ideas since with no problem it’s hard to pin down a cause. It might be the OS’s, the browsers (I know Safari causes issues but you are on Firefox which should be OK) or maybe the file sizes or .descriptors. Sadly the system was created a few years back and can be cranky.

    Sorry for any inconvenience and I have asked if there is any way to add scripts that ‘adjust’ automatically as most blogger sites will, rather than popping up an error.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Peter: Thanks Peter – I’ll get everything together and post up again this morning! I think, in my usual style, I may have been too wordy and gone over the character limit. I know the image sizes were ok because I checked.

  11. Sue says:

    Had three or four weeks of watering and nursing some seeds to grow on my windowsill of tomato and sunflowers. One night outside and the slugs ate them all. Just stalks left so im giving the slug collars a go. Im determined to grow my own potatoes, tomatoes etc and each success will encourage me to do more.Might even work up to raised beds and a veggie patch if this little venture works.

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @Sue: Hi Sue, What a disappointment to see your tomatoes and sunflowers eaten like that. We’ve never had tomatoes eaten, but sunflowers are a favourite.
    Good luck with the plastic collars – please let me know if they work for you!

  13. Terry says:

    Excellent, you should have some made professionally of vatious sizes and go on “Dragons Den” We will definately use your idea in the spring. Thank you.

  14. Peter says:

    Pretty sure it’s on the judges’ shortlist. So well done, Mrs, G.

    Terry – hope that when you say ‘made professionally’ you still mean via reuse!

    Actually, there are many such ideas that could bridge the reuse/’new’ product divide, especially using some social enterprises I have had the privilege of being part of that offer work to certain disadvantaged groups. groups.

    The right tools. Free materials… and a willing market. All hat’s needed to get a little business going!

  15. Terry says:

    Absolutely Peter, I’m sure many disadvanteged groups would jump at the chance of making something constructive and would be grateful to earn from their efforts.

  16. Peter says:

    Sadly we just seen one here locally fall foul of ‘rationalisations’ in LGA spending.

    Not that it was a drain, anything but, however when boxes are required to be ticked in other places, it’s amazing what there is of value, whose contribution also goes way beyond the financial, can end up pushed aside.

    I am hoping an era of by the community for the community may yet arise… and even lead to some significant enviro advantages as well.

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @Terry: Welcome to the site, Terry. I had not thought of an enterprise; merely protecting my own crops!

    @Peter: Morning Peter; good to see you again; sorry to hear about the local group; box ticking has taken over from common sense in many areas 🙁

  18. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    The slug guard looks very effective and has worked. This should help others who share the same problem (everybody!). My preference would be metal based, though with the same lay-out. Pieces of metal can be recycled inside flattened tins which makes this more acceptable, plus the fact that metal can be super sharp. Many torn, left-handed, plastic gloves and cut fingers are proof of that.

    The idea next Spring/Summer is to place a Sweet Basil plant outdoors on a raised bed and slugs must be kept well away for a successful harvest of leaves. My own plants are now growing strong after a lull during a cold snap, the younger has 8, or more, growing leaf sets (cross-shaped). It may be worthwhile keeping them frost-free all winter by special means, a location in the warmth of the drying press when required. To have the younger plant for next season would be a great outcome.

  19. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, metal would be good and longer lasting if designed as a new product. And could be made from recycled tin, perhaps. Good news on the basil; it sounds like you might keep it going a full year – has it now flowered, or did you pick them off? Mine kept flowering and flowering so I gave up and let it run to seed.

  20. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Your idea can be used for other materials and I plan to use a large fruit tin to allow for expansion of the basil. It certainly could be a business idea, if proved totally successful.

    The plant is doing well with the older one still growing but far less leafage. Removal of flowers is essential to maintain growth. This has been a regular part of the routine since growth has been the sole aim this year. Seeds are worth collecting in the normal lifecycle and that will be a target next year. Where and when do the seeds actually appear?

    With the Vat increase due next year, i decided to buy an Electric Propagator to improve output from seeds, and to produce growth from cuttings, using hormone, Have you tried cuttings?

  21. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, once the basil has flowered, the petals drop and you’ll be left with the flowering stem and the green bits – carpels I think they are called. These will start to turn dry and brown and then you can pick them off where you will find the tiny seeds inside.

    The seeds themselves change from green to brown to black as they mature and harden – it is the black seeds you want because they have their full, protective outer coat.

    You’d need to allow one or two of your plants to start flowering around August time to catch the seeds before the frost comes.

    I hope that helps; I probably haven’t explained it terribly well.

  22. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Thanks for the details. The great idea of seeds is to select the best growing plants, for flowering, and hopefully give good quality seeds for future years. Is this your experience with basil or other plants?

  23. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: John I don’t think I’ve ever grown enough to pick and choose. My best growing experience has been with fennel – we have heaps of seeds from that every year and I’ve been putting them in to bread rather than saving them for a new crop. I’ve not yet had much experience of seed saving for next years growth, but have pumpkin and runner beans from this year – I thought I’d start with something easy to handle 🙂

  24. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    An alternative to seeds is to take cuttings from a mother plant, with the fast growing one ideal. The aim is therefore to survive the winter, by avoiding leaf cuts which will be replaced by frozen leaf or leaf grounds from the oven bake months ago.

    Runner beans are also my choice for the main raised bed. I can use stalks from the large hypericum (Rose of Sharon) bush as a growing frame. I don’t think these are prone to slug damage which would be a plus. It is better to keep it basic. Pots, indoor/outdoor, can be used for particular items. Tomatoes are worth a go as well with contacts happy to grow some, to compliment the Sweet Basil.

  25. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, cuttings is something I’ve not much experience of except with fail safe plants like lemon balm and mint. I have a friend who does this with roses, and I’m very envious of his skills and dedication.
    Tomatoes are a great companion plant for basil.

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