For the last couple of weeks I've been enjoying fresh fruit from my June-bearing strawberry plants. Or at least trying to. Now, the strawberries I pick each morning may not be as large as those in the grocery stores, trucked in from who knows where, but they are much more flavorful and, if one can infer from the research regarding spinach, likely more nutritious as well. Maybe that's why looking over my carefully tended strawberry patch has made me especially despondent lately. I turn over one lipstick-red berry after another, only to discover large slugs tunneling their way through and eating most of what could have been my very best berries yet.

I am usually amenable to splitting my harvest with all sorts of insects, because, often they leave some for me. But these greedy, gray garden slugs are another story. I'm doing what I can to eradicate them -- or at least send them packing. Of course, there is hand-picking, but most of my slugs are babies no bigger than a pinkie fingernail, and there must be hundreds of them. I could scatter diatomaceous earth in protective rings around each plant, but it has its drawbacks. The stuff can be costly, and it has to be reapplied after rains or watering the garden. There are other organic slug control methods that I've not yet tried.

Since I'd always heard that beer works quite well as a slug trap, I gave that a go, but I didn't exactly follow the directions to a tee. I poured some cheap Michelob a little more than halfway into several plastic cups, placed them around the garden with the intent to bury them, but then got sidetracked and forgot all about them. (Incidentally, if you have a slug problem of your own, you should bury your cups of beer, but leave at least an inch above ground to keep other good garden creatures from falling in.) The next day when I checked on them, each of the cups were still upright and just where I'd left them. I wasn't surprised to see that I hadn't caught a single slug, but I was flummoxed -- most of the beer was gone. We hadn't had any rain overnight, so I'm chalking it up to thirsty raccoons. Or the neighborhood teenagers? Hard to say...

Story by Susan Brackney. This article originally appeared in Plenty in June 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

A new kind of beer garden
If you can spare a sip, use it to gently rid your garden of slugs.