Slugs plague Dillingham gardeners

Oct 2, 2017

Dillingham gardeners say that an uptick in slimy pests in recent years is making growing greens more difficult.

Despite gardeners' vigilance, slugs still managed to get a few bites of kale from a Dillingham garden.
Credit Avery Lill/ KDLG

Slugs are nothing new to gardening in Alaska. There are several species native to the region and some that are invasive. However, Dillingham gardeners report that there has been a major uptick in slugs in the last few years. 

“The slugs have moved into the bay, so our greens have not done as well because of that,” said Toni Hermann, referring to Bristol Bay. She runs Warehouse Mountain Farms with her husband Mark Hermann.

He added, “We think with the warm winters, the last four to five warm winters that we’ve had has probably helped with them increasing.”

Mark Hermann has heard from gardeners around the state that are dealing with an influx of slugs.

“Farmers in the [Matanuska-Susitna] Valley and in Fairbanks—I mean it’s pretty much across the state are dealing with the same thing. It’s not just us,” said Hermann.

The slimy critters have added a lot of extra work to their farming effort. The Hermanns use bait to attract and trap slugs in their greenhouse. For the crops that grow outside, like cabbage, they have to plant more and count on losing part of their crop to slugs.

“It probably adds 25 percent to the labor, cleaning up, trimming and packaging. Where before you could pretty much pick right out of the field into the bag, now you can’t do that any longer,” Mark Hermann said.

Mark and Toni Hermann sell their produce at the Dillingham Farmers Market twice a week.
Credit Avery Lill/ KDLG

Longtime area gardener Patricia Treydte, who runs Unicorn Gardens, has noticed the increase as well.

“Trying to get greens without holes in them has been next to impossible. I’ve wasted a tremendous amount of my time going out every morning, early in the morning, sometimes in the middle of the night with a headlamp, murdering slugs. There seems to be an endless number of them. They just keep coming,” said Treydte.

Neither Treydte nor the Hermanns have identified the type of slugs plaguing their gardens. But Treydte said that she found the soil was full of slug eggs when she harvested her potatoes, so it seems these slugs may be sticking around for another year.

With frosts that started in late August, the growing season is done for these Dillingham gardeners, but the farmers market will be sticking around. It will be open on Wednesdays and Saturdays through freeze up.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.