Slater Slayers

Slaters (also known as roly polys) are land-living crustaceans that commonly feed on decaying matter and help to build soils. So while they can be considered friendly under many circumstances, in certain conditions when their food sources are scarce, they can turn their attention to your young seedlings. Sometimes it's just a matter of a seedling being in the wrong patch at the wrong time. 

It is believed that the warm, arid climate in conjunction with dusty, dry mulches, have provided the ideal breeding ground for slaters to become something of a nuisance. But more recently we have noticed that even in wet conditions, slaters can be problematic too. Heavy rains resulting in decaying plant matter - their favourite food source - will attract slaters in large numbers. Usually seeking cover under the mulch (or nearby dry areas such as under timber, pots, bricks etc), they pop out when safe to feed.   

So if you're noticing your seedlings disappearing overnight or their stems being ringed - pretty much seedling decapitation - scratch under the mulch, or search nearby, and you should see them scurrying about. There's a few things we can do to limit their damage and control numbers.


The slaters favour the dusty covering of traditional mulches for breeding, but you shouldn’t stop mulching your patch, particularly in summer. An alternative worth trying is pellet mulches, which expand once watered, changing the dynamic of the cover. You can also try keeping a clear area - free of mulch - from around the base of your plants.

Remember that seedlings are most vulnerable when they are young and as plants mature and become tougher, the slaters tend to turn their attention elsewhere. 


Growing vertically, and off the ground, means there is far less chance of a slater problem. These modular wall garden units provide meaningful real estate for your plants that are inaccessible to the slaters. 

If growing at ground level, you may need to position decoys when you have young seedlings about. Potato peels covered by a cup is a tasty snack that should distract them. Similarly, halved and hollowed out oranges, facing down in the soil will get some of your slaters interested. Chooks are pretty fond of slaters, so if you have chickens try rotating them through the garden to control numbers. But this solution can be risky, as chooks have been known to enjoy a tasty seedling from time to time as well. 

Iron chelate based snail pellets, like eco-eradicate, can be successful in curbing slater numbers.  


Dig in protective plant collars around your plants. The slaters will not be able to penetrate this defence and will turn their attention elsewhere. Our garden cloches, buried in the soil work very well too. 

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