Page last updated at 10:28 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 11:28 UK

Hedgehogs needed to control slugs

A hedgehog (library picture)
Adult hedgehogs can have up to 5,000 spines

A gardener at a National Trust estate in Ceredigion is offering to re-home stray hedgehogs in the hope they will control his snail and slug problem.

The gardens at Llanerchaeron, near Aberaeron, are pesticide-free so the spiky slug-eaters are seen as an organic way of solving the problem.

Gardener Kevin O'Donnell said the pests were chewing through a "worrying share" of lettuces and other vegetables.

He said he would be happy to re-home any stray or orphaned prickly animals.

Mr O'Donnell said he wanted to protect the environment and did not use chemical pesticides to control slugs and snails.

But they still need controlling because they munch through plants and vegetable grown on the estate.

National Trust gardener Kevin O'Donnell
We'd be happy to create the kind of environment hedgehogs need
Gardener Kevin O'Donnell

Mr O'Donnell said: "We've worked these beautiful gardens at Llanerchaeron in an organic way for some years now, but the slugs and snails still chew through a worrying share of the lettuces and other vegetables that we grow.

"We'd be happy to create the kind of environment hedgehogs need - like building some log piles or leaf mounds inside our two-acre walled garden - if only people in west Wales will help us create a small population of these spiky slug-eaters."

But Mr O'Donnell said hedgehogs were nomadic and might wander off again even if they have started new lives at Llanerchaeron. So he is planning a two-pronged attack on the slugs.

"There's no doubt that thrushes and blackbirds are also good predators on snails and slugs. So we're going to make the garden even more the kind of habitat those species of birds will inhabit," he added.

Llanerchaeron estate will hold a hedgehog day on 27 July to point out the benefits of having the prickly animals in gardens.

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