How to get rid of slugs: Wikimedia
- Find out how to get rid of slugs and protect your plants from being eaten.
- 1. Coffee Grounds.
- 2. Beer Trap
- 3. Eggs shells and sea shells.
- 4. Diatomaceous earth (DE).
- 5. Copper tape.
- 6. Slug repellent plants/Slug attractive plants.
- 7. Recycled wool waste pellets.
- 8. Nematodes.
- 9. Wheat bran/Corn Bran.
- 10. Nature Friendly Slug Pellets.
- Habitat and Habits
- Disrupt and Displace
- Bait and Trap
- Biological Warfare
- Escargot, Anyone?
- A Safe Slug Bait?
- The Trail Stops Here
- How to get rid of slugs and snails
- Garden pests
- Homemade Slug Killer
- Liquid Traps
- Ammonia Sprays
- Garlic Sprays
- Homemade Barriers
- A Few Considerations
- How to get rid of slugs in the garden: 8 organic control methods
- Why is garden slug control so challenging?
- What does slug damage look like?
- How do slugs feed and breed? (I know, I know…. TMI)
- How to get rid of slugs in the garden: 8 organic methods
- 2. Stop using pesticides on your lawn.
- 3. Trap slugs using boards.
- 4. Use wool to control slugs.
- 5. Combat slugs with copper.
- 6. Set up a slug fence.
- 7. Set up a slug bar.
- 8. Use an organic slug bait.
- Other, marginally effective slug control methods
- The final word on these slimy beasts
- Ferric phosphate slug pellets
- Connect With Us!
- Snails and Slugs
- When bad things happen to good tomatoes
- Physiological damage
- Critter and slug damage
- Tomato hornworm damage
- Slugs Eating Potted Plants: Protecting Container Plants From Slugs
- Getting Rid of Slugs in Container Plants
- Additional Tips for Slug Proofing Containers
- Slug Barriers
- Alternatives to Slug Barriers
Find out how to get rid of slugs and protect your plants from being eaten.
To avoid slugs causing devastation in your garden, read our top tips on how to get rid of slugs and save your precious plants.
How to get rid of slugs:
1. Get plants on side
When wondering how to get rid of slugs, a gentle method is to use plants which deter them and act as a natural pesticide. This way, you can keep keep slugs at bay without chemicals. Astrantia gives off a scent that repels slugs. Other plants which deter slugs include wormwood, rue, fennel, anise and rosemary.
How to get rid of slugs: Wikimedia
2. Remove shelter & encourage beneficial wildlife
Slugs will seek out cover under bricks, garden furniture and large logs. Remove potential slug shelters to expose them to natural predators. By making your garden an unsuitable habitat for slugs to survive in, the problem will naturally decline. Encourage natural predators such as toads, newts, hedgehogs and song thrushes to take care of the problem.
3. Make a beer trap
One easy and inexpensive way to get rid of slugs is a beer trap. Create one by burying half a container near vulnerable plants and half filling it with beer. Alternatively, look out for purpose-made beer traps. The scent of the beer will lure slugs, which then fall in and get stuck. Keep the rim of the container 2-3cm above the ground to avoid catching slug-eating ground beetles.
4. Create a prickly barrier
Slugs are soft-bodied molluscs so sharp, prickly barriers are a great way to deter them from precious plants. Use crushed egg shells, pine needles or thorny cuttings to create barriers and recycle unwanted leftovers and foliage. Another great material to use is sharp sand. Just check whatever you’re using won’t alter the soil quality.
5. Create a slippery barrier
Spraying WD40 on the outside of plant pots will make the surface too slippery for the slugs to scale them, effectively protecting your container plants.
6. Lay down copper tape
Copper reacts with slug slime, giving a tiny electric shock to slugs each time they come into contact with it. Lay down self-adhesive copper tape in your garden to deter slugs from reaching your plants. The tape can be attached to greenhouse staging, potted plants, raised beds – anything that needs protecting from these hungry molluscs.
How to get rid of slugs:
7. Place a lure
Leave a pile of old lettuce leaves or dried cat food in a damp and shady corner to attract a large number of slugs. As they all congregate by the food source, scoop up the perpetrators and dispose of them en masse. Couple this technique with taking torchlit night walks in your garden to catch slugs on the move.
8. Apply nematodes to soil
Nematodes are soil-dwelling micro-organisms which are parasites to slugs. Simply mix them with water and apply to the soil. The soil temperature needs to be in excess of 5C in order for the treatment to be effective.
9. Sprinkle salt
Sprinkle salt on pesky slugs to kill them, but avoid sprinkling it too much as plants are also adversely affected by an excess of salt. It’s therefore best used when far away from valuable plants.
10. The eco-method
Being on the lower end of the food chain, the unfortunate fate of the slug is to provide nourishment for carnivorous predators. Encourage badgers, birds and hedgehogs into your garden to reduce the resident slug population.
Chickens make great pets and can provide you with daily, free-range eggs while reducing the presence of slugs. Consider adopting an ex-commercial farming hen.
Alternatively, if your garden is sealed off by fencing, drill a CD-case-sized hole in the base of your fence to allow hungry hedgehogs, and perhaps even badgers, into your garden to feast on the slugs.
If moles are also causing you grief in the garden, you can find out how to get rid of these burrowing pests here.
Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly The English Gardener newsletter, bringing you all the grow your own advice you need throughout the year. Sign up on the right of this article. Need plants or gardening kit? Visit our directory of suppliers.
10 Best Ways To Control Slugs and Snails Organically.
There is no doubt that slugs and snails are the gardener’s worst enemy in many parts of the world. These voracious slimy creatures are able to devour several times their own body weight of your favourite plants in just one meal.
They seem to appear from nowhere when the weather is mild and damp. Overnight they appear from neighbouring vegetation, under stones, under the rims of plant pots, a thousand hiding places.
It is therefore no wonder that so many different ways to attempt to control them have evolved over the years.
Fifty years ago most gardeners kept a drum of table salt at the ready to pour on to the offending creatures as they appeared. Salt was sprinkled around newly planted seedlings.
Of course it dissolved instantly causing potential harm to soil and other wildlife. If you live near the coast you may well use seaweed around the garden which many claim is an effective barrier.
Wood ash may be deterrent for a while. Like many “natural” remedies, it seems to work in some gardens and is totally ineffective in others. Some slugs seem to be deterred by coarse grit spread around plants. Other slugs and snails cross intrepidly. Maybe it’s a bit like walking over hot coals.
Of course the ideal method of natural slug and snail control is to encourage enough natural predators to inhabit your garden: frogs, birds, hedgehogs and the like. This can only be successful if your other slug control methods are harmless to them.
Traditional slug pellets contain metaldehyde which is harmful to wildlife. It is worth mentioning that birds, amphibians and mammals are unlikely to eat the pellets, however they will eat slug and snail corpses and that’s where the real harm is caused. So what are the top 10 alternative natural remedies?
1. Coffee Grounds.
Coffee grounds spread round plants you want to protect do deter slugs and snails.
Some swear by this method and coffee grounds are not a resource we are short of considering the number of coffee shops that have sprung up everywhere in the past quarter of a century.
No good for those of you using pods in your espresso machines; but ideal for those still using cafeterias.
2. Beer Trap
Slugs love beer, apparently. A container such as a margarine tub or large yogurt pot sunk into the ground so the rim is at or just above soil level, filled with beer acts as a slug trap.
The slugs are attracted, fall in and drown; a great way to go. What of those that don’t like beer? They are still eating your lettuces.
3. Eggs shells and sea shells.
These are effective for a while when spread in a barrier ring around precious plants. If you live by the coast, near a sandy beach with bivalves you may have access to sea shells.
If using egg shells you will need to eat a lot of eggs to keep the average plot slug free.
4. Diatomaceous earth (DE).
This is an interesting one and popular in some parts of the world. Diatomaceous earth is the finely ground fossil remains of freshwater prehistoric diatoms.
It is used in various grades to kill bedbugs, cockroaches and food grade DE is used to kill internal parasites. As an abrasive powder inhalation is to be avoided.
Slugs can’t cross it but it does need to be replaced after rain; no good to me I fear. Some say perlite works in the same way: worth a go.
5. Copper tape.
Slugs can’t cross copper, so copper tape acts as a barrier. You can use a ring of it around an individual plant, however it works best to protect plants in pots.
A ring around the pot, just below the rim prevents the slug from getting at the plant in the pot. There are copper impregnated mats too that you can stand pots on.
These are successful until the plant grows; its leaves touch a neighbouring plant and the slugs and snails use it as a bridge.
6. Slug repellent plants/Slug attractive plants.
Garlic, Lawn Chamomile, chives. Some plants repel most slugs and snails and these may have a deterrent effect when planted alongside or used to make an extract.
Many gardeners swear by garlic as a natural pest control. Some say chives are effective it the leaves are tied around vulnerable plants; sounds fiddly.
You can of course plant something that is more attractive to slugs and snails. Lawn chamomile seedlings are reputed to be irresistible.
The slugs go for them and you wait in ambush, pop them in a jar and deport them.
7. Recycled wool waste pellets.
Shoddy, wool waste is a by-product of the wool manufacturing process. This is turned into pellets that you spread around the plants as a barrier.
They swell up and reveal nasty little fibres that are irritant to slugs. Over a period of time the pellets degrade and act as a plant food. I’ve used this one and it is effective when protecting newly planted seedlings and emerging perennials.
Biological control of slugs and snails is effective in small gardens if carried out with care early in the season. Basically you water on a solution of nematodes (microscopic worm).
These penetrate the slug, infect it and kill it: not a pleasant thought but organic and effective. You usually buy from mail order and storage and usage instructions must be followed if it is going to work.
9. Wheat bran/Corn Bran.
Small piles or rings of wheat bran or corn bran are eaten by slugs and snails and they cause desiccation and death. Totally organic and if wildlife eat the corpses they are getting extra nutrition.
This method has had great following. Disadvantage: you need to replenish regularly in rainy weather. Advantage: buy it from the health food store.
10. Nature Friendly Slug Pellets.
Organic Slug Pellets are based on Iron phosphate rather than metaldehyde. If you want an off-the-shelf, easy solution that is simple to use, these are probably your best bet.
They are approved for use in organic gardening and have soil association endorsement. Use sparingly: not like granular fertiliser.
They are not completely non toxic to other animals. They can kill earthworks and there have been some reports of dogs becoming ill after ingestion them. But they are still a safer alternative to metaldehyde.
See Upon Further Review…Iron Phosphate for Slugs and Snails
There are so many more possibilities, and I know you will have your suggestions: please post them below. Let’s keep to the passive solutions like these: no violence. However, I do understand why gardeners get so emotional about slug and snail damage.
If you try or have tried any of these do let us know what you think.
April showers bring May flowers, but they also bring those slimy pests, slugs and snails.
Snails have taken over the birdhouse! Photo by Deb Sanders.
Raiders of the night, they have a discerning appetite for succulent foliage and flowers. And from dusk to dawn, they can make short work of leaves, flowers, soft herbs, vegetables, seedlings, tender green bark, and ripening fruit.
On our Gardener’s Path Facebook page, Deb Sanders, one of our readers from Oregon, wrote of her troubles with a snail infestation.
Photo by Deb Sanders.
The armored gastropods are so prevalent in Deb’s garden, she can’t grow veggies, and her bird feeder station is overrun with the sticky critters. Worse yet, they hide under the rim of her containers, resulting in handfuls of slimy, squished snails when she moves them – ugh! Now that is gross!
Plus, because of the many visiting birds and outdoor pets on her property, Deb is looking to control these pests in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.
Photo by Deb Sanders.
I feel your pain, Deb! My garden’s a little further north than yours, and I know firsthand just how fond snails and slugs are of the lush, moist environment of the Pacific Northwest – and many other regions too, of course.
Over the years, I’ve tried a variety of tricks and products to control these pests. Some work well, others don’t; some are safe for other garden creatures, while some are deadly to all.
In my experience, management of slug and snail infestations is most efficient when a combination of tactics is used. Baiting and trapping make it easy to remove the creepy cousins, and barriers prevent them from accessing your plants.
Let’s have a look at the best, and safest, suggestions for controlling snails and slugs, so you can enjoy your garden again!
Habitat and Habits
Not all nighttime marauding is caused by gastropods. An easy clue to determine who’s causing the damage is by the telltale trail of shiny mucous they leave behind – if a slime trail is present, you know the culprit is a slug or snail.
Snails and slugs both belong to the mollusk phylum, and have similar bodies and biology. The primary difference between the two is that slugs are without the snail’s external spiral shell.
They both propel themselves with a muscular “foot” that continuously secretes a slimy mucous to help them glide, and both thrive in similar environments.
Native to Western Europe and the Mediterranean, they’re now found in temperate and semi-tropical regions worldwide.
Both species prefer cool temperatures and are most active at night, or on overcast days. On bright, sunny days, or when temperatures are high, they’ll seek cool, shady havens to beat the heat and bright light.
In cold weather, they’ll hibernate underneath any debris that provides shelter, or burrow into topsoil. But in areas with mild winters, they can be active year-round.
Disrupt and Displace
A good starting point for your slug and snail management program is to disrupt and remove their daytime hidey-holes, to the greatest extent that you’re able to.
Preferred hangouts can be a tall stand of weeds or the underside of just about anything on or close to the ground – particularly in moist, shady areas. Underneath boards, garden decor, planters, ledges, decks, low-growing branches, pot rims, debris, and protective ground covers are all prime real estate for gastropods.
Photo by Deb Sanders.
To disrupt their environment, undercut low branches, burn weeds with a weed torch or trim weeds close to the ground, and remove any unnecessary material they can hide under.
Obviously, some areas like rock walls, decks, meter boxes, permanent bird feeders, and so on can’t be removed – but these spots make good locations to bait and trap.
If you have the stomach for it, handpicking is an effective option when practiced diligently.
To lure slugs and snails, water any infested areas at dusk. After nightfall, use a flashlight to hunt them down, pick by hand, and dispose of them – you’ll definitely want to use gloves for this option!
You’ll need to do this nightly until their numbers are decimated, after which a weekly foray should suffice.
Once caught, you can dispatch them in a bucket of soapy water or by spraying with a solution of diluted ammonia. One part ammonia mixed with 10 parts water in a spray bottle will do the trick.
Bait and Trap
A good point to remember is that to bait gastropods is to attract them – so keep bait and traps a safe distance from any plants you want to protect.
The Beer Dish Trap
Simply fill a shallow container with beer and sink it into the soil, then leave overnight. Slugs and snails are attracted to beer, glide over for a sip, then drown in it.
Remove the corpses in the morning, and refresh with their favorite suds!
Esschert Design Ceramic Slug Trap, available on Amazon
Containers can be as simple as a plastic deli dish, or you can opt for something a bit more decorative – like this cute ceramic snail.
Create a welcoming environment for slugs and snails to hide under in the daytime with any flat object, or anything that makes a nice gastropod den.
A piece of plywood, thick dark plastic, pot saucers, overturned containers, or anything that will provide cool shade will work. The rinds of citrus (like oranges and grapefruit) and melon halves make an alluring den for them as well.
Water the area first, lay down the trap material, bait with a piece of leaf lettuce if needed, and return in a day or two to remove and destroy the crawly critters.
A variety of repellents can be used to divert gastropods away from plants you want to protect.
Researchers in the UK have found that garlic oil applied to the soil around crops will repel gastropods, and it kills those that come into contact with it.
An effective method for small-scale gardens is to crush garlic cloves (lots of them – easy to come by if you grow your own!) and lay them around the perimeter of the at-risk area.
The natural salts that form from oxidizing copper also act as a repellent. Uncoated copper flashing, banding, and mesh are all suitable options to lay around any area in need of protection.
Kraftex Copper Foil Tape with Conductive Adhesive
An adhesive copper tape, like this option available on Amazon, is a good option as it stays in place nicely, maintaining the barrier.
Vaseline and Salt
As the underside of planter rims is a favorite hiding spot, smearing this area with a mixture of Vaseline and salt will act as a repellent.
Scientists have recently found caffeine to be highly toxic to snails and slugs. For use as a repellent, sprinkle used coffee grounds (full caffeine, not decaf) around the edge of flower and veggie beds.
Gastropods have delicate tummy tissue, and any sharp materials will irritate and potentially cut their tender undersides.
For an extra layer of defense, build a small berm at least three inches wide with fine stone chips, crushed egg shells, diatomaceous earth (DE), or crushed oyster and clam shells.
Diatomaceous earth is derived from silicon dioxide and has sharp, abrasive edges. But it must remain dry to deter gliding gastropods.
Use food grade DE, not the material used in aquariums (which has smoother edges), and follow instructions when applying.
For combating gastropods, my personal weapon of choice is beneficial nematodes.
One hundred percent natural, nematodes are naturally occurring microscopic worms that are mixed with water for application.
The best times to apply nematodes are once soil temperatures have warmed up in spring, and after intense summer heat has ebbed in late summer/early fall.
They won’t kill adult snails or slugs, but once applied to the soil, nematodes enter the gastropods’ eggs. They then release bacteria that kills the eggs, then feed off the eggs and reproduce before moving on – with an effective killing rate of about 90 percent.
People, birds, pets, and helpful insects such as bees, ladybugs, and earthworms are completely resistant to these hardworking microbes.
Nematodes move swiftly through pre-moistened soil, and can be applied with a hose and sprayer or with a watering can for smaller areas.
You won’t see immediate results with nematodes, but the following year you’ll notice a significant reduction in the slimy herbivores.
Beneficial Nematodes Mail-Back, pack of 5
For best results, make three consecutive applications – spring/fall/spring, or fall/spring/fall. After that, an application once every 18 months will keep gastropod numbers at bay.
Timing is important with this method. A package contains approximately 10 million live nematodes, and if you don’t plan on using them immediately, they need to stay refrigerated until application. In the package, they have a limited shelf life.
Nematodes can be purchased online, at GrowersHouse.com. Before purchasing them, ensure soil temperatures are adequate, and that you’ll have the necessary time available for application.
Read our complete guide to doing battle against creepy crawlies with nematodes here.
Natural predators will also do their fair share in keeping slug and snail numbers down, provided you have a welcoming environment – which usually means no cats or dogs to chase them away.
Some predators known to feast on gastropods include frogs and toads, garter snakes, lizards, hedgehogs, moles, thrushes, blackbirds, magpies, and rooks.
Which brings us to our final tip…
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but I like my escargot served piping hot with plenty of garlic and butter!
If you have snails in the garden, chances are they’re the common, or brown snail, Helix aspersa (a.k.a. Cornu aspersum) – one of three main species used for escargot, along with H. pomatia and H. lucorum.
Brown snails have a soft, beige or brown body with a cream or yellow shell and brown spiraling stripes. When mature, they measure approximately 0.75 to 1.25 inches high, and about the same, or slightly larger in width.
Land Snails and Slugs of the Pacific Northwest
If you’re not sure how to identify them, you can always pick up a reference book for your region such as Land Snails and Slugs of the Pacific Northwest by Thomas E. Burke and William P. Leonard, available on Amazon.
Collect them at night (see Handpicking above) and place in an escape-proof bin. Sweeten them for one week with a diet of people-friendly food like lettuce, basil, carrots, melons, apples, and so on. This will improve their flavor and clean out their digestive tracts.
After sweetening, purge for two more days with no food or water.
After purging, place the snails in a lidded quart jar and put them in the fridge for about an hour – this will put them into a deep sleep before cooking.
To cook, par-boil for three minutes, drain, and remove shells. Rinse in water, followed by a bit of vinegar. Then prepare the little buggers following this delicious recipe for Bourguignonne escargot .
This is karma at its sweetest!
Of course, if you do plan to use this particular method of gastropod management, your garden should be free of all pesticides – including the so-called “safe” slug and snail baits.
A Safe Slug Bait?
At present, there are three different types of commercial slug baits sold in North America.
The traditional molluscicide in use since the 1930s uses metaldehyde, which has a highly toxic profile for pets and wildlife, and can find its way into waterways during heavy rainfalls – not a great option for anyone who’s looking for a safe, ecologically sound method to limit gastropod damage.
In the mid-1990s, a new molluscicide (available under various brand names) arrived on the market that uses iron phosphate as the active killing ingredient.
According to the EPA, iron (ferric) phosphate is considerably less toxic to pets, birds, worms, and other garden friendlies, and is generally regarded as safe (GRAS). But, it’s also fairly slow acting and can take up to a week to kill gastropods.
To speed up the killing action, an inert ingredient known as ferric sodium EDTA (sodium ferric ethylenediaminetetraacetate) was added to some iron phosphate baits – and is also sold as the primary killing compound in other brands.
However, ferric sodium can be toxic to pets and wildlife such as aquatic arthropods, and should not be used in or near aquatic environments.
If you do choose to use commercial baits, read the label carefully for toxic ingredients, and follow application instructions closely. And consider taking steps to keep pets away from these baits.
The Trail Stops Here
Slugs and snails are persistent in their foraging, so you’ll need to match their efforts.
Use a combination of traps and bait, handpicking, barriers, repellents, and predators to effectively control their environment and routines – and your plants won’t be bothered by the gooey little pests again!
Thanks for reaching out with your concerns Deb, and for the photos of those nasty snails – it was a great topic idea!
What about you folks, do you have any garden problems or questions you’d like to see addressed in an article? If so, drop us a line in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.
We love providing solutions to your gardening concerns, and have a host of experienced and expert writers to help you out!
Photos by Deb Sanders. Used with permission. Uncredited photos: .
About Lorna Kring
A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!
Slugs can be a big problem for any garden lover. Those countless hours spent maintaining your backyard, planting fruit and vegetables can often be ruined by these creatures..
Getting rid of slugs is often a time consuming and difficult task for garden lovers. Although the most effective solution is to use slug pellets to rid your garden of these slimy pests, this removal method is not to everyone’s taste.
How to get rid of slugs and snails
Fortunately, there is a range of home remedies and natural solutions to help with a slug problem in your garden.
It’s important to note that home remedies aren’t a guaranteed fix for your slug problem, but they can help reduce their presence in your backyard.
1. Beer trap
There’s nothing better than enjoying a cold beer after a long day at work, and slugs seem to enjoy it too.
It is believed that slugs can’t resist the smell of beer, making it the ideal bait for a trap.
What you need: A plastic cup and a bottle of beer.
How it works: Half bury the cup in the soil close to your plants and half fill it with beer. Tempted by the smell of beer, the slugs will fall into the cup.
It is worth noting that this home remedy is only effective for a small slug problem. Controlling a large infestation can be quite expensive as the beer needs to be replaced daily.
2. Copper tape
The use of copper is also believed to be a good remedy for slugs. Copper is considered to be a natural slug repellent as the mucus they secrete from their body (their slime) reacts with the metal, producing a tiny electric shock.
What you need: Self-adhesive copper tape (available from DIY shops).
How it works: Place copper tape around the rim of your plant pots to act as a deterrent for slugs.
Note: For copper tape to remain effective against slugs then it needs to be cleaned regularly with vinegar to avoid tarnishing.
3. Egg shells
Crushed egg shells work as a great home remedy of slugs. This is because slugs don’t like moving across sharp objects, although it isn’t not impossible for them to do, they just prefer not to.
What you need: Empty egg shells
How it works: Break up the empty egg shells into small(ish) pieces and place around the flowers, plants, vegetables, and fruits you want to keep safe from slug damage.
An added bonus with this method: Calcium from the egg shells helps enrich the soil as they decompose.
Broken nutshells work in the same way as egg shells when getting rid of slugs.
What you need: Nutshells
How it works: Break up the nutshells into small pieces, and create a protective barrier around your plants. Any slugs that come near your vegetables will soon turn the other way.
5. Petroleum Jelly
Petroleum jelly can be a good way to protect potted plants from slug damage. The slippery texture of petroleum jelly makes it difficult for a slug to grip onto a surface.
What you need: Petroleum jelly
How it works: Apply this jelly in a band around the rim of your flower pots, containers, and even the stalks of your plants using petroleum jelly. Vapor rub also works in a similar way.
Although for us, that first cup of coffee in the morning can help us get through the day, slugs, on the other hand, hate it. This makes it a good home remedy to use in your garden.
What you need: Ground coffee beans (not instant coffee granules)
How it works: Sprinkle coffee grounds around your plants. Fresh coffee is more effective than instant. Also, the higher the caffeine content the more effective the solution.
If you don’t have any coffee beans to hand, some coffee shops offer their customers grounds from their machines free of charge.
Seaweed, both fresh and powdered is a good home remedy for slugs, and it’s great for soil as well! The reason why this home remedy works is due to the salt content in these products, which we all know slugs aren’t that keen on.
What you need: Seaweed (fresh or powdered)
How it works: Place the seaweed (or sprinkle if using the powdered form) around the plants you wish to protect.
Seaweed is a great natural repellent for slugs, and will help keep your garden free from slug damage.
8. Grapefruit trap
Slugs are lovers of citrus. This means that fruits such as grapefruit can be used to make your own slug traps.
What you need: Empty grapefruit rinds (peel)
How it works: Place a couple of empty grapefruit rinds upside down on the ground, making sure there is enough clearance for a slug to enter. The grapefruit rind provides slugs with food, and a damp environment to hide. Leave overnight and dispose of any slugs caught in the morning.
9. Natural predators
Animals such as hedgehogs, birds, beetles, frogs, and toads are all natural predators of slugs and love to tuck into these pests as a tasty snack.
What you need: DIY skills, creativity, and a little patience
How it works: Make your backyard more appealing to these animals by building a hedgehog shelter, installing a pond and/ or setting up bird feeders.
Introducing these animals into your garden will naturally control any slug infestation that might occur.
10. Slug repelling plants
If you’ve read our garden pests blog you’ll know that companion planting plants, which repel insects can be a great prevention method. There are a handful of plants which are believed to be a natural repellent for slugs.
What you need: Slug repelling plants â€“ Living Green suggest that wormwood, rue, fennel, anise, and rosemary are the best slug repelling plants.
How it works: Plant these amongst your flowers, fruits, and vegetables to help prevent slug damage.
Slugs are just one of many pests, which can inhabit your garden and inflict damages to your plants, furniture and in some cases, your health!
If you need assistance getting rid of garden pests such as ants, mosquitoes, wasps, rats and mice, get in contact with Rentokil today.
Homemade Slug Killer
Hermaphroditic slugs can produce up to 300 offspring every year.
Slugs typically feed on young plant tissue at night or on overcast days, preferring to spend sunny days in moist, shady environments. You can effectively kill slugs using various homemade traps, solutions and barriers.
Slugs are attracted to the smell of fermenting malt and yeast in beer. If you don’t have any beer on hand, use straight grape juice or combine 2 teaspoons of baking yeast and 8 ounces of water to make a liquid solution. Bury a pie pan, plastic butter tub or other shallow container with the edges even at the soil line. Fill the container to within 1 inch of the rim with your choice of liquid. Slugs will crawl into the container and drown. Replenish the liquid every three days, but remove slug carcasses every morning so the trap stays clean. Traps only have about a 3-foot range, so place them accordingly throughout your yard or garden to control slug populations.
Ammonia sprays perform well as molluscicides, but the solution must make direct contact with the slugs in order to work. In a small spray bottle, combine 3 ounces household ammonia with 16 ounces water. Take the bottle out to your garden during the cool evening hours and spray all feeding slugs you can find. Wait 24 to 72 hours to check for slug activity. If you spot the slimy pests still feeding on plants, make a solution containing equal parts household ammonia and water for some extra slug-killing oomph. One benefit of spraying with ammonia is that it turns into nitrogen that plants can use for food. One drawback is that ammonia can injure sensitive plant foliage. Test the solution on a small section of leaves and wait at least 24 hours to check for damage. Treat your entire plant if no burning occurs.
Garlic oil sprays cause slugs to secrete an excess of mucus. In time, the mucus overproduction causes the mollusks to dry out, shrivel up and die. Make your own spray by soaking 4 cloves of minced garlic in 1 tablespoon of mineral oil for about 24 hours. After straining the solution to remove the garlic pieces, pour it into 1 pint of water and add 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Keep this garlic oil concentrate in your refrigerator until you’re ready to spray. Make a garlic spray by mixing 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil concentrate and 1 pint of water in a handheld spray bottle. Wait until the sun goes down to apply the solution to the tops and undersides of leaves. Apply garlic spray every 24 to 72 hours until slugs no longer feed on your plants. Reapply immediately after a rain since the water washes the oily solution from the foliage. Test the solution on a single leaf before treating an entire plant.
Making a barrier around plants with an abrasive substance helps kill off slimy slugs by cutting up their bellies when they crawl across it. The lacerations cause the pests to lose moisture, which makes them dry up and die. Dry wood ashes, diatomaceous earth, fine sand, pine needles and crushed eggshells all have gritty, sharp edges that can cause slugs bodily harm. Apply your chosen material in swaths about 3 inches wide and 1 inch high around valued plants, but keep the substance from touching the plant bases. Renew barriers after watering or rainfall because moisture makes the materials less effective,
A Few Considerations
Even homemade pesticides can irritate sensitive skin and eyes with direct contact. Protect yourself from accidental exposure by wearing waterproof gloves, goggles, a face mask and long sleeves when applying barriers or mixing and spraying solutions. As always, keep pets and family members safe by not allowing them near treated plants until liquid solutions dry or dusts settle. Treat plants on days with little to no wind to keep solutions from drifting out of the designated treatment area.
How to get rid of slugs in the garden: 8 organic control methods
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Find our full disclosure here.
Slugs are one of the most common garden pests, though unlike most other leaf-munching critters you find in your garden, they aren’t insects. Instead, slugs are land-dwelling mollusks that are more closely related to clams than beetles or caterpillars. Facing a slug infestation is serious business, filled with slime trails, damaged leaves, and missing seedlings. Figuring out how to get rid of slugs in the garden without turning to harsh synthetic chemical slug baits, is a task ripe with old wives’ tales and useless homemade remedies. But, the truth is that effective organic slug control is both manageable and affordable, when you’re armed with the following tips and information.
Why is garden slug control so challenging?
Let’s start with the obvious: slugs have a major ick factor. They’re slimy and pretty darned disgusting. Most species are decomposers who feed on decaying plant and animal wastes. But, there are a handful of slug species that prefer to feed on living plant material, making them the bane of many gardeners. If you’re here to figure out how to get rid of slugs in the garden, these are definitely the species you’re dealing with.
Not all species of slugs eat garden plants, but those that do can cause significant damage.
Unlike snails, slugs don’t carry a shell on their backs. Instead, they have a small, saddle-like plate called a mantle. Because they lack the protection of a shell, slugs tend to feed primarily at night or on rainy days, when they’re protected from the sun. During the day, they tend to hide under rocks or in other dark, moist locations.
Garden slug control can be difficult because many times the problem is misdiagnosed and the damage is blamed on another garden pest. Since slugs feed primarily at night, gardeners tend to notice the damaged plants, but they can’t find the culprit when they search the garden during the day. So, the cause of the damage becomes a mystery and the gardener might choose to spray the plant with a general insecticide in an attempt to kill the bug, which is useless, of course, against a mollusk like a slug.
Slug damage is often blamed on other, more visible garden pests.
Aside from frequent misdiagnoses, getting rid of slugs in the garden can be problematic because good old hand-picking is both disgusting and super-challenging. Unless you’re a night owl who loves roaming the garden with a flashlight and picking up slime-covered mollusks and dropping them into a cup of soapy water, hand-picking slugs is no fun on so many levels. It’s easy to see why so many gardeners opt for skipping it all together.
If you really want to know how to get rid of slugs in the garden, you first have to learn how to properly identify the damage they cause. Then, you have to understand how to target the slimy buggers effectively and efficiently based on how they feed as well as how they breed.
What does slug damage look like?
Slugs are notorious for decimating young seedlings and many different tender-leaved plants. Here are some sure-fire signs that a garden slug control program is called for:
• If you come out to the garden in the morning and nothing remains of your seedlings but leaf mid-ribs and stumps, slugs are a likely culprit.
• Perfect, round holes in tomatoes, strawberries, and other soft fruits can also indicate a need to learn how to get rid of slugs in the garden.
• Ragged holes in leaf edges and centers is another sign of slugs.
• Slime trails on plants, walls, rocks, or mulch are another tell-tale sign of slug troubles.
Chewed off seedlings with nothing but their mid-ribs remaining are a sign of slug troubles.
How do slugs feed and breed? (I know, I know…. TMI)
Slug mouths are lined with tiny, grater-like teeth that shred leaf tissue before digesting it. This type of feeding creates holes with jagged edges, rather than the smooth-edged holes often left behind by leaf-chewing beetles or caterpillars. Slugs move on an excreted mucus trail that serves to both protect their body from desiccation and message other slugs about their presence (apparently slime trails can help you find a mate…).
Most slug species are hermaphroditic, which means they have both male and female reproductive parts. Thankfully, slugs aren’t capable of fertilizing themselves, so they have to find a partner to breed (imagine all the little baby slugs there would be if slugs could fertilize themselves… yikes!). Slug mating is actually really fascinating; leopard slugs in particular. It involves a pair of glowing blue reproductive organs and a nocturnal tryst while hanging mid-air on a thread of slime. And, no, I’m not joking.
Each slug is capable of laying hundreds of eggs over the course of its lifetime, though the eggs are laid in clutches of about 30. The eggs are laid in moist soil, under mulch or rocks, or beneath leaf detritus. They’ll sit dormant if the weather is too hot, too dry, or too cold, waiting for just the right moment to hatch. If you live in a rainy region, such as the Pacific Northwest, you’re all too aware of why learning how to get rid of slugs in the garden is so important.
Now that you understand a bit more about these garden pests, it’s time to look at some ways to keep slugs out of the garden naturally.
Slugs can often be found climbing up the sides of buildings and walls.
How to get rid of slugs in the garden: 8 organic methods
This first strategy doesn’t involve products, traps, or barriers. Instead, it involves the actions you take in the garden.
Slug prevention techniques involve things like:
• Avoid using loose mulches where slugs are prevalent. Skip straw, hay, and shredded wood mulches and opt for compost or leaf mold instead.
• Avoid watering the garden late in the day. Since slugs (and their eggs) thrive in wet conditions, always water in the morning so the garden dries by nightfall.
• Switch from overhead irrigation to drip irrigation which targets water at the root zone and keeps plant foliage dry.
• Plant resistant plants. Slugs dislike plants with heavily fragranced foliage, like many common herbs. They also dislike plants with fuzzy or furry foliage.
• Slugs are a favorite food of many different predators. Encourage birds, snakes, lizards, toads, frogs, and ground beetles to make a home in your garden. Building a “beetle bump” is one of the most effective ways to control slugs naturally (find out how to build one in this article).
Snakes are exceptional predators of garden slugs. Encourage them in your garden.
2. Stop using pesticides on your lawn.
Firefly larvae are one of the most prevalent predators of newly hatched slugs, and putting synthetic pesticides on your lawn doesn’t just kill the “bad” bugs, it also kills beneficial insects, such as fireflies, that live in the lawn and help you control pests like slugs. Instead, switch to organic lawn care techniques and let these good bugs help you control slugs naturally.
3. Trap slugs using boards.
This is one of my favorite tricks for how to get rid of slugs in the garden, especially the vegetable garden. Lay 2×4’s between crop rows at dusk and then the following afternoon, when the slugs take shelter beneath them to avoid the sun, flip over the boards and collect the slugs or cut them in half with a sharp scissors. You can also easily trap them underneath inverted watermelon rinds placed throughout the garden.
4. Use wool to control slugs.
If you want to know how to get rid of slugs in the garden, you shouldn’t ignore the power of wool. It’s been discovered that slugs are just as bothered by itchy, rough wool as humans are. They don’t like climbing over the coarse texture. Slug Gone pellets are made from natural wool that’s been compressed and formed into pellets. The pellets are spread around the base of susceptible plants and then watered. The pellets quickly expand, forming a thick mat of wool that slugs refuse to climb over. It lasts for a very long time and can even help suppress weeds.
5. Combat slugs with copper.
The metal copper reacts with slug slime to cause a mild electric shock and send the slug packing. You can purchase copper tape here and surround susceptible plants with a ring of copper. This is an easy technique if you just want to protect a few hostas, but it’s more challenging for larger garden areas. However, one easy way to keep slugs out of raised beds is to make a copper collar around the outer edge of the whole bed by stapling or nailing a strip of copper tape around the top of the bed’s frame. This also works for containers where the copper tape can be placed just inside the upper rim of the pot. There’s also a copper mesh called Slug Shield (available here) that can be used in a similar manner and is reusable. It’s a bit easier to wrap around a single plant stem than copper tape or strips.
Garden slugs can be kept out of raised beds with copper strips, tape, or mesh.
6. Set up a slug fence.
Believe it or not, you can make an electric fence for slugs. Yep, that’s right. Here are plans to make a tiny electric slug fence to place around raised beds and protect the plants from slugs. It runs on a 9 volt battery and zaps the slugs when they come in contact with the fence. It won’t hurt humans or pets and is a great way to protect a raised bed or other small garden.
7. Set up a slug bar.
You know I had to mention everyone’s favorite/least favorite slug control: beer-baited traps. Yes, no list of tips on how to get rid of slugs in the garden is complete without a mention of beer traps. Plastic traps like these or these are baited with beer (non-alcoholic works best). The yeast in the beer attracts slugs who then fall in and drown. It works, but it’s also incredibly gross. In order to prevent a festering pile of slug corpse-infused beer, be sure to empty and re-bait the traps daily.
8. Use an organic slug bait.
When figuring out how to get rid of slugs in the garden, organic slug baits are a must. However, be smart about this method because not all slug baits are the same. Many traditional slug baits used to control slugs in the garden are poisonous to pets and other wildlife in addition to slugs. Do not use slug baits that contain methiocarb or metaldehyde as their active ingredient. Metaldehyde is extremely toxic to mammals (just a teaspoon or two can kill a small dog) and methiocarb isn’t much safer.
Instead, turn to organic baits for garden slug control. Look for an active ingredient of iron phosphate. These slug control products are safe for use on even certified organic farms. Brand names include Sluggo, Slug Magic, and Garden Safe Slug and Snail Bait. Sprinkle the bait on the soil surface around affected plants. The slugs eat the bait and immediately stop feeding. They’ll die within a few days. These baits can even be used in the vegetable garden around food crops, unlike traditional slug baits.
Sprinkle iron phosphate slug baits around nibbled plants to keep the slug population down.
Other, marginally effective slug control methods
In addition to these “power 8” ways to get rid of slugs in the garden naturally, there are a few other tricks you can try, though their effectiveness is debatable.
• Diatomaceous earth has long been touted as a great slug control. It’s a fine powder that is very sharp microscopically and the edges easily cut through slug skin and desiccate them as they crawl over it. The trouble is that as soon as diatomaceous earth gets wet, it’s rendered useless. I don’t know many gardeners who have time to make a circle of dust around every plant and then replenish it after every rain or heavy dew.
• A hearty sprinkle of salt, placed directly on a slug’s body, may desiccate it enough to lead to its death, but there’s a good chance the slug will simply shed its slime layer along with the salt and carry on as usual. I’ve seen it happen so many times that I put aside my salt shaker long ago.
• And lastly, sharp-edged items, such as sweet gum seed pods, crushed eggshells, and dried coffee grounds have all been touted as great slug deterrents. I respectfully disagree and so do several studies.
The final word on these slimy beasts
If slugs consistently cause you troubles and you’re constantly asking yourself how to get rid of slugs in the garden, then it’s time to take action and maintain a good organic control program from the start of the growing season all the way through the end by using as many of the techniques described above as possilbe. Doing so keeps the slug population in check and significantly decreases the amount of damage they cause.
Have you battled slugs in your garden? We’d love to hear your success stories in the comment section below.
For more on controlling pests in the garden, be sure to check out the following articles:
Guide to vegetable garden pests
Managing four-lined plant bugs
Controlling squash vine borers organically
Preventing pests in your garden
Growing organic apples with fruit bagging
Ferric phosphate slug pellets
The bottom line sums it up.
Be extremely careful to keep children and pets out of the containers. Use only sparingly as directed, don’t put big bands or piles anywhere, and clean up spills. Do not allow children or pets to play unsupervised in treated areas, and watch for neighbor’s dogs or kids when the product is down. There is nothing wrong with these products – they work very well as a slug and snail bait. The problem is the deceptive advertising that hides the true nature of these products, and disarms the caution users should have with a dangerous poison.
It is ultimately our responsibility to keep kids, pets, and wildlife safe from poisoning when we use or store poisons. Both metaldehyde and iron phosphate baits are pretty safe if used properly, but they are both dangerous poisons if consumed in enough quantity. Remember too that the iron phosphate baits as far as I know do not contain Bitrex so they are much easier to eat in large quantities, and that iron builds up in the system so eating smaller amounts over time will increase the amount of poison until symptoms appear.
I use them, very sparingly, I don’t use the container as an applicator but tip them into my hand and apply 3 or 4 around a plant. I have seen people with ‘blue’ soil! , apply just a couple, it will kill the slugs but using this amount I don’t think they will harm any life. Whoever would allow a child or an animal to consume large quantities.
1 Field history
Start by thinking about the field history, the previous crop, soil type and weather conditions.
These all need considering on a field-by-field basis before doing anything else.
For example, this year’s dry and warm conditions mean that on very light ground slug populations may be non-existent, but on heavier land that’s had rainfall, slug populations will be active.
Be aware that slugs can quickly repopulate and thrive at the first onset of rainfall.
Taking a total field perspective will help to develop a holistic approach and maximise slug control.
2 Assess slug pressure
Ferric phosphate should always be used as part of an integrated pest management approach and monitoring for slug pressure before application is vital.
To make sure you get the most out of applications and apply at the right time, monitor slug numbers using a slug mat or a simple piece of plastic with layers mash underneath. Place traps overnight and check early in the morning when slugs are usually active.
For oilseed rape crops, the treatment threshold is four or more slugs to justify slug pellet applications.
3 Pellet choice
It’s important to choose a high-quality ferric phosphate pellet that spreads well and is durable.
The four main characteristics that come together to form a good pellet include size, which should be between 2mm and 3mm, uniform shape, crush strength over 3kg and a density over 0.7kg/litre.
The aim is to have a pellet that is uniform, durable, rainfast and has anti-moulding properties. This all means the pellet will spread well and survive in the field without leaching, even after rainfall.
Ensure that pelleters are calibrated for ferric phosphate pellets with a maximum width of 24m to ensure good coverage.
If using both ferric phosphate and metaldehyde on-farm, ensure that both the setting for spread pattern and rate are correctly adjusted between the two products.
To achieve this, carry out a calibration test on both products and ensure that the operator is trained in the different spread patterns, dose rates and how to adjust settings accordingly.
Finally ensure that baiting points and pellet dose rate are relevant to the slug pressure in each individual field.
Application of ferric phosphate should only occur once thresholds have been reached.
The active can be used on all arable crops and should be applied with a maximum dose of 7kg/ha. In high-pressure cases, up to four applications of can be made as long as the maximum total dose does not exceed 28kg/ha/crop.
6 Be aware of the mode of action
Although both ferric phosphate and metaldehyde essentially do the same thing, kill slugs, their mode of action differs.
With metaldehyde, growers are used to seeing dead slugs and slime trails on the surface, but with ferric phosphate slugs migrate underground to die.
Therefore, when assessing treatment efficacy of ferric phosphate, monitor the crop for damage rather than looking for dead slugs.
As a Member you will have…
- exclusive access to the Headline News.
- full access to Gardenforum while on the move on your smart phone or tablet.
- exclusive access to 3-year financial summaries of over 1800 companies in the garden sector.
- the right to advertise two job vacancies a month and look for agents, completely free. It is also free to publish news about your team on People News.
- a substantial discount when placing announcements such as Product News on Gardenforum and in the Buyers NewsLetter.
- choice of which emails and services you want to receive from Gardenforum
Select which type of membership you would like
Gives you all the benefits above. The rate is £56 plus VAT per year less a 20% discount if you are renewing your subscription within 28 days or, as someone new to Gardenforum, you have taken a Free Preview in the last 24 hours.
Company Annual Subscription
Gives 2 or more members of your team full access to Gardenforum at reduced rates. They will enjoy all the benefits mentioned above.
1 day – Trial Membership
OK, so we haven’t convinced you to take an annual subscription and there’s some information you would really like to read, perhaps it’s a key news item or some company results. The solution is a Trial Membership for 24 hours for £9 plus VAT.
If you are new to Gardenforum and would like a Free Preview. You will have full access free for two hours, giving you time to explore Gardenforum. It will also give you 20% off Personal Membership if you subscribe within 24 hours. You will also be entitled to receive the Gardenforum newsletters such as Briefing, NewsAlert and, if you are a buyer at a garden retailer, the monthly Buyers NewsLetter.
NB: All prices exclude VAT, which will be added to your invoice
If you would like further information please e-mail [email protected]
Connect With Us!
by Heidi Strawn January 20, 2012
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/Thinkstock
This hornworm is making a meal of someone’s flourishing tomato plant.
Excerpt from the Popular Farming Series magabook Organic Farm & Garden with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Organic Farm & Garden here.
Discover these four tomato-plant pests and how you can get rid of them without resorting to pesticides.
1. One of the earliest tomato-plant pests of the season can be one of the most demoralizing for your tomato plants. Cutworms, brownish-gray or green caterpillars, are the larval forms of several different night-flying moths. They hide under the soil by day and emerge at night to chew tomato plants off ground level.
Small-scale gardeners can solve the cutworm problem by wrapping a sheet of newspaper the width of a dollar bill around the stem of each seedling. After wrapping the stem, plant the tomato seedling so that half of the newspaper “cutworm collar” is beneath the soil and half is above. When cutworms forage for tender tomato plants, they’ll find unappetizing newspapers instead.
If wrapping each tomato-plant seedling is too much work, sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of each tomato plant. The rough-textured skeletons of tiny sea creatures will deter soft-bodied slugs and cutworms.
2. If brushing into a tomato plant results in a flurry of white flakes, the likely culprit is whiteflies, which suck crucial juices and sap a tomato plant’s vigor. Prevent whiteflies by avoiding high-nitrogen fertilizers, which produce a quick flush of tender foliage. To eliminate them, use yellow sticky traps coated with Tangle-Trap or another gooey material.
3. There’s almost nothing a slug won’t eat, including tomatoes. If you spot neat little scoops taken out of ripe fruit or slime trails across a tomato plant’s leaves, the culprit is likely these, nocturnal, snail-like creatures. A pie tin filled with beer and buried with the rim at ground level will lure slugs to their drunken demise. But beware; beer is such an amazing slug attractor that it should be placed away from the garden. That way you won’t lure the neighbor’s slugs into your lot. Other remedies: hand-picking or surrounding plants with diatomaceous earth.
4. As plants near maturity, they can be attacked by hornworms. These sphinx moth larvae grow to the size of your thumb and can quickly strip a tomato plant of all foliage, even noshing on the unripe fruit. To find them, follow the trails of frass — little, green pellets that used to be your tomato plant’s leaves. Hornworms are easiest to spot in early morning, before they crawl to shadier parts of the tomato plant. Pick the ugly critters by hand and toss them into a pail of soapy water.
If you find a hornworm with rows of what look like rice grains growing out of its back, leave it alone. It has been attacked by a parasitic wasp that will eventually kill the caterpillar and multiply, providing more pest protection next year!
Having trouble identifying your garden pest? Check out the Common Garden Pests slideshow.
Snails and Slugs
Snails and slugs are among the most bothersome pests in many garden and landscape situations. The brown garden snail is the most common snail causing problems in most home gardens; it was introduced from France during the 1850s for use as food.
Several species of slugs are frequently damaging, including the gray garden slug, the banded slug, the tawny slug, and the greenhouse slug. Both snails and slugs are members of the mollusk phylum and are similar in structure and biology, except slugs lack the snail’s external spiral shell.
Snails and slugs move by gliding along on a muscular “foot.” This muscle constantly secretes mucus, which later dries to form the silvery “slime trail” that signals the presence of either pest. Slugs and snails are hermaphrodites, so all have the potential to lay eggs. Adult brown garden snails lay about 80 spherical, pearly white eggs at a time into a hole in the topsoil. They may lay eggs up to six times a year. It takes about 2 years for snails to mature. Slugs reach maturity after about 3 to 6 months, depending on species, and lay clear oval to round eggs in batches of 3 to 40 under leaves, in soil cracks, and in other protected areas.
Snails and slugs are most active at night and on cloudy or foggy days. On sunny days they seek hiding places out of the heat and bright light; often the only clues to their presence are their silvery trails and plant damage. In mild-winter areas such as southern coastal locations, young snails and slugs can be active throughout the year.
During cold weather, snails and slugs hibernate in the topsoil. During hot, dry periods or when it is cold, snails seal themselves off with a parchmentlike membrane and often attach themselves to tree trunks, fences, or walls.
Damage Caused By Snails and Slugs
Snails and slugs feed on a variety of living plants as well as on decaying plant matter. On plants they chew irregular holes with smooth edges in leaves and flowers and can clip succulent plant parts. They can also chew fruit and young plant bark. Because they prefer succulent foliage or flowers, they are primarily pests of seedlings and herbaceous plants, but they are also serious pests of ripening fruits, such as strawberries, artichokes, and tomatoes, that are close to the ground. However, they will also feed on foliage and fruit of some trees; citrus are especially susceptible to damage. Look for the silvery mucous trails to confirm damage was caused by slugs or snails and not earwigs, caterpillars, or other chewing insects.
Controlling Snails and Slugs
A good snail and slug management program relies on a combination of methods. The first step is to eliminate, to the extent possible, all places where snails or slugs can hide during the day. Boards, stones, debris, weedy areas around tree trunks, leafy branches growing close to the ground, and dense ground covers such as ivy are ideal sheltering spots. There will be shelters that are not possible to eliminate—e.g., low ledges on fences, the undersides of wooden decks, and water meter boxes. Make a regular practice of trapping and removing snails and slugs in these areas. Also, locate vegetable gardens or susceptible plants as far away as possible from these areas. Reducing hiding places allows fewer snails and slugs to survive.
The survivors congregate in the remaining shelters, where they can more easily be located and removed.
Switching from sprinkler irrigation to drip irrigation will reduce humidity and moist surfaces, making the habitat less favorable for these pests. Choose snail-proof plants for areas where snails and slugs are dense. Copper barriers can be useful for protecting especially susceptible plants. Though baits can be part of a management program for snails and slugs, by themselves they don’t provide adequate control in gardens that contain plenty of shelter, food, and moisture.
Choice of plant can greatly affect how difficult your battle with snails and slugs will be. Snails and slugs favor seedlings and plants with succulent foliage and these plants must be vigilantly protected. Some plants that are seriously damaged include basil, beans, cabbage, dahlia, delphinium, hosta, lettuce, marigolds, strawberries, and many vegetable plants. On the other hand, many plants resist damage from snails and slugs including begonias, California poppy, fuchias, geraniums, impatiens, lantana, nasturtiums, and purple robe cup flower, and many plants with stiff leaves and highly scented foliage like lavender, rosemary, and sage. Most ornamental woody plants and ornamental grasses are also not seriously affected. If you design your landscape using plants like these, you are likely to have very limited damage from snails and slugs.
Handpicking can be very effective if done thoroughly on a regular basis. At first it should be done daily. After the population has noticeably declined, a weekly handpicking may be sufficient. To draw out snails, water the infested area in the late afternoon. After dark, search them out using a flashlight, pick them up (rubber gloves are handy when slugs are involved), place them in a plastic bag, and dispose of them in the trash; or they can be put in a bucket with soapy water and then disposed of in your compost pile. Alternatively, captured snails and slugs can be crushed and left in the garden. Household ammonia diluted to a 5 to 10% solution in water can also be sprayed on collected slugs to kill them.
Snails and slugs can be trapped under boards or flower pots positioned throughout the garden and landscape. Inverted melon rinds make good traps. You can make traps from 12″ x 15″ boards (or any easy-to-handle size) raised off the ground by 1-inch runners. The runners make it easy for the pests to crawl underneath. Scrape off the accumulated snails and slugs daily and destroy them. Crushing is the most common method of destruction. Do not use salt to destroy snails and slugs; it will increase soil salinity.
Beer-baited traps have been used to trap and drown slugs and snails; however, they are not very effective for the labor involved. Beer traps attract slugs and snails within an area of only a few feet, and must be refilled every few days to keep the level deep enough to drown the mollusks. Traps are buried at ground level, so the mollusks easily fall into them. It is the fermented product that attracts them and a sugar-water and yeast mixture can be used in place of beer. Traps must have deep, vertical sides to keep the snails and slugs from crawling out and a top to reduce evaporation. Snail and slug traps can also be purchased at garden supply stores.
Several types of barriers will keep snails and slugs out of planting beds. The easiest to maintain are those made with copper flashing and screen. Copper barriers are effective because it is thought that the copper reacts with the slime that the snail or slug secretes, causing a flow of electricity. Vertical copper screens can be erected around planting beds. The screen should be 6 inches tall and buried several inches below the soil to prevent slugs from crawling through the soil beneath the barrier.
Copper tape or foil can be wrapped around planting boxes, headers, or trunks to repel snails for several years. When banding trunks, wrap the copper foil around the trunk, tab side down, and cut it to allow an 8-inch overlap. Attach one end or the middle of the band to the trunk with one staple oriented parallel to the trunk. Overlap and fasten the ends with one or two large paper clips to allow the copper band to slide as the trunk grows. Bend the tabs out at a 90° angle from the trunk. The bands need to be cleaned occasionally with a vinegar solution. When using copper bands on planter boxes, be sure the soil within the boxes is snail-free before applying bands. If it is not, handpick the snails and slugs from the soil after applying the band until the box is free of these pests.
Instead of copper bands, Bordeaux mixture (a copper sulfate and hydrated lime mixture) or copper sulfate alone can be brushed on trunks to repel snails. One treatment should last about a year. Adding a commercial spreader or white latex paint may increase the persistence of Bordeaux mixture through two seasons. Barriers of dry ashes or diatomaceous earth, heaped in a band 1 inch high and 3 inches wide around the garden, have also been shown to be effective. However, these barriers lose their effectiveness after becoming damp and are therefore difficult to maintain and not very useful in most garden situations.
Snails and slugs have many natural enemies, including ground beetles, pathogens, snakes, toads, turtles, and birds, but most are rarely effective enough to provide satisfactory control in the garden. An exception is the use of domesticated fowl—ducks, geese, or chickens—kept penned in infested areas. (Be careful, though, as these birds may also eat seedlings.) The predaceous decollate snail (Rumina decollata) has been released in southern California citrus orchards for control of the brown garden snail and is providing very effective biological control. It feeds only on small snails, not full-sized ones. Because of the potential impact of the decollate snail on certain endangered mollusk species, it cannot be released in California outside of Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Madera, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura, or Tulare counties. Also, decollate snails may feed on seedlings, small plants, and flowers as well as be a nuisance when they cover the back patio on a misty day. Decollate snails will be killed by snail baits.
Snail and slug baits can be effective when used properly in conjunction with a cultural program incorporating the other methods discussed above. However, baits alone will not effectively control snails or slugs. Several types of snail and slug bait products are available. Baits containing the active ingredient metaldehyde are most common. Metaldehyde baits are particularly poisonous to dogs and cats, and the pelleted form is especially attractive to dogs. So please avoid using these if you have dogs or other pets near or around your garden.
Metaldehyde snail baits should not be used where children and pets cannot be kept away from them. Some metaldehyde products are formulated with carbaryl, partly to increase the spectrum of pests controlled to include soil and debris-dwelling insects, spiders, and sowbugs. However, carbaryl is toxic to soil-inhabiting beneficials like ground beetles and earthworms and should be avoided if snail and slug management is all that is required. Metaldehyde baits containing 4% metaldehyde are significantly more effective than those products containing only 2% metaldehyde; however, they are also more toxic to dogs and wildlife. Most currently available 4% products are formulated for use in enclosed bait stations to minimize their hazard.
Avoid getting metaldehyde bait on plants, especially vegetables. Baits containing only metaldehyde are most reliable when temperatures are warm or following a rain when snails and slugs are active. Metaldehyde does not kill snails and slugs directly unless they eat a substantial amount; rather, it stimulates their mucous-producing cells to overproduce mucous in an attempt to detoxify the bait. The cells eventually fail and the snail dies. When it is sunny or hot, they die from desiccation. If baiting is followed by cool and wet weather, they may recover if they ingest a sublethal dose. Do not water heavily for at least 3 or 4 days after bait placement; watering will reduce effectiveness and snails may recover from metaldehyde poisoning if high moisture conditions occur. Most metaldehyde baits break down rapidly when exposed to sunlight; however, some paste or bullet formulations (such as Deadline) hold up somewhat longer under conditions of sunlight and moisture.
A recently registered snail and slug bait, iron phosphate (available under many trade names including Sluggo and Escar-Go), has the advantage of being safe for use around domestic animals, children, birds, fish, and other wildlife and is a good choice for a garden. Ingestion of the iron phosphate bait, even in small amounts, will cause snails and slugs to cease feeding, although it may take several days for the snails to die. Iron phosphate bait can be scattered on lawns or on the soil around any vegetables, ornamentals, or fruit trees to be protected. Iron phosphate baits may be more effective against snails than slugs.
Sprinkle baits in areas that snails and slugs regularly frequent such as areas around sprinkler heads. Placing baits repeatedly in the same areas maximizes control because molluscs tend to return to food source sites. Never pile bait in mounds or clumps, especially those baits that are hazardous, because piling makes a bait attractive to pets and children. Placement of the bait in a commercial bait trap reduces hazards to pets and children and can protect baits from moisture, but may also reduce their effectiveness. Thick liquid baits may persist better under conditions of rain and sprinklers.
The timing of any baiting is critical; baiting is less effective during very hot, very dry, or cold times of the year because snails and slugs are less active during these periods. Irrigate before applying a bait to promote snail activity and apply the bait in the late afternoon or evening. Application on a warm, humid evening is ideal. Apply bait in a narrow strip around sprinklers, close to walls and fences or in other moist and protected locations, or scatter it along areas that snails and slugs cross to get from sheltered areas to the garden.
When bad things happen to good tomatoes
As the season of the tomato reaches its pinnacle, anxious gardeners around Michigan are eyeing their tomatoes and contemplating everything from bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches to pasta primavera. But some of those hopes could be dashed when they find that their tomatoes have damage to them. Here are some of the possibilities of tomato fruit damage and ways to prevent damage, either this year or next. Michigan State University Extension hotlines are supplying this information to gardeners every day through the 888-678-3464 toll-free number.
Physiological damage is damage that is not caused by insects or disease. The most common problem is called blossom end rot. The top half of the tomato appears normal, but the bottom half is flattened, leathery and discolored. It is caused by a lack of water or irregular watering for the plants. Plants in gardens may have fewer problems this year (2013) because of adequate rain for most of the growing season. However, tomatoes in containers could still have a problem because of lack of root room. Tomato-growing articles may indicate that it is caused by a lack of calcium, but is actually a lack of water to carry the calcium from the soil, through the roots to the end of the fruit.
Tomato blossom end rot. Photo credit: David B. Langston, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Growth cracks happen to the opposite end of the tomato. These are cracks that develop on the stem end. They can be either radial or concentric. Radial cracks radiate away from the stem and resemble an asterisk. Concentric rings make a circle around the stem. Both are caused by varying amounts of moisture in the soil from very dry to very wet. The skin expands rapidly at the stem end and cracks happen. Essentially, the tomato got too big too fast and split its pants.
Tomato concentric rings. Photo credit: Paul Bachi, University of Kentucky Research and Education Center, Bugwood.org
Prevention: Check soil every day and water widely and deeply around the plants. Roots could go as deep as 12 inches and at least 1 foot to the sides. Mulch the soil with straw if the soil is drying too rapidly.
Critter and slug damage
Fruit can have missing bites or chew marks. These can be caused by both birds and mammals. Bird damage may look like someone stabbed the fruit with a pencil; it is a conical puncture. Pheasants are known to poke into fruit to get moisture. Deer can bite on tomatoes and damage is usually to the top of the fruit. Raccoons can try to rip fruit away or just bite in place. Damage to the lower portions of the tomato could be chipmunks or, in rare circumstances, turtles. Turtle damage can make it appear that the top or side of the tomato has been shallowly gnawed.
Tomato plants that are left to sprawl on the ground have fruit that touches the soil or mulch. Slugs can chew the skin and some tissue on the soil side.
Prevention: Use tomato cages or staking to keep plants off the ground for the short animals and slugs. It might be necessary to fence in tomatoes in to keep deer and raccoons away from the plants.
Tomato hornworm damage
The biggest problem is usually tomato hornworms, which are also called the tobacco hornworm. This large, green caterpillar has a curved spike on the rear end. It eats leaves and holes in fruit, starting at the top of the plant.
Tomato hornworm. Photo credit: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org
Prevention: Check for caterpillars and destroy them. It is possible to use a product containing Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki when the larvae are small. Or, till up the garden right after harvest to destroy the pupating larvae in the soil. They are next year’s tomato eaters.
The only disease this late in the season is anthracnose. It damages fruit but not leaves. Damage occurs to the skin of the tomato and small, round, sunken areas develop. The fruit begins to rot at those areas. This can happen because of blowing sand in a garden essentially sandblasting the skin or a hailstorm that bruises the fruit.
Prevention: Prevent blowing sand in the garden by using straw mulch. There is not much one can do about a hail storm.
Slugs Eating Potted Plants: Protecting Container Plants From Slugs
Slugs are capable of wreaking havoc in the garden, and even potted plants aren’t safe from these voracious pests. Slugs eating potted plants are easily spotted by the silvery trail they leave behind, and by the round, chewed holes in the foliage.
Getting Rid of Slugs in Container Plants
Before resorting to toxic chemicals, try nontoxic solutions to deter slugs from pot plants.
Slug Proofing Containers with Copper
Copper discourages slugs because the slime from the pest’s body reacts with the copper, which creates an unpleasant electric shock to slugs in container plants.
Purchase copper rings large enough to fit around single plants or small plant groupings. You can also place thin, self-adhesive copper tape around containers.
Protecting Container Plants from Slugs with Natural Predators
Natural predators, such as frogs and toads, love to feast on slugs, effectively keeping the slimy pests in check. A small, shallow pond or even a consistently muddy patch attracts the helpful amphibians. Be sure to provide shady places such as rocks, plants, or small logs to provide shelter from heat and bright sunlight too.
Certain birds, including blackbirds or thrushes, also help keep slugs under control. A birdfeeder placed near the potted plant encourages birds to visit your garden.
Deter Slugs from Pot Plants with Kitchen Scraps
Scratchy substances, such as eggshells, kill slugs by abrading the slimy coating, causing the pests to dehydrate. Rinse eggshells first and spread them out to dry, then crush the shells and scatter them over the surface of potting soil.
Coffee grounds are also scratchy and caffeine is toxic to slugs. Additionally, the grounds serve as effective and healthy natural mulch.
Protecting Plants with Other Plants
Planting pungent herbs with regular potted plants often helps discourage slugs. For example, try planting rosemary, garlic, chives, or sage next to your ornamental plant.
Additional Tips for Slug Proofing Containers
Limit mulch such as bark chips or shredded bark to a thin layer; otherwise, the moist organic material provides a handy hiding place that attracts slugs.
If you opt to use slug pellets, read the container carefully and use the product strictly as directed. Usually, only a few pellets are required to keep slugs under control. Non-toxic slug pellets are also available.
To install snail and slug barriers is one of the first things to do to protect vulnerable plants.
It is sometimes said that there is no effective obstacle to fend off slugs and snails, but this is not true; there are many effective barriers!
A slug barrier can protect e.g. raised beds: Check prices on Amazon.co.uk
In this article, you will find seven methods to try if slugs and snails are attacking your plants:
- Mechanic Slug Fences
- Slug Collars
- Protective Plant Covers
- Electric Slug Fences
- Garden Bells
- Slug-Repellent Coating
Mechanic Slug Fences
A rustproof metal slug fence is a classic obstacle against slugs and snails, and it has been successfully used in Northern Europe for more than 30 years.
Because the edges are bent in two directions, most slugs and snails cannot climb over this barrier.
Their high effectiveness has made slug fences popular.
More information here:
Slug fence overview
Since I wanted to be sure that these fences work, I designed and conducted an experiment to test their effectiveness.
More information here:
Slug fence test
Products Slug fence
|Slug Fence Set 14 | for 6m²||Slug Fence Set 24 | for 20m²|
|Check prices on Amazon (Europe)||Check prices on Amazon (Europe)|
(For North America, only electric slug fences are available on eBay .)
Copper is said to have a repulsive effect on snails, but this is controversial. Therefore, I also tested the effects of copper, and my experiment showed that a wide strip of copper deters most slugs and snails. In the linked article below, you will find more information about the experiment.
Self-adhesive copper tape can be used in a variety of ways, particularly around raised beds, tubs, or other plant pots.
More information here:
Testing copper against snails
Copper barrier products
|Slug Repellent Copper Tape||Copper Mesh Fence||Unplated Copper Wire|
|Check prices on Amazon||Check prices on Amazon||Check prices on Amazon|
Slug collars are also a useful method to successfully stop slugs and snails.
Similar to metal slug fences, the edges of slug collars are also bent but only once. This is why slug collars are a little less effective than slug fences.
These collars are put over individual plants. They protect flowers and vegetables when they are most vulnerable: during their growing phase. Some plants can even be protected throughout their whole life cycle, as is true of the runner bean in the picture.
Their biggest advantage is that they are relatively cheap, making them accessible to most gardeners.
More information here:
Snail and slug collars
Slug collar products
|Slug Collars (Pack of 6)||Cabbage Slug Collar||Slug Collars (Pack of 18)|
|Check prices on Amazon (Europe)||Check prices on Amazon (Europe)||Check prices on Amazon (Europe)|
(For North America slug collars are not yet available.)
Protective Plant Covers
Protective plant covers secure young plants against rain, wind, and frost, as well as snails, slugs and birds.
This allows seedlings to grow undisturbed.
Once the plants have grown up, slugs and snails usually cannot damage them anymore.
More information here:
Plant covers against slugs and snails
Plant cover products
|Protection Hood||Protective Plant Cover||Protective Sun Hat|
|Check prices on Amazon||Check prices on Amazon||Check prices on Amazon|
Electric Slug Fences
To build an electric slug fence, two parallel metal bands are installed on an enclosure and then connected to a rechargeable battery.
Once it has been turned on, critters that try to pass the fence will receive an electric shock and turn around.
If the electric fence is maintained, it can provide consistent protection against slimy invasive species.
More information here:
Electric slug fence
Garden cloche / Victorian bells
Like plant covers, nursery garden bells protect plants from snails, birds, and the weather.
Garden bells are usually larger than plant covers and can protect plants for a longer period.
Compared to plant covers, however, garden bells are much more expensive.
More information here:
Garden cloches / Victorian bells against slugs and snails
Garden bell products
|Protective Plant Bell||Large Garden Cloches||Esschert Design Cloche|
|Check prices on Amazon||Check prices on Amazon||Check prices on Amazon|
Check prices on Amazon
Slug- and snail-repellent coatings, like Schnexagon, open up a new world of slug control possibilities.
Schnexagon can be painted on most surfaces, making many applications possible.
For example, Schnexagon can protect the entry areas of greenhouses and all types of planters and pots.
More information here:
Slug-repellent paint: Schnexagon
(For North America: Check prices on eBay)
There are a lot of possibilities to block the way of slugs and snails.
Therefore, it is not necessary to use slug pellets or other baits to protect flowers and vegetables.
Alternatives to Slug Barriers
You could plant mostly slug-resistant flowers.
Slugs do not like to eat these vegetables and herbs.
You could attract enemies of slugs and snails to your garden.
Last update: July 16, 2019
Did you find what you were looking for?
If not, please leave a message or a comment.
Then I will try to help you and to improve the article.
Thank you very much – also for sharing and a good rating 🙂
I know you are there and I am so happy!
4.5 / 5 ( 8 votes )