At their worst, slugs can devour mature plants all the way down to nubs. They can also eat fruits and vegetables that are still on the plants. That damage looks like perfectly rounded holes, almost like someone used a mini-melon baller on them. As for small plants and seedlings… well, those can be eaten down to just a stem, or disappear completely overnight. Now that you know all about slugs and where they come from, you can focus your pest control efforts to eliminate them from your garden. There are tons of safe slug control methods that you can use to rid your garden of these slimy, plant eating pests.
Below I will give you several options for controlling slugs. But keep in mind that it will take more than one treatment. Plus, you may need to combine several of these methods to find the perfect solution. Here are some natural and organic options for how to control slugs in the garden…. Hand picking slugs is easy and satisfying, as long as you get the timing right.
To go slug hunting, grab your flashlight and head out to the garden after the sun goes down. It might take some time to find the slugs.
But their slime trails will shine in the light. To kill slugs, simply drop them into a bucket of soapy water. You could just squish them instead, but I get too grossed out doing that! I leave them in the bucket over night, then dump the contents into the compost bin in the morning — dead slugs and all. You may have heard that slugs love beer. Why do slugs like beer? Simply sink a disposable shallow container or use a slug trap into the ground so the rim is at soil level, then fill it with fresh beer right before sunset.
The slugs will fall into the beer and drown. To empty the trap, you can simply dump the contents into the compost bin — beer and all. But, unfortunately they like fresh beer. So for the best results, you should empty the traps and fill them with fresh beer daily. It can get a bit spendy. So you can create DIY slug traps by making ideal hiding spots for them, and then hand pick them in the morning.
Here are a few ideas for how to make a slug trap…. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth DE around the base of the plants that slugs love the best. It will cut up their soft bodies when they slink across it, killing them. The downfall of using diatomaceous earth for slug control is that you must reapply after it rains. Table salt may work to kill slugs by dehydrating them, and drying out their bodies.
Simply sprinkle it directly on the slugs. However, be very, very careful using salt in your garden. Use this method sparingly. Copper shocks slugs when they touch it, which deters them from crossing it. So you can create a barrier around your plants, pots, or raised beds to keep slugs out.
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Do coffee grounds deter slugs? But some people swear that sprinkling coffee grounds around their plants works to repel slugs. So, if coffee grounds are readily available to you, try creating a barrier around your plants to see if it works to keep slugs away. Some may even be considered slug repellent plants. Many gardeners use these as companion plants that keep slugs away. Begonias, ferns, hydrangea, nasturtium, lantana, astilbe, phlox, and clematis, to name a few. There are many different types of slug granules or pellets on the market these days. They can be very effective to get rid of slugs, but be careful because some types contain chemicals that are be toxic to pets and people!
So be sure to always use non-toxic slug pellets Sluggo and Garden Safe are two great brands. They contain natural ingredients that are poisonous to slugs, but safe for us and the environment. Natural slug pellets work by attracting the slugs. Simply sprinkle them over the soil around affected plants. Sprinkling organic slug pellets around my hostas. Here are a few quick slug prevention tips….
If you still have a question after reading through this article, and these FAQs, then ask in the comments below. Some of the most ferocious slug eaters are frogs, toads, birds, chickens, snakes, turtles, ground beetles, and firefly larvae. However, neem oil is not the best solution for getting rid of slugs. Slugs usually come out at night after sunset. However, sometimes they will come out during the day in heavily shady areas.
So I gave up on that method. Getting rid of slugs may feel like an impossible task, but it is doable. It might take some trial and error to find the best slug control products or methods that work for you. But your persistence will pay off, and your slug problem will eventually go away!
I live and garden in Minneapolis, MN zone 4b. My green thumb comes from my parents, and I've been gardening most of my life. Read More If you have a sandbox, you can sneak a couple of cups of sand to sprinkle around the base of the plant to help deter slugs. But don't let your kids see you sneaking sand out of their box. They might get mad. Ahem, not that I would know from personal experience or anything. Thanks for the tip about using sand around the base of plants to deter slugs!
Ways to Get Rid of Snails and Slugs in Your House and Garden, in Brief
Does this method work for you? When I lived up in the cities, the slugs destroyed my hosta's! They ate them right down to the center vein. I experimented with several treatments, but the diatomaceous earth worked best for me.
Slug & Snail
Wonderful, so glad to hear the diatomaceous earth worked for slug control. Thanks for sharing your experience. I have flagstone all around the area that is filled with hostas. Bran Wheat or corn bran is a dessicant that will cause slugs to swell up and die when consumed.
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Sprinkle it around plants in your vegetable and flower beds and monitor to see if slugs are snacking. If your brand seems too coarse for slugs to eat, blend it in your food processor until a finer grain. Like many other soil treatments, bran needs to be reapplied after a heavy rain, but the beauty of this treatment? You can also purchase bran in bulk at most feed stores. The horticultural side effects of using strong grounds such as espresso on the garden, however, are less certain. When using coffee grounds, moderation is advised. A study in June reported in the journal Nature found that slugs and snails are killed when sprayed with a caffeine solution, and that spraying plants with this solution prevents slugs from eating them.
Look for new commercial sprays that are caffeine-based. Beer Slugs are attracted to beer. Set a small amount of beer in a shallow wide jar buried in the soil up to its neck. Slugs will crawl in and drown. Leave space for slugs to enter the trap. Overturned Flowerpots, Grapefruit Halves, Board on Ground Overturned flowerpots, with a stone placed under the rim to tilt it up a bit, will attract slugs. Grapefruit halves work the same way, with the added advantage of the scent of the fruit as bait.
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Another trap method, perhaps the simplest of all, is to set a wide board on the ground by the affected area. Slugs will hide under the board by day. Simply flip the board over during the day to reveal the culprits. Black plastic sheeting also works the same way. You can buy slug bait at garden centers marketed under several name brands. These baits commonly use one of two active ingredients in their formulations — Ferric Phosphate and Ferric Sodium. Although both formulations are effective, there are significant differences in their chemical toxicities.
It is non-toxic to people, pets, birds, insects, earthworms and other wildlife.
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Ferric Sodium Ferric Sodium is highly toxic to wildlife. The most common brand, of slug bait, Safers, sells both ferric sodium and ferric phosphate, but they are packaged in similar looking plastic boxes. If you are buying commercial slug bait, check to be sure it uses the Ferric Phosphate formulation. Look for garlic-based slug deterrents, which exist under various brand names as well as ECOguard.
When applying commercial slug bait, apply thinly over a wide area and not adjacent to your plants. This is because these baits attract slugs but do not kill them instantly, so the slug can still damage your plants. Watering Schedule Far and away the best course of action against slugs in your garden is a simple adjustment in the watering schedule. Slugs are most active at night and are most efficient in damp conditions. Avoid watering your garden in the evening if you have a slug problem.
Water in the morning — the surface soil will be dry by evening. Salt If all else fails, go out at night with the saltshaker and a flashlight. Look at the plants that have been getting the most damage and inspect the leaves, including the undersides. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the slug and it will kill it quickly. Not particularly pleasant, but use as a last resort.
Note: some sources caution the use of salt, as it adds a toxic element to the soil. This has not been our experience, especially as very little salt is used. Ammonia Mix a solution of household ammonia with water 1 to 6 dilution or weaker , put into spray bottle, and set the nozzle to squirt like a water pistol. Arm yourself with a flashlight and set out two hours after sunset, when the slugs are most active, to examine your crop.
The ammonia is harmful to plants but the slugs die within seconds, so try to have good aim. A safer alternative to spraying slugs on plants is hand picking the slugs and immersing them in the ammonia solution. While slugs are voracious, they are very picky about where they go because of their squishy physical qualities. The design of your garden can go a long way towards preventing slug attacks.
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Shop Learn Our Story Natural Slug Control How to create a balanced garden ecosystem that keeps slugs at bay while helping your plants thrive. Read Guide Shop Products. Slugs are in every garden, and cause more damage than most garden invaders. Commercial slug killers are available, but they can be toxic to birds and other wildlife, and are less effective after rain, when slugs are most active. Slug Species of North America Most species of slugs eat organic materials, including leaves, lichens, decaying plant material, and mushrooms. Rosy wolf snail or Euglandia rosea : Eats snails and tree snails.
While they can damage some woodland garden plants, banana slugs prefer moist, decaying matter and are generally not a pest in open areas or urban gardens. Limax maximus or Giant Garden Slug: This slug is fast and eats both plants and other slugs. Arion rufus or European Black Slug: It will attack all of your garden plants.
Border Control Copper Small strips of copper can be placed around flowerpots or raised beds as obstructions for slugs to crawl over. Beneficial Predators Nematodes One of the fastest and easiest ways to get rid of slugs for up to six weeks is with microscopic parasitic worms called nematodes. Traps Beer Slugs are attracted to beer. Commercial Slug Baits You can buy slug bait at garden centers marketed under several name brands. Other Slug Deterrents Watering Schedule Far and away the best course of action against slugs in your garden is a simple adjustment in the watering schedule.
Making Your Garden Less Attractive to Slugs While slugs are voracious, they are very picky about where they go because of their squishy physical qualities. Garden Design Use sharp and pointy gravel for pathways, which can injure the soft underbelly of slugs. Regular gravel will not work for this… the pointier the better! Avoid using straw and leaves as mulch during the wet times of the year.
Slugs love the moist, dark environment of almost every kind of mulch and love to crawl right through it to hide and lay eggs. If you use mulch, try adjusting your application to the dryer part of the growing season, when slugs are less active. Sand can also be an effective mulch that deters slugs. Use raised garden beds with copper fencing to make it harder for slugs to access plants. Keep a pile of rocks at the edge of the garden to encourage garden snakes.