Eliminating Slugs and Snails

September 13, 2006

A previous entry on controlling slugs and snails in the garden focused on trapping these destructive pests…

Today I wanted to share a few other natural and organic methods for eliminating slugs and snails from the vegetable garden.

Hand Picking to Get Rid of Slugs

At the top of the list of organic and natural controls for eliminating slugs and snails is to simply venture out to the garden in the evening and hand pick the critters as they come out from under their hiding places.

Quick reflexes aren’t required to capture this slow moving pest but if you’re squeamish about handling slimy creatures you’ll want to wear a pair of lightweight gloves. Once in hand toss the slugs or snails into a container of soapy water and dispose of them away from the garden.

If you can’t make it out to the garden at dusk or during the night when the snails are active, lay boards, large leaves, or pieces of cardboard between the raised beds or near the plants that are under attack. The slugs will hopefully make the mistake of seeking refuge underneath your improvised traps which you can patrol and check during the daylight hours, removing any unsuspecting guests.

This same principle can backfire on you if you use straw, leaves, or other organic material between your raised beds which provide slugs with shelter and places to hide and multiply. If your slug infestation is severe it may be helpful to keep your garden clear of these materials and all plant waste until the slug problems are under control.

Enlisting Wildlife to Help Control Snails and Slugs

If you simply refuse to handle slimy slugs or the population is too large for you to control on your own, another option is to enlist an army of allies to assist in your campaign to eliminate every snail that dares to crawl through your garden.

The army of allies that I’m referring to can take the form of birds, toads, turtles, frogs, lizards, snakes, and other small animals that would love to dine on all the slugs and snails they can find, but have no interest in eating the vegetables and fruits that you are cultivating in the garden.

So, how will you locate and invite these friendlies to stop by and feast on your garden pests? As your landscape becomes more inviting; hosting a wide variety of plants and shrubs and offering areas for cover and food, you’ll be surprised by the amount of wildlife that will show up even in urban environments.

Slug Traps, Baits, and Deterrents

A popular organic control to eliminate slugs is to trap them in shallow containers filled with beer, which slugs seem to find irresistible. For more information on this intoxicating solution to eradicate snails check out the following link for an earlier article about trapping slugs and snails in the garden.

Everyone’s familiar with the effect that salt has on slugs, but as a general control for snails in the garden it leaves a lot to be desired. The slugs aren’t going to help themselves to the salt, you have to apply it directly onto their bodies and in my mind it would be easier to just hand pick them from your seedlings and plants.

Another potential concern with using salt to kill slugs is that sodium isn’t the safest substance to apply on your plants or onto your garden’s soil. So while salt is deadly lethal to slugs and snails, I don’t recommend using it in your vegetable or even ornamental gardens. Some gardeners sprinkle gritty material such as sand, ash, or diatomaceous earth in a ring around plants to deter the snail’s access.

Organic gardening supply companies also sell slug baits that can be sprinkled in the garden to attract and kill slugs and snails. I’m not sure about the effectiveness or practicality of the organic slug baits but if you have any experience with them let me know of the results that you noticed when using the products.

A Shocking Secret to Eliminate Slug and Snail Woes

Just as weird as the slugs affinity to beer is its aversion to copper, they literally can’t stand this metal. Any contact between a slug or snail and a piece of copper generates an unpleasant sensation that’s been likened to an electrical shock, or causing a foul taste in the creature’s mouth. However you describe it, slugs find it uncomfortable and will avoid traveling across copper.

You can purchase copper bands from garden centers or by mail order that can be used to encircle entire garden beds or individual plants, creating a barrier that slugs and snails can’t traverse. The downside is that the products sold for this purpose are pretty expensive, making it impractical for all but the smallest of gardens.

A subscriber to my Gardening Secrets Newsletter provided a better and more cost effective alternative when she described how she uses cheap scouring pads to keep slugs out of her garden. The trick is to pull apart the strands of copper scouring pads that can be purchased at your local grocer.

Once the copper pads are pulled apart you’ll be left with long strands of copper material that can be used to surround plants, wrapped around stems, or intertwined among the branches of the plants that the slugs and snails are feeding on.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • Another good way to catch slugs is to leave a soup bowl full of beer in your garden overnight. The slugs crawl right in and die. It’s a little gross in the morning but it works pretty well. Slugs love beer.

  • Yes, copper does work. I have tried it. I like the scouring pad idea–I’ll be looking for those pads on sale! I have been fortunate to have the allies you mention on my side. Frogs, toads, snakes, birds are remarkable for keeping the slug/snail population down. Thanks for your suggestions & advice.

  • Merry Freeman

    Is it true that snails leave their eggs in the grass or ground if they are crushed underfoot, one method of killing them on the spot?? Would love an answer to this, thank you.

  • Kenny Point

    Merry, I’m not sure about how or where snails lay their eggs, but I don’t believe that attempting to crush snail eggs underfoot would be an effective method of slug control. The eggs no doubt would be extremely tiny and it would be almost impossible to locate and step on every spot where a baby snail or snail egg could be hiding. I think that some of the ideas presented above would offer you a better chance of effectively controlling and eliminating slugs and snails from your garden.

  • Joe Mikitish

    I have found that a mix of finely crushed egg shells and coffee grounds keeps the slugs away. I spread it liberally around the plants.

  • Lynn Reding

    I have a new garden so I do not have the natural predators yet and the slugs have free reign. I have tried several of these methods for controlling them and everything has worked…for awhile. I will try the scouring pads. What can I plant that the slugs do NOT like? Lynn in Seattle

  • I had a terrible problem with slugs and snails in my new little garden and had good success using beer traps but found it was rather disgusting to dispose of the dead ones, so while searching for an organic method to control them, I discovered “Sluggo”. Once the snails and slugs ingest the Sluggo, (made of iron phosphate which is used in many fertilizers) they stop eating the plants and die.

  • James Wathuge

    We have a big problem with mushroom growing houses being infested with slugs, its quite discouraging for farmers to have to contend with a pest that hides during the day and comes out during the night. so farmers are asking whether there are any organic-natural methods.

    will appreciate

  • We too are in need of a form of slug control. We used the copper tape to go around the posts supporting our grow racks. This worked for many months, but the copper becomes coated from the high humidity in the rooms, and becomes ineffective. Has anyone tried the lime and salt?

  • Barry

    I place egg shells around new plants to keep the slugs out until the plant is larger. This seems to protect them well. Have others tried this?

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