Slugs in the Garden: 15 Solutions For Getting Rid of Slugs and Snails Naturally
When you find snails or slugs in the garden and they’ve started demolishing your plants, you might be willing to do just about anything to get rid of these pests. For many people the first thought is to pick up a commercial snail repellent or the first slug-killing concoction you can find at your local garden store. While commercial products are usually effective, which is the main reason they are so appealing, they can also be expensive, harmful to beneficial insects and animals, or unnecessarily toxic.
So, before you go for more expensive, lethal, or toxic methods, try natural, non-toxic, and (mostly) non-lethal home remedies to keep snails and slugs out of gardens.
Table of Contents:
- Are slugs bad for plants?
- What do slugs eat?
- Where do slugs live?
- Signs of slugs in your garden
- How to get rid of slugs and snails naturally
Slug and Snail Facts
To understand how to best ward off these gross little pests, it’s important to understand a bit more about them and what they mean for your garden.
Are Slugs Bad for Plants?
Slugs can do a lot of damage to plants, which means danger for your garden. In fact, a family of slugs can wipe out a vegetable crop or an entire garden in a matter of days, so if you spot slugs it’s important to act promptly.
What do Slugs Eat?
Slugs are known to eat just about anything green. In fact there’s almost nothing in your garden they won’t eat. Slugs are particularly partial to the leafy parts of plants, stems and seedlings, so it’s common for them to devastate young, growing plants. They’re also known to take bites out of ripe fruits as these release a natural chemical called ethylene, which slugs and snails are especially attracted to.
Snails and slugs are also particularly attracted to some plants including:
Where Do Slugs Live?
Because slugs and snails have slimy, moist bodies, they also prefer moist environments out of direct sunlight. So when you’re wondering where they’re living in your garden, check for moisture prone areas, especially places hidden from the sunlight like overgrown vegetation, under rocks, mulch, boards or even planting pots. This is where you can usually find these pests when they aren’t chowing down on your leafy greens.
Signs Of Slugs in Your Garden
If you notice any of the following, you may have slugs or snails in your garden.
- Irregularly shaped holes in plants, especially in new plants
- Slime trails on mulch and plants
- Chewed seedlings or seedling leaves
- Small scalloped bite marks around the edges of plant leaves
Note: Snails and slugs typically like to wreak havoc on gardens in the Spring – before other insects come out.
How to Get Rid of Slugs and Snails Naturally
Read on to learn about 15 ways to get rid of snails and slugs from your garden without having to use pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
1. Remove them by hand.
Picking out snails and slugs from your plants by hand is one of these easiest methods for removal, however, it is incredibly time consuming and doesn’t guarantee that they won’t come back. In fact, most times you’ll quickly find them again.
If you choose to go this route, you’ll need to do a regular check of your garden for these pests, hand pick them, and make sure you place them far away (we recommend 20-50 feet). This method is free and completely natural, so it is worth trying if you have the time and are okay with touching snails and slugs.
2. Surround your garden beds with wood chips, gravel or bark.
The slimy, tender bodies of snails and slugs don’t like crawling over sharp or uncomfortable objects, so they’ll have a more difficult time getting to your plants if they are surrounded by ground covers that are not easy to slide over.
Therefore, if you add a layer of wood chips, gravel, or bark to your garden beds, this will help repel snails and slugs naturally. Adding a ground cover with a texture that is unpleasant to snails is a natural garden pest repellent that will prevent snails and slugs from eating your plants.
3. Water your garden in the AM.
Snails and slugs are known for destroying gardens at night. They also have difficulty moving across dry soil compared to moist soil. So, if we put these two pieces of knowledge together, we have another way to keep snails and slugs out of your garden: watering early in the morning.
This gives the top layer your garden soil some time to dry out before the evening when slugs do the most damage, which makes it more difficult for slugs and snails to get to your plants.
4. Surround your plants or garden beds with copper.
When slugs or snails come in contact with copper, they get the jolt of an electrical shock due to how slimy their bodies are. This shock deters them and they’ll quickly turn around. Most home improvement or garden stores sell adhesive copper tape that you can conveniently use to surround your garden planters.
Some alternatives to copper tape include sprinkling copper pennies around your soil or gluing them to the perimeter of a garden bed. If you choose to sprinkle pennies around your soil, you’ll want to place them tightly together, so slugs and snails don’t have a pathway in between that they can sneak through to your plants.
5. Make your garden bird friendly.
There are lots of species of birds that eat slugs and snails. This means that you can reduce your snail and slug population by taking steps to attract more birds to your yard. This method means the snails and slugs will die, however, it’s part of nature and the natural food chain. Additionally it means you don’t have to use chemical pesticides in your garden. It is also a quicker death than they would experience with snail poison or drowning methods.
6. Get rescue chickens.
Backyard chickens are a perfect addition to gardens. They provide manure for composting, lay eggs for food, turn the soil, and help control unwanted garden pests and insects. Slugs, snails and their eggs are included in the garden pests that chickens love to dine on, which means adding a chicken coop to your yard might be the perfect solution to your snail problem.
You can always purchase chicks at a local feed store, but you will get more karma points for adopting rescue chickens that need a good home. If you live in a more rural area and have the space, geese or ducks are also options.
7. Place broken eggshells around your garden.
Similar to surrounding your plants with gravel, wood chips or bark, the sharp edges of broken eggshells are a great deterrent to keep slugs out of the garden and snails away from your plants. The broken edges are painful for them to travel over, which is why this is effective as a natural repellent.
If you opted for the backyard chickens mentioned above, you can use the shells from their eggs for this purpose. If not, you can use your leftover breakfast eggshells. Crush up the shells and spread them throughout your garden beds and around your plants. Eventually, the shells will biodegrade. This introduces more soil nutrition, which makes this a particularly beneficial method.
8. Use coffee grounds.
You may already spread coffee grounds in your garden to add nutrients to the soil. Another benefit of surrounding your plants with coffee grounds is that they help keep slugs and snails out of your garden.
9. Make a DIY slug and snail repellent.
There are two commonly used options for making a homemade slug and snail repellent:
- Option 1: Simply pour iced coffee or cold brew into a bottle with a spray nozzle, and then spray the coffee on and surrounding your plants.
- Option 2: Mix garlic and water in a spray bottle, and then spray the mixture on and around your plants.
Be careful not to spray the coffee directly onto the slugs or snails, since it will kill them. To use it as a non-lethal deterrent, spray it just on and around your plants.
10. Plant bait plants
Bait plants are essentially plants that you don’t care about that you plant on the outskirts of your garden to attract slugs and snails away from your actual garden — e.g. if you want to protect a certain crop of plants in your garden bed, you can plant lettuce (a slug and snail favorite) towards the back perimeter. You can then pick off the snails and remove them as necessary.
11. Plant herbs.
Herbs such as rosemary, sage, lavender, thyme, mint and parsley are all great additions to a garden because they look and smell nice. They also serve the benefit of warding off slugs and snails if you plant them as perimeter plants because slugs and snails do not like plants with a strong fragrance. Lavender is one of the strongest smelling herbs making it an excellent choice.
12. Spread salt or baking soda.
This is a lethal option, so, if you are trying to naturally deter snails without killing them, this is not the option to choose. Baking soda and salt dry out snails and slugs, which will kill them. This is incredibly painful for them and is not a nice way to kill them, but, since it is such a commonly used method, we did want to mention it here. So, it is an option, but it would be better to try other options on this list first.
13. Bait snails and slugs with beer.
A slug beer trap is another lethal option and should only be used if your goal is to kill the snails. Place a shallow dish or pan of beer in your garden. The snails and slugs will be attracted by the yeast and will crawl into the beer where they will drown and die. Again, this kills the snails instead of just warding them off, so you might want to try some of the other options first.
14. Surround with citrus.
Because slugs and snails are attracted to fruits, another option is to surround your garden with leftover peels of oranges, lemons, grapefruits or limes. Do so before night time and in the morning you’ll likely see the slugs and snails feasting on these treats instead of on your garden. You can then remove the pests.
15. Plant marigolds – but outside of your garden.
Marigolds are commonly known as a natural pest control, however slugs and snails are attracted to them as they are dahlias, hostas and delphiniums. What this means is that, similar to planting other sacrificial plants, you can plant marigolds on the outskirts of your garden to attract these pests there. Then remove the slugs and snails accordingly.
Getting Rid of Slugs and Snails For Good
Slugs and snails are common pests but they don’t have to be at the end of your garden. Keeping your garden tidy and knowing how to control them is just part of keeping your outdoor living space thriving. Be sure to keep your garden as tidy and clean-cut as possible to keep snails and slugs from entering in the first place.
For more tips on ways to improve your outdoor living space, Install-It-Direct is here to help you. We’ve provided landscape design services to San Diego and the surrounding areas for over 25 years!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do slugs have a purpose?
Slugs can be beneficial to an extent because when they chew on and break down garden debris it converts to nitrogen-rich fertilizer. This in turn can enhance the nutritional value of the soil in a similar way that worm composting works. Slugs and snails are also beneficial as a food source for birds and other common garden critters like frogs, toads and snakes.
Should you kill slugs in your garden?
Like we mentioned above, slugs (in moderation) can serve some purpose for soil nutrition, however, they frequently become rampant and destroy gardens. Snails are also known for carrying diseases and parasites which can be a threat to household pets if they get ahold of one.
Why are there so many slugs in my garden?
Typically, you’ll find a large amount of slugs or snails in your garden after it rains or after you’ve watered your plants. That’s because snails and slugs are moist creatures. They lose a significant position of their body weight by crawling around, and will therefore look for moist places to survive.
Are slugs poisonous?
No, slugs are not poisonous. The only danger that slugs pose to gardens is that they eat the plants–making them more of a nuisance than a hazard.