How to Naturally Keep Snails + Slugs Out of Your Garden (Without Commercial Products)
When snails or slugs invade your garden and start eating your plants, you might be willing to do just about anything to keep slugs out of the garden. You might be tempted to pick up a commercial snail repellent or the first slug-killing concoction you can find at your local garden store. Commercial products are usually effective, which is the main reason they are so appealing, but 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 these natural, non-toxic, and (mostly) non-lethal home remedies to keep snails and slugs out of gardens.
15 Non-Toxic, Natural Methods to Protect Your Garden from Snails + Slugs
1. Remove them by hand.
Removing snails from your garden by hand requires no products or special tricks; however, it does take time, may not be a permanent solution, and requires that you are okay with touching snails. If you have the time and patience to use this method, you will need to regularly check your garden for snails and, when you find one or more, you will need to pick them off of your plants and move them at least 20 feet away from plants that you do not want them to eat.
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. Add a layer of gravel, bark or wood chips to your garden beds.
Slugs and snails 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 help reduce the chance of your plants being eaten by slugs or snails.
3. Water your garden in the morning.
We know that snails do most of their garden destruction at night. We also know that snails have more difficulty getting around on dry soil than they do on 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 of soil more time to dry out before nightfall, which makes it more difficult for snails and slugs to get to your plants.
4. Add copper.
When snails touch copper, their slime reacts in a way that they receive an uncomfortable electrical shock that will quickly encourage them to turn around and find somewhere else to dine. Adhesive copper tape is available at home improvement stores, garden centers, or online and is the most convenient way to ward off slugs and snails with copper. If you go the adhesive copper tape route, you can simply run the tape along the edges of your garden beds to keep snails from entering.
If you do not want to purchase copper tape or just happen to have a jar of copper pennies lying around, you can also use pennies to protect your garden. When using pennies, you can glue them to your garden bed to keep them in place and will want to make sure they are very close together so you do not leave pathways for smaller snails and slugs to sneak through.
5. Attract birds to your garden.
There are lots of species of birds that eat snails and slugs. This means that you can reduce your snail and slug population by taking steps to attract more birds to your yard. This method is lethal for the snails, but it is along the lines of encouraging nature to take its course and does not require introducing chemicals into 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 great for your garden. They provide manure for composting, lay eggs for food, turn the soil, and help control unwanted garden pests and insects. Snails, slugs, 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. Sprinkle broken eggshells around your garden.
The sharp edges of broken eggshells are a great deterrent to keep slugs out of 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 the eggshells left over from your breakfast. Break the shells into small pieces and spread them throughout your garden beds and around your plants. Eventually, the shells will biodegrade and add nutrients to your soil, so that is an added benefit of using this method.
8. Sprinkle coffee grounds.
You may already spread coffee grounds in your garden to add nutrients to the soil. Another benefit of sprinkling coffee grounds around your plants is that they help keep slugs and snails out of your garden.
9. Spray with homemade snail and slug repellent.
There are two commonly used options for making a homemade snail repellent. One option is to simply pour cold coffee into a spray bottle, and then spray the coffee on and around your plants. If you choose this option, 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. The second option is to mix garlic and water in a spray bottle, and then spray the mixture on and around your plants.
10. Plant sacrificial plants
Sacrificial plants, also known as trap plants, help protect your garden from pests by attracting the pests elsewhere. For example, if you are trying to protect an ornamental garden bed from snails, you can plant some lettuce in the back or in less-conspicuous spots. Snails like the taste of lettuces better than most ornamental plants, so they will more likely dine on your lettuce leaves than your pretty plants.
11. Deter with herbs.
Lavender, sage, rosemary, parsley, creeping thyme, and mint are all nice additions to an herb garden that also happen to deter snails. If you were planning on planting some of these anyways, plant them around the border of your garden or between vulnerable plants to help ward off these midnight marauders. In particular, they are not fond of plants with a strong fragrance, so opting for lavender is a good 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.
This 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. Set citrus traps.
Save your lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit peels to scatter around upside down in your garden before nightfall. In the morning, you will likely find a good portion of your slug and snail population has found their way to these tasty treats. Collect them and move the snails and slugs somewhere far from your garden or, if you prefer, set them out in the open where birds and other predators will eat them.
15. Plant marigolds – but away from your garden.
Marigolds are a mainstay in the world of natural pest control methods; however, we are usually planting them near our gardens to ward off a variety of pests. Snails are actually attracted to marigolds, so if snails are the problem you are trying to fix, you will need to plant your marigolds away from your garden, rather than near it.