How to Naturally Keep Snails + Slugs Out of Your Garden (Without Commercial Products)
Some gardeners are so frustrated with snails and slugs dining on their plants that they head to their local garden center to grab the first snail-killing product they can find. Before you move to more expensive or lethal methods that could also harm desirable insects and animals and may be overkill, try these natural, non-toxic and (mostly) non-lethal home remedies for snails and slugs to protect your garden.
13 Non-Toxic 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.
2. Add a layer of gravel, bark or wood chips to your garden beds.
It is more difficult for snails to get around when they are trying to slide their way over gravel, sharp sand or wood chips, so adding this type of material around your plants can help reduce the chances of them being eaten by slugs or snails.
3. Water your garden in the morning.
It is also more difficult for snails to get around on dry soil than moist soil. Since snails like to do most of their garden-destroying at night, water your plants in the morning. By using this earlier irrigation method to control snails and slugs, you will give the top layer of soil more time to dry out before night falls and the snails start making their way to your backyard buffet.
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.
Many types of birds eat snails and slugs. When invited into your garden, they will be more than happy to help you in removing the snails that have found their way into your garden. While this is lethal for the snails, you are encouraging nature to take its course – rather than introducing chemicals into your garden or sending the snails and slugs to a slower death with drowning or poison.
6. Rescue chickens.
Chickens are great for your garden for a variety of reasons and, fortunately for gardeners who hate this particular garden pest, eating snails and slugs (and their eggs) is one of them. Chickens help control a variety of unwanted insects and other pests, including these little land mollusks, while also helping to turn the soil, providing manure for composting, and laying eggs.
7. Sprinkle broken eggshells.
Broken eggshells have sharp edges that will hurt snails and slugs if they try to crawl over them. Therefore, if you did end up rescuing some chickens and are using their eggs or have some store-bought eggshells left over from breakfast, you can break them up into small pieces and sprinkle them around your plants or around the edge of your garden beds. The eggshells will eventually break down and add nutrients to your soil, so that is an added benefit.
8. Sprinkle coffee grounds.
Another way to deter slugs and snails from entering your garden is to sprinkle coffee grounds around your plants or the borders of your garden. Like eggshells, coffee grounds will also add nutrients to your soil.
9. Spray plants with homemade snail repellent.
You can make a homemade snail repellent by mixing garlic and water in a spray bottle or pouring cold coffee into a spray bottle. You can then take that spray bottle out to your garden and spray your plants and the area around your plants to deter slugs and snails. If you are trying to naturally deter your slugs and snails without killing them, be sure that you do not spray them directly with the coffee.
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 them 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.
12. Set up 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 its 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.
13. Plant marigolds 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.
What are your favorite natural, non-toxic methods for keeping snails and slugs out of your garden?