How To Get Rid Of Slugs In The Garden Naturally

Slugs are one of the most troublesome pests in an English garden as they wreak havoc on delicious brassicas and beautiful ornamentals alike. Find out how to get rid of slugs and protect your plants from being eaten

Avoid slugs causing devastation in your garden by reading on for our top tips on how to get rid of slugs. After all, your precious plants are worth saving!

1. Get plants on side

A gentle method for getting rid of slugs is to use plants which deter them and act as a natural pesticide. This way, you can keep keep slugs at bay without chemicals. Astrantia gives off a scent that repels slugs. Other plants which deter slugs include wormwood, rue, fennel, anise and rosemary.

Photo: Wikimedia
Photo: Wikimedia

2. Remove, shelter & encourage beneficial wildlife

Slugs will seek out cover under bricks, garden furniture and large logs. Remove potential slug shelters to expose them to natural predators. By making your garden an unsuitable habitat for slugs to survive in, the problem will naturally decline. Encourage natural predators such as toads, newts, hedgehogs and song thrushes to take care of the problem.

3. Make a beer trap

One easy and inexpensive way to get rid of slugs is a beer trap. Create one by burying half a container near vulnerable plants and half filling it with beer. Alternatively, look out for purpose-made beer traps. The scent of the beer will lure slugs, which then fall in and get stuck. Keep the rim of the container 2-3cm above the ground to avoid catching slug-eating ground beetles.

4. Create a prickly barrier

Slugs are soft-bodied molluscs so sharp, prickly barriers are a great way to deter them from precious plants. Use crushed egg shells, pine needles or thorny cuttings to create barriers and recycle unwanted leftovers and foliage. Another great material to use is sharp sand. Just check whatever you’re using won’t alter the soil quality.

5. Create a slippery barrier

Spraying WD40 on the outside of plant pots will make the surface too slippery for the slugs to scale them, effectively protecting your container plants.

6. Lay down copper tape

Copper reacts with slug slime, giving a tiny electric shock to slugs each time they come into contact with it. Lay down self-adhesive copper tape in your garden to deter slugs from reaching your plants. Attach the tape to greenhouse staging, potted plants, raised beds – anything that needs protecting from these hungry molluscs.

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

7. Place a lure 

Leave a pile of old lettuce leaves or dried cat food in a damp and shady corner to attract a large number of slugs. As they all congregate by the food source, scoop up the perpetrators and dispose of them en masse. Couple this technique with taking torchlit night walks in your garden to catch slugs on the move.

8. Apply nematodes to soil

Nematodes are soil-dwelling micro-organisms which are parasites to slugs. Simply mix them with water and apply to the soil, but make sure the soil temperature is in excess of 5C as the treatment needs this to be effective.

9. Sprinkle salt

Sprinkle salt on pesky slugs to kill them, but avoid sprinkling it too much as plants are also adversely affected by an excess of salt. It’s therefore best used when far away from valuable plants.

10. The eco-method

Being on the lower end of the food chain, the unfortunate fate of the slug is to provide nourishment for carnivorous predators. Encourage badgers, birds and hedgehogs into your garden to reduce the resident slug population.

Chickens make great pets and can provide you with daily, free-range eggs while reducing the presence of slugs. Therefore, consider adopting an ex-commercial farming hen.

Alternatively, if your garden is sealed off by fencing, drill a CD-case-sized hole in the base of your fence to allow hungry hedgehogs, and perhaps even badgers, into your garden to feast on the slugs.

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2. Use the Catch and Release Method

Because I’m the kind of person who literally doesn’t want to hurt a fly, I am going with the catch and release model here. Slugs like dark, damp hiding spots, so place a wet piece of wood or plank near slug hotspots; they will go there for some leisure time after devouring your garden all night. In the morning, lift it up and find the hiding slugs. Release them into the wild … or do with them what you will, just don’t tell me about it.


3. Build a Sharp Barrier

A slug’s Achilles ankle is its soft body, easily irritated by sharp or dry materials. Use this to your advantage by sprinkling wood ashes, diatomaceous earth, gravel, or lava rock in a wide band around individual plants—or the entire garden—to discourage slugs, as they won’t want to crawl across the bumpy barrier. Wood ashes have the bonus benefit of adding potassium to your soil and raising the pH, so consider choosing that method as your first line of defense.


6. Put Used Coffee Grounds to Work

Unlike some of us, slugs really do not like the smell of ground coffee. Can you imagine? Scatter it around plants they flock to; use it alone or mixed with the eggshells. Coffee grounds will also decompose and make your plants happy.

What Does Slug Damage Look Like?

Slug damage to plants looks like irregular shaped holes, or ragged edges on the leaves. 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. Grr!

Slug damage on leaves of my hostas

Slug damage on leaves of my hostas

2. Use Traps to Control the Mollusks

If you'd prefer not to use bait or poison, a trap is a good solution. Common homemade traps for snails and slugs include inverted grapefruit halves, overturned flowerpots, and boards.

  • Grapefruits have a scent that attracts the gastropods. When they crawl under the halves, they get trapped inside and die. Some great alternatives for this method are inverted melon or orange rinds and inverted cabbage leaves.
  • Overturned flowerpots work the same way: Pests move into the pots when they are tilted. Then, to trap as many pests as possible, leave the flowerpots overnight in the infested area.
  • Use a board, setting the wooden plank on the ground. The mollusks will come to hide under it after their activities at night. You can then lift the board during the daytime to kill them. A good alternative to the board is a black plastic sheet or carpet.
  • Other ways: An inverted saucer or any other vessel with lettuce leaves or other bait can also be a good trap. The pests will be attracted by the leaves or food items and get trapped inside.

Questions Answers

Question: I'm seeing slugs at night on my back patio and it hasn't rained for days. I don't have a garden either. Can anyone tell me why I'm seeing these nasty things?

Answer: It is likely that your patio is wet, cold, or because the rain is near. See ways to deal with them from the article.

Question: Does Liquid 7 kill slugs?

Answer: No, Liquid 7 does not kill slugs. See substances that kill snail and slugs in the article.

© 2015 Fredrick JS

How to get rid of slugs in the garden? Use plants!

Plants that repel the pests are the best way to get rid of slugs in garden. If you grow ecological vegetables in your garden – consider adding the following plants:

  • garlic,
  • onions,
  • mustard,
  • marjoram,
  • savory.

How about flowerbeds? Are you wondering if you can protect them from slugs naturally as well? Of course! Many different plants can enrich the flower border and protect it from pests. They are, for instance:

  • chamomile,
  • yarrow,
  • thyme,
  • sage,
  • wormwood.

Some of them are beneficial for health, so you can use them in different ways. For example, chamomile and wormwood are good stomach remedies, while sage has anti-inflammatory properties and it can be used for acne-prone skin.

It is recommended to plant slug repellent plants on the extreme edges of beds. This way, the pests will be discouraged from further penetration of the area.

Is a chemical slug killer a necessity?

Although many gardeners use a chemical slug killer as soon as they spot slugs in their garden, it’s not always necessary, or recommended. Keep in mind that any slug killer with even a scarcity of a chemical component has an iimpact on nature and might affect growth of some plants. For this reason, experts claim that such method for getting rid of slugs should be used as a last resort.

Home remedies make a great alternative and help to get rid of slugs effectively. Products you use every day in the kitchen might keep slugs out of your garden. Some of the natural methods are surprisingly efficient, and at the same time – safe for your plants.

Are Slugs Beneficial to Gardens in Any Way?

Slugs can be part of a healthy garden ecosystem. They are decomposers, much like composting worms. They feed on fallen leaves and dead insects–and they also provide a food source for birds, toads, turtles and snakes.

5. How to get rid of slugs in the garden with copper

The metal copper reacts with slug slime to cause a mild electric shock and send the slug packing. You can purchase copper tape here and surround susceptible plants with a ring of copper. This is an easy technique if you just want to protect a few hostas, but it’s more challenging for larger garden areas. However, one easy way to keep slugs out of raised beds is to make a copper collar around the outer edge of the whole bed by stapling or nailing a strip of copper tape or copper strips around the top of the bed’s frame. This also works for containers where the copper tape can be placed just inside the upper rim of the pot. There’s also a copper mesh called Slug Shield (available here) that can be used in a similar manner and is reusable. It’s a bit easier to wrap around a single plant stem than copper tape or strips.

Garden slugs can be kept out of raised beds with c
Garden slugs can be kept out of raised beds with copper strips, tape, or mesh.

Can Slugs and Snails Suffer?

When thinking about killing slugs, one question inevitably arises: To what extent do they suffer?

Slugs and snails should be treated with dignity and respect, but this is too often ignored.

It is easy to put yourself in the position of other mammals and realize that they can and do suffer.

They scream and squeal when in pain and can even whine, just like humans do.

Slugs and snails do not make comparable sounds. They seem to endure everything quietly.

This makes it harder to recognize their pain and to treat them with compassion.

However, if you observe slugs more closely, you soon realize that they can experience suffering.

For example, the video about electric slug fences shows how sensitive they are to pain.

The Bitter Fight is Usually Lost

In my experience, most slugs and snails have a high level of perseverance.

They usually succeed in thwarting all attempts to get rid of them.

Even if all the slugs in a garden are killed, others will arrive from elsewhere to fill the gap after only a short while.

Oddly enough, they seem to be even more numerous in gardens where a tough fight against them is waged.

I have not yet heard of any gardener who has managed to eradicate slugs from his garden by force.

The slug population seems resistant to poison and able to withstand every single attack with scissors and spades.

The fight against slugs can end in despair.
The fight against slugs can end in despair.

How Can I Get Rid of Slugs?

  Ant Dust - While “ant” is in the nam
  • Ant Dust – While “ant” is in the name of TERRO® Ant Dust, this product is highly effective at eradicating a slug population. Just sprinkle the dust around the perimeter of the area you want to protect and it will start working as soon as a slug passes over the dust. For additional protection, sprinkle the Ant Dust in areas where slugs congregate to stay moist, including cracks in sidewalks, under boards and rocks, in leaf piles and so on.
  • Multi-Purpose Insect Bait or Perimeter Ant Bait Plus – Two other TERRO® products, Multi-Purpose Insect Bait and Perimeter Ant Bait Plus, should be used at the beginning of the season and every four weeks after. By broadcasting these granules in and around your ornamental plants, you will have your slug problem under control in no time.
  • Beer – Making a ‘Slug Pub’ is a moderately effective way to get rid of slugs. Start by sinking a small, but deep, bowl so its lip is flush with the ground and then filling it with beer. Slugs are attracted to the smell of yeast and come to feed. As we said, this method is only moderately successful as some of the slugs, but probably not even half of them, will slide into the beer and drown.
  • Ducks – Ducks are one of the few domesticated animals that eat slugs, so if you can make your yard duck friendly, you may be able to get your slug population under control. Of course, you’ll need to train those ducks to not eat your plants.
  • Slug hunts – Visit your garden or lawn at night and, armed with a flashlight, bucket and old fork, go on a slug hunt. Scoop up any slugs you see and deposit them in a bucket where they will drown in a soap-and-water solution.

2. Stop using pesticides on your lawn

Firefly larvae are one of the most prevalent predators of newly hatched slugs, and putting synthetic pesticides on your lawn doesn’t just kill the “bad” bugs, it also kills beneficial insects, such as fireflies, that live in the lawn and help you control pests like slugs. Instead, switch to organic lawn care techniques and let these good bugs help you control slugs naturally.

Are slugs useful for anything?

It might seem tempting to napalm the slug population after they’ve eaten your strawberries, but slugs aren’t all bad! In fact, a healthy (but well managed!) slug population is good for the garden. Slugs break down garden debris and turn it into nitrogen-rich fertilizer that enhances soil nutrition (similar to worm composting). They also are a natural food source for many beneficial insects, birds, frogs, snakes, and toads.

How To Prevent Slugs In Your Garden

Once you figure out the methods that work the best to get rid of slugs in your garden, you’ll want to keep them from coming back. Here are a few quick slug prevention tips…

  • Clearing your garden of dead plant materials and debris in the fall can help to prevent slugs from overwintering there.
  • If you have a compost bin, be sure to turn it often to prevent slugs from feeding, hiding, and mating in there.
  • Try using a natural slug repellent made from wool. Slugs don’t like the feeling of it, so it will keep slugs off plants.
  • Slugs prefer areas covered with heavy mulches. So try using a lightweight mulch in the slug-infested areas of your garden instead.
  • Tilling or turning the soil in the fall will help to expose or kill slugs and their eggs.
Slugs eating green bean leaves

Slugs eating green bean leaves

Are There Different Kinds of Slugs?

There are dozens of slugs native to North America

There are dozens of slugs native to North America as well as several invasive species that have established a firm footing here. These are just a few of those species:

  • California Banana Slug – This slug is often bright yellow with black spots, giving it the appearance of an old banana.
  • Carolina Mantleslug – Covered in a mottle of black speckles, this slug has a head to tail mantle.
  • Changeable Mantleslug – This slug has a light brown body with brown flecks.
  • Dusky Slug – A small, invasive slug from Europe with light brown to yellow coloring.
  • Leopard Slug – Also called the great gray slug, this invasive species has spread throughout the U.S.
  • Pacific Banana Slug – Found along the Pacific Coast , this slug can reach nearly 10 inches long.
  • Reticulate Taildropper – A slug with an internal shell that has a light brown to red body.
  • Scarletback Taildropper – A slug with a red back and gray sides that grows to be about 2 inches long.
  • Striped Greenhouse Slug – An invasive slug with a light brown body that measures only a few inches when grown.
  • Three-banded Garden Slug – An import from Europe, this slug has three thin dark bands running lengthwise on its body.
  • Winding Mantleslug – A small slug, less than an inch long, with flecks of dark brown.
  • Yellow-bordered Taildropper – A large slug with a bright yellow border around its mantle area.


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