Slugs are definitely a troublesome garden pest, but they also play an important role in a garden's ecosystem. Slugs can cause a lot of damage to leafy greens, juicy berries, flowers, and other valuable plants. It's only natural to want to know how to get rid of slugs, but it's important to do so responsibly. The best approaches to dealing with slugs focus on keeping them away from your plants while also controlling - but not completely eliminating - their population.
1. Lure Slugs With Beer
As strange as it sounds, slugs love the taste of beer. I promise you it works - I have used this method in my raised beds for years. Just pour some beer into a container with shallow edges (such as a plastic lid from a nut container) and place it on the soil next to plants that seem to attract slugs. Buy the cheapest beer you can find - slugs aren't picky. Slugs will inch their way into the container and get trapped there. Just empty the containers every few days and re-fill with beer until you stop catching any slugs.
2. Create Slug-Resistant Barriers
Slugs don't have the ability to cross over sharp objects because their bodies are soft and slimy. So, if they keep finding their way into your lettuce patch, you can keep them out by setting up a barricade that they can't easily - or safely - cross. It's easy to do this - just use somewhat sharp or bumpy objects like broken eggshells, lava rock, gravel, or even food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) to establish barriers around individual plants or entire garden planting areas.
3. Apply Copper Tape to Garden Containers
If you want to keep slugs from crawling into your raised beds or garden planters, apply copper tape around the edges. Not only does copper tape deter slugs, but it will also help keep snails away. Copper tape doesn't kill the critters, but they aren't likely to crawl across it because they find it unpleasant. This is a good option if you're fine with having slugs around, but just want to keep them out of your planting areas.
4. Hand-Pick Slugs From Your Plants
The lowest-tech way to remove slugs is to pluck them off by hand. Just put on your garden gloves if you don't want to come into direct contact with slugs and pick them off one by one. If you want to keep them alive, you could toss them into another part of your yard. Otherwise - as with many garden pests - you can drop them into a jar of soapy water to drown.
5. Place Board Traps in Your Garden
If you have a widespread slug or snail problem in your in-ground garden, a homemade board trap is a good option. Just attach a flat board (or multiple boards) to runners that will raise them off the ground by about an inch. Lay the board trap on the ground and both slugs and snails will crawl under it. Simply pick it up and scrape the snails into soapy water to destroy them.
6. Attract Slug Predators to Your Garden
Slug control is one of many great reasons to make sure that your garden is friendly to birds, toads, turtles, and other animals that prey on garden pests. You can make your garden particularly friendly to slug predators by adding features like toad houses, birdhouses, bird feeders, and bird baths. The critters you attract will reward you by reducing the slug population.
7. Use an Iron Phosphate Pesticide
If you'd rather use a commercial pesticide, look for a slug bait made from iron phosphates, such as Sluggo or Garden Safe Slug & Snail Bait. When slugs eat this type of pesticide, it damages their digestive system and causes them to die within a few days. Avoid similar products made with metaldehyde, as they can be harmful to people and pets.
Simple Tips to Help Prevent Slugs
You don't have to focus all your efforts on getting rid of slugs. There are also some things you can do to help prevent them. Follow these simple tips if you want to make your garden less attractive to slugs.
- Slugs like damp soil, and they're most active at night. If you water your garden at night, that's like inviting slugs over for dinner. Instead, water your garden in the morning so it's dry by the time slugs are out in full force.
- Slugs tend to say away from many strong-smelling herbs, including fennel, rosemary, lavender, mint, and chives. Plant them near lettuce, strawberries, and other plants snails like to eat. They just might stay away.
- Slugs prefer dark, damp areas. If your garden doesn't provide such spaces, they won't find it as appealing. The work you put into keeping your garden free from leaf and weed debris can help deter slugs.
Save Your Garden From Slugs
Depending on how severe your slug problem is, you may need to use more than one method to get your garden's slug population down to a manageable - and less destructive - level. Start with one or two methods and see how effective they are before adding in more. The ecosystem of your garden - and the predators that rely on slugs for food - will thank you.