Are You Losing the War Against Slugs and Snails? Ten Natural Ways to Win the Battle

Your Garden's Enemy!

One variety of garden slug.
One variety of garden slug. | Source
Slug hanging from a piece of wood, using a thread of slime--Yuck!
Slug hanging from a piece of wood, using a thread of slime--Yuck! | Source

The best way to defeat an enemy is to get to know them first. Slugs and snails are part of nature’s cleanup crew. The trouble is, they were never programmed in self-restraint. Your flowers, veggies, fruit trees, etc. are all fair game to them. They spend their nights and early mornings feeding on vegetation, and then retreat to moist, dark hiding places during the day. Slugs and snails do this primarily to evade most of their enemies, which are active during the daytime hours.

They breed prolifically. Under ideal conditions, one slug can produce millions of offspring. Their eggs look like tiny pearls and can be found under rocks or pieces of wood left on the soil surface. So it is paramount to wage this battle with all the troops you can muster, before this slimy scourge can establish a stronghold in your garden.

Garden snail.
Garden snail. | Source
Snail just crawled out of its shell and is exploring the outside of it.
Snail just crawled out of its shell and is exploring the outside of it. | Source

The essential difference between the two critters is that snails carry their home on their back. They are slower to mature, but can live to be 12 years old or more. While slugs mature in only a year, their lifespan is a short 2 years. However, both can do a lot of damage during their lifetime. Look for the telltale shiny mucous trail they leave behind.


Neither of these critters dies off when the temperature drops. Rather, they seek to hibernate in your topsoil until warm weather rolls around again. They are one of the first creatures to emerge in the spring, continuing their garden onslaught well into the fall.

Garden debris, leaf litter, etc. needs to be removed.
Garden debris, leaf litter, etc. needs to be removed. | Source

Now that you know something about these over-zealous cleaning troops, you can draw up a campaign and implement ‘Operation Slugfest’. Above all, employ no toxic sprays, powders or liquids. Poisoning the environment is not the way to win this war.


First, prepare the battlefield. Remove all garden debris, leaf litter, old empty pots, pieces of wood, cardboard, etc. Take away all their potential hiding places. *The exception being outlined in number ten below.

Starlings love all kinds of worms, caterpillars, slugs and snails!
Starlings love all kinds of worms, caterpillars, slugs and snails! | Source

Second, bring in the air force. Our backyard birds top the list when it comes to doing away with these slimy creatures. Blackbirds, thrushes, robins, starlings, crows, ravens, blue jays, woodpeckers, ducks, owls, seagulls, and chickens all relish this garden pest. Add bird houses and feeders to your garden and yard to attract your enemy’s largest consumer.

Wildflowers harbor all kinds of beneficial insects and their offspring.
Wildflowers harbor all kinds of beneficial insects and their offspring. | Source
Foxes are very fond of grubs, slugs and snails.
Foxes are very fond of grubs, slugs and snails. | Source

Third, plant lots of wildflowers to attract the beneficial insects that can help control the slug population. Parasitic flies, black garden beetles, spiders (they eat their eggs), ants, carrion beetles, rove beetles, daddy long legs, centipedes, soldier beetles and firefly larvae comprise just part of a large battalion of ground troops. The parasitic insects deposit their eggs inside the body of the slug. Their larvae then 'chow down' from the inside out! Nature can be very gruesome, indeed.


You’ll also find an eager night patrolling battalion, including foxes, badgers and skunks. They know where they hide and will hunt for the slimies while you sleep. You can tell a skunk has been hunting if you see little tufts of grass and moss unearthed. They use their nose to hunt for and uncover grubs and other such 'juicy fare'.

One of the many red salamanders patrolling my gardens.
One of the many red salamanders patrolling my gardens. | Source

Fourth, create a rock pile to encourage toads, grass and garter snakes, salamanders and shrews to aid in your fight. They will appreciate being able to hide among the rocks as they prepare to do battle on your behalf, while remaining harmless to you. I love the little salamanders. They remind me of miniature dinosaurs!

Fifth, set up barriers by using pine needles or cedar chips for mulch. Slugs don’t like the roughness or the acidity.

Sixth, employ non-chemical warfare. I have used a product called ’SlugMagic’, which is available at garden centers and on line. The slugs are attracted to it, eat it and then stop eating anything else. Both the slugs and the bait break down into harmless components that can then be taken up by the soil without toxicity. It is safe to use around children and pets, is long lasting even if it rains, and can be used right up to and including the day of harvest.

Seventh, lay down a mine field in the form of copper strips. These can be secured around garden boxes and planters. The slugs and snails receive an electrical charge if they try to cross this mine field, so they don’t cross it!

Eighth, enlist the navy. To a small bucket of water add several drops of dish soap. Dress uniform includes gloves--plastic that is--to hand pick the enemy and plop them into the bucket. Send them all to Davey Jones’ Locker!

Ninth, form an underground resistance. More and more varieties of plants are being developed that are much less palatable to snails and slugs. For example: the blue varieties of hosta are generally left alone because they leave a bad taste, while the more slug-pleasing white and green as well as yellow green hostas are virtually helpless against these out-of-control eating machines. So look for help from the resistance, and plant those varieties instead.


Tenth, use stealth tactics. Invert flower pots in the evening and empty them early in the morning. The slugs and snails will crawl under the pots to hide and rest after their night of garden plunder. This clever subterfuge will trap and hold slugs until you can dump them into a plastic bag for disposal.


A note about beer baits and traps: I have tried them only to have the raccoons and opossums overturn them and lap up the beer, leaving the slugs to escape while Rocky Raccoon and friends party on down! Perhaps they will work for you, though.

Employing some or all of the above battle strategies early in the growing season will go a long way towards eradicating this garden menace. I have found that after fighting this battle with the above tactics for just one season, my gardens are nearly slug free. The few I find are puny and can be dealt with using a bucket of soapy water. Stay vigilant, don’t give up, and you will win this war!

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What Strategies Do You Employ Against Slugs & Snails? 32 comments

Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

This is absolutely the collection of tips for getting rid of slugs and snails that I've read anywhere! It is so timely as we are having a major invasion of slugs right now, and so many of your tips are new to me. I didn't know that so many birds and insects and animals ate slugs - somehow I always thought they were too disgusting for anything to want to eat!

You have a wonderful, interesting way of presenting your information! Voted up and shared!


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA

Thanks for offering some non-toxic solutions to a garden problem. I have been looking for information on this.


BWD316 profile image

BWD316 4 years ago from Connecticut

great hub! and I love that all your suggestions are based on a more balanced ecosystem rather than just spraying chemicals every where! I actually just saw a slug yesterday in my backyard. I heard that crushed eggshells around some plants will deter them...not sure if it works but im going to try it. And I guess as much as I don't like the garter snake in my backyard, he/she is probably beneficial! voted up, useful, awesome and interesting!


SouthernHoney profile image

SouthernHoney 4 years ago from Woodinville, WA

This is great, thanks for the information. I have heard that they won't crawl over broken egg shells, so I know of people who sprinkle eggshells around their flower beds. Have you heard anything about this?


backporchstories profile image

backporchstories 4 years ago from Kentucky

Love your presentation with the army guise. Excellent Hub. Thanks for sharing the info!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Stephanie, thank you so much for the glowing comments! I am so glad that you found these solutions helpful. Since I live in the woods and I love to grow all kinds of things, I definitely had to implement 'Operation Slugfest'. I find that my backyard birds really enjoy "escargot", although I cannot imagine why! But they are a great help to me. Thanks for stopping by, voting and sharing! It is very much appreciated.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

WannaB Writer, you are welcome! I'm glad you found this info useful. I definitely share your interest in non-toxic gardening solutions. The more ways we can find to keep the environment clean, the more we all benefit. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

BWD316, thank you for your compliments. I'm glad that you share my take on non-toxic solutions. Actually, my aunt uses crushed eggshells around her plants, and it works well for her. She lets them dry a day or two before she crushes them inside a plastic bag using a rolling pin. Thanks for another good, non-toxic solution! And thank you very much for the votes. They are definitely appreciated!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi SouthernHoney! Thanks for suggesting the broken egg shells. They definitely do work well in flower beds. My aunt has about the greenest thumb of anyone I know (93 years young), and that is her non-toxic solution. I'm very glad you stopped by and commented. Thank you.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi backporchstories! I figured if you are facing an invasion, you really need an organized war machine! Thank you for the lovely comments. They are very much appreciated.


JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

Great hub grandmapearl, I've always been a big proponent of planting wildflowers instead of ornamentals, because the wildflowers (if native) will have the suitable defences against pests. Planting ornamentals is more or less saying to the pests 'Dinner time,' Thanks for writing this. Voted up and shared.


sunforged profile image

sunforged 4 years ago from Sunforged.com

Ive noticed hundreds of slugs, no exaggeration, across the property while spending the last few weeks preparing garden beds. Glad to have stumbled onto this - been saving eggshells for months in the compost - now I will have another use for them.

Maybe I will put a few more birdfeeders up - I couldn't possibly fit anymore flowers in though! The copper strips idea seems promising also!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Great article about helping to control snails and slugs in a non toxic manner. They thrive in the Houston climate! We use mulch in our beds but that doesn't seem to deter them. I am using the crushed eggshells this year. At the least, it will offer some nutrients into the soil. I had been putting all of them into my compost pile, but am now separating them out some of the time & putting them around targeted plants like my tomatoes & eggplants. So far...so good! I had not heard of SlugMagic. Thanks for that tip! Congratulations on getting the HOTD award! Voting this useful and will share with my followers.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hello James, thanks for stopping by. You are exactly write about the wildflowers. They have learned to thrive in their own particular climate and soil conditions and will continue to do so. Besides all the beneficials they harbor, they provide food for the larvae. I have always been fascinated by the parasitic group of insects--one of nature's most interesting defenses. Thanks for the vote and the share. They are most appreciated.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hello sunforged! I'm glad you found this useful. Eggshells are a very good way to combat this nuisance. When I first started gardening here, we also had literally hundreds of these eating machines. I know these methods work because now I only have a few here and there that I can easily manage. So don't give up! Thanks for the great comments!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Peggy W! Thank you for the great comments. The SlugMagic is a very good product. I really like that it breaks down into usable non-toxic components that actually help fortify the soil. I was not aware that this had received an award. Thank you! And thanks also for the vote and for sharing. I appreciate that very much.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 4 years ago from UK

This is a great list, but I've another tip to add. Snails and slugs seem to hate galvanised metal buckets (Probably similar to copper in carrying a small electrical charge). We have our hostas planted in three old zinc buckets, and they stay slug free, despite the army of critters munching elsewhere in the garden!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Amanda, thank you so much for stopping by. As a matter of fact, I just used an old galvanized bucket in which to plant strawberries as an experiment! I had a feeling the zinc might produce the same kind of shock to the slugs. Thank you for adding your awesome tip to the list. Your comments are very much appreciated.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

We are battling this problem right now with our new veggie garden...egg shells work well but who has that many egg shells? Great hub and thank you for the suggestions.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi billybuc! That was my problem as well. My gardens are extensive, and I just don't eat enough eggs to provide the shells for all my plants. Fortunately, there are many other solutions! I hope some of these suggestions work in your veggie garden. Thanks for stopping by. Your comments are very much appreciated.


JDove-Miller profile image

JDove-Miller 4 years ago from YOUNGSVILLE

Just what I needed. Thanks so much for sharing.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

You are welcome JDove-Miller! I'm very glad you found this helpful. Thanks so much for stopping by.


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

i am an avid gardener and appreciate so many helpful hints for these little monsters. My Dad taught me the copper strip trick but I never heard of Slug Magic. My little slimy friends will be getting a healthy dose come planting season.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

shiningirisheyes, I am so glad you appreciated this article. I never had much trouble with these small garden monsters until a year ago and the population literally exploded! Overnight my beautiful newly-planted butterfly weeds vanished. So I decided the war was on! Thanks to Slug Magic and many of the other tips here, I was able to handpick those few hardy survivors. I wish you good luck in the spring when you arm yourself with your new weapons of choice and 'Operation Dead Slug' begins!


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

Connie, I was unaware of some of the tactics. Beer traps have worked for me so far. I love the idea of the inverted pots. I will have to try that one for sure! Thanks for the education!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi bravewarrior, so glad you stopped by and thank you for the comment. The inverted pots work very well--I can attest to that. Since I wrote this we have been collecting egg shells. My husband eats lots of eggs, so there's a whole box full of ground up shells for my gardens as soon as those pesky critters show up!


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

Another good tip. I'll keep that in mind. I've been adding eggshells to my compost pile, but I'll share and share alike now!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Good for you bravewarrior! In the spring I add ground up eggshells to my birdseed mix. It helps the eggs to form strong outer shells and provides a good start for the babies as they peck away at the inner shell lining for their first meal! Anything we can do for the birds helps us all.

Pearl


LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

Hi grandmapearl.

I don't really have a problem with slugs and snails at the moment. The few that I do see, I pick up with a pair of tongs (clearly marked as my garden tongs so they never go into the kitchen!) and put them into a glass jar with a lid. Then I feed them to my hens.

But here's another idea that might prove useful. This is my preferred option when warfare is declared.

I take a torch in the evenings after rain (damp nights are best) and wander through my garden with a big container of salt. We grind rock salt and sea salt for food, but I buy big containers of cheap salt for the garden.

It is not nice, but organic. I simply shake a little salt onto every snail or slug I see. They shrivel up and die. The last time I did this was a few years ago now. Their numbers have fortunately stayed very low ever since.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

LongTimeMother, I like both your slug solutions--they obviously worked very well for you. I also like that it didn't involve any chemicals. Good for you! I'll bet your hens enjoyed their 'escargot' treat!

I enjoyed reading your comments very much. And thank you for contributing to natural ways to do away with these garden pests. Great ideas!

;) Pearl


donnaisabella profile image

donnaisabella 3 years ago from Fort Myers

Hi Pearl, beautiful hub and writing, in an equally great style. I am a witness to how prolific snails can be in breeding. I am a witness too to what an army they can be and the amount of destruction they are capable of doing. I once lived in a farming area where they employed natural and organic farming methods. The farm closed and vast acres of vegetation meant for manure lay idle. When the rains came, we were shocked at the number of snails that came from that vegetation, they numbered in the millions, I have never seen so many snails in my whole life. Well, the war was to get rid of them for the sake of our crops that they were targeting during the nights... we were not deceived by their crawling speed, they could get really far... they were patient enough. Now, I know how to wage that battle. I look forward to reading more from you.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

donnaisabella, I so enjoyed reading your very interesting comments on the millions of snails you encountered. Oh my, what a war that must have been. It is amazing how speedily they can reach their targets!

The first few years that I attempted gardening here in my woods, the slugs were so plentiful that we had to be careful not to slip on them!

I'm so pleased that you visited me! Your supportive and lovely compliments are most gratefully received ;) Pearl

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