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How to Deal With Slugs

Updated on August 19, 2013
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Nobody likes them. You put in all that work growing something good in your garden only to discover a trail of slime and tiny holes all over your plants.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways that slugs can be dealt with, from night time attacks to traps made with beer.

Do I Have Slugs or Snails in My Garden?

So, you've found some holes in your veggies, but how do you know whether your patch has been visited by slugs or snails? Just who was the culprit?

Well, some clues can be found in what they leave behind. While both snails and slugs leave a trail of slime, snails can climb vertical surfaces, so you may find trails heading upwards. Slugs, however, stay at ground level. Snails also tend to be fussy eaters. They chomp on the softer parts of a leaf, leaving a skeleton behind. Slugs, meanwhile, will eat anything and everything. So, after you've identified that slugs are the enemy, how should you deal with them?

How Can I Get Rid of Slugs?

There are a number of options for the gardener who wants to defend his patch against the slimy beasts:

  • Pick them out by hand. Launch a night attack. Head outside with a flashlight and some rubber gloves. Slugs come out at night, so there's a good chance you'll find some. Simply destroy with scissors or collect them up in a bucket.
  • Wooden Boards. Place some planks between your garden beds. The slugs will crawl under them to hide from the sun. In the morning, just scrape the slugs off the board into a bucket.

  • Iron Phosphate. This is really bad for slug's digestion. You can buy products, such as Sluggo or Slug Magic, which include iron phosphate is an ingredient, as well as a bait to attract the slugs. Scatter the pellets around your plants. After eating the bait, the slugs stop feeding, become less mobile and die.
  • Amonia. Mix one part household amonia to six parts water. Spray the solution wherever you think the slugs are likely to slither.
  • Crushed Eggshells. These can be used as a barrier. Surround plants you want to protect and make sure the barrier has no gaps.
  • Sand. This can also be used as a barrier. It is abrasive and the slugs won't want to cross it. Scatter some around young plants early in the Spring.
  • Salt. This is a classic weapon against slugs. Grease the rim of plant pots with Vaseline mixed with salt. As the slugs slither up the side of the pot, the salt dehydrates them. Salt is not good to put on plants though, so its not a good idea to spray your plants with the stuff.

  • Copper. Slugs don't make care for this shiny metal. They react electrostatically with the slug slime. The slugs dry up. Ready-made copper plant guards are available to buy. For example, you can get Corry's Slug and Snail Tape. It can be used for trees, planters, patio furniture, pet dishes, raised flower and garden beds
  • Cornmeal. Slugs love eating it, but it kills them. Put a tablespoon in a jar and put it on its side as a trap for the slugs.
  • Coffee. While it might perk your or I up in the morning, slugs can't stand the stuff apparently . Surround damaged plants with a mulch of coffee grounds and hopefully that should keep them away.

  • Beer. Yes, that's right. Beer. Fill an empty tub or a a commercially bought trap - such as the Tierra-Derco SlugX Chemical Free Trap - and place it on top of the soil near any damaged plants. The slugs head on in for a drink and end up drowning.
  • Toads. Get yourself a new pet. These bumpy amphibians need a damp, shady spot to rest during the day. At night, they'll hop out and eat he slugs.
  • Ducks. Another option is to get yourself a duck. These feathered friends also have a fondness for chomping on slugs. Not only will it get rid of your garden pests, but it may well be a source of eggs for you too.

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