Slugs in potted plants


Slugs Eating Potted Plants: Protecting Container Plants From Slugs

Slugs are capable of wreaking havoc in the garden, and even potted plants aren’t safe from these voracious pests. Slugs eating potted plants are easily spotted by the silvery trail they leave behind, and by the round, chewed holes in the foliage.

Getting Rid of Slugs in Container Plants

Before resorting to toxic chemicals, try nontoxic solutions to deter slugs from pot plants.

Slug Proofing Containers with Copper

Copper discourages slugs because the slime from the pest’s body reacts with the copper, which creates an unpleasant electric shock to slugs in container plants.

Purchase copper rings large enough to fit around single plants or small plant groupings. You can also place thin, self-adhesive copper tape around containers.

Protecting Container Plants from Slugs with Natural Predators

Natural predators, such as frogs and toads, love to feast on slugs, effectively keeping the slimy pests in check. A small, shallow pond or even a consistently muddy patch attracts the helpful amphibians. Be sure to provide shady places such as rocks, plants, or small logs to provide shelter from heat and bright sunlight too.

Certain birds, including blackbirds or thrushes, also help keep slugs under control. A birdfeeder placed near the potted plant encourages birds to visit your garden.

Deter Slugs from Pot Plants with Kitchen Scraps

Scratchy substances, such as eggshells, kill slugs by abrading the slimy coating, causing the pests to dehydrate. Rinse eggshells first and spread them out to dry, then crush the shells and scatter them over the surface of potting soil.

Coffee grounds are also scratchy and caffeine is toxic to slugs. Additionally, the grounds serve as effective and healthy natural mulch.

Protecting Plants with Other Plants

Planting pungent herbs with regular potted plants often helps discourage slugs. For example, try planting rosemary, garlic, chives, or sage next to your ornamental plant.

Additional Tips for Slug Proofing Containers

Limit mulch such as bark chips or shredded bark to a thin layer; otherwise, the moist organic material provides a handy hiding place that attracts slugs.

If you opt to use slug pellets, read the container carefully and use the product strictly as directed. Usually, only a few pellets are required to keep slugs under control. Non-toxic slug pellets are also available.

How to get rid of slugs: Wikimedia

Find out how to get rid of slugs and protect your plants from being eaten.

To avoid slugs causing devastation in your garden, read our top tips on how to get rid of slugs and save your precious plants.

How to get rid of slugs:

1. Get plants on side

When wondering how to get rid of slugs, a gentle method 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.

How to get rid of slugs: 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. The tape can be attached to greenhouse staging, potted plants, raised beds – anything that needs protecting from these hungry molluscs.

How to get rid of slugs:

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. The soil temperature needs to be in excess of 5C in order for the treatment 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. 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.

If moles are also causing you grief in the garden, you can find out how to get rid of these burrowing pests here.

Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly The English Gardener newsletter, bringing you all the grow your own advice you need throughout the year. Sign up on the right of this article. Need plants or gardening kit? Visit our directory of suppliers.

8 Methods for Garden Snail and Slug Control

The following eight methods can help you cut down on the number of destructive snails and slugs in your balcony container garden. To learn more about snails and slugs, read “Pests: Garden Snails and Slugs.”

1. Gritty substances. The first method for garden snail and slug control is to use a gritty substance. Snails do not travel over gritty substances, such as crushed eggshells or sharp sand, that have been spread around your container plants. Put a layer of grit in your plant containers, and snails will avoid these plants. If they do crawl there, the grit will clog their slime glands and it will kill them. Spread sharp and angular gravel (not smooth rocks) over soil so the snails can’t climb. All of these gritty substances will irritate the snail and slug’s delicate undersides.

2. Beer traps. The second method for garden snail and slug control is to make a beer trap. First fill a shallow pan with stale beer and leave it out overnight. The snails will be attracted to the beer and climb into the pan. Make sure the pan filled with beer is deep enough so the snails will drown in it and not be able to climb out. Slugs will especially need a deeper container, such as a yogurt container. Replace the beer in the pan every couple of days. These trap must be buried so the top of the pan is at ground level, so balcony container gardeners (who cannot bury them in the ground) should provide easy access for the slugs and snails by creating some sort of ramp.

3. Other traps. Other traps will attract snails to a certain spot in the container garden where you can find them later and kill them. Put a pie pan upside-down on the ground (with a hole cut in the side so snails can climb in), and put some citrus peels or other snail food inside. The snails will climb underneath the pan for the food and for the cool, dark protection from the morning sun. Check every morning, and replace the food often.

4. WD-40. To deter snails in your container garden, you can set up barriers around your plants or their containers. For example, you can spray a band of waterproof WD-40 around your containers, and the snails and slugs will be unable to climb up it. WD-40 is waterproof, so it will be effective in the garden even after rain or watering. When spraying the WD-40 around the containers, make sure there are no gaps, as the snails and slugs will climb through any spots you’ve missed. Also protect any plants from the spray by covering them with newspaper or a sheet of plastic. The WD-40 should last an entire season. Vaseline can also be used in this same way, but it gets messy and needs replacing often.

5. Copper wire. Another snail barrier is copper wire. Attach copper wire around your plant containers or around a thick plant stem. Because snails have acidic slime, they will get a shock if they touch copper wire. It won’t kill them, but it will keep them from climbing up your plant containers or onto your plants, and they will go elsewhere. It isn’t always practical to put copper wiring or “tape” around all of your containers.

6. Salt. Salt is an other effective (but disgusting) method to control garden snails and slugs. Do not use salt as a prophylactic in the garden – only use it after you’ve found and want to kill a snail. Salt should not be included in potting soil, as it is detrimental to the health of your container plants.

7. Crushing. An unpleasant way to kill a snail once you’ve found one in the garden is to crush it. Hopefully there is someone in your household who is not squeamish about voluntarily crushing snails. It is recommended that you not crush them directly on your balcony floor, as it will leave a mess for days. Crush them on a tray that you will be able to throw away, or carry the snails outside, say, into a parking area, and crush them there.

8. Commercial snail and slug killers. You may find organic snail and slug traps and killers at your local garden shop. Purchase these chemicals only if you are losing the battle against these pests. Even organic chemicals can have unwanted side effects in the container garden. Learn more about organic pest control for the garden>>

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How To Stop Slugs Getting In Plant Pots

How To Stop Slugs Getting In Plant Pots

There are few things more annoying than putting a plant outside for the first time in a plant pot, adding the right amount of compost, water and nutrients to nurture it, then wake up in the morning to find that your precious plant has been attacked by slugs in the night. It has probably happened to all gardeners. In the past I have had to make great efforts to keep slugs away from courgette plants when young. But it need not happen any more when you learn how to stop slugs getting in plant pots.

As a general principle, you should not make life easy for slugs, but it is almost impossible to keep slugs and snails out of the garden entirely. However, the best way to keep slugs off plants is to put up a series of slug barriers and slug deterrents and they will be discouraged from eating your plants. They will, of course, go elsewhere for easier pickings, but that is a subject for another article, known as sacrificial planting. My main emphasis is on how to get rid of slugs naturally. Here are some methods of humane slug control that are also a pet friendly slug and snail repellent.

Stop Slugs Using These 3 Methods

One of the questions I frequently get asked is does vaseline stop slugs? Well, yes. Slugs can’t really function properly against a greasy surface. Grease forms a pretty effective barrier to prevent them from climbing up and over the rim of your plant pots. You can use vaseline or any grease. As a double deterrent try mixing this with sand as you apply it to the sides of the pot. Sand is a scratchy nuisance for the slug’s ‘foot’, and forms a pretty effective slug deterrent in itself. However, a determined large slug will be able to arc over any slug barrier measuring less than 3 inches, possibly more in some cases, so be sure to spread the greasy barrier wide, increasing its width still further if necessary.

A similar technique to stop slugs getting into plant pots is to use petroleum jelly with different ingredients. Liberally coat the base, sides and rims of your potted plants. Then, for good measure you could mix some other slug deterrents, such as ginger or salt, into the jelly.

Copper Tape

It may come as no surprise to you that my third suggestion involves copper, which forms a catalyst with a slug’s slime to cause a momentary breakdown in its nervous system. Fundamentally, slugs don’t like it. So for potted plants in particular, you can buy some slug deterrent copper tape, as found in most garden centers. Then ring the plant pot with a series of wide copper strips, at least 3 inches in width.

These methods of natural slug control will work. Not necessarily every time, with every slug, but they should stop slugs getting in plant pots more often than not. I always recommend experimenting with different combinations, according to need. Try them out, individually or combined, and please report back on your experiences. However, there are other, more elaborate ways to stop slugs eating plants, whether in plant pots or not, which you can learn in my new book, Slug Prevention the natural way, which gives a fuller explanation of over 100 slug prevention techniques.

How to Get Rid of Snails & Slugs in Outdoor Potted Plants

Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Potted plants sometimes look fine at night but are full of holes in the morning. Such plants are likely victims of slugs and snails, soft-bodied pests that can destroy an entire plant in a single evening. These nuisances sneak into your container garden at night, so catching them eating your plants is often tricky. If slugs and snails brutalize your plants, try a combination of traps, tricks and methods to eliminate these pests.

Step 1

Sprinkle sharp objects, such as eggshells, wood chips or diatomaceous earth, on the ground around your potted plants. Snails and slugs dislike crawling across sharp objects.

Step 2

Put a copper barrier ring around each container. Copper shocks snails and slugs when they crawl across it, keeping them away from your plants.

Step 3

Pour any type of beer in a bowl and bury it in the ground near your potted plants so that its lip is at ground level. Beer’s scent attracts slugs and snails. The creatures crawl into the bowl for a drink and then fall in and drown. A mixture of boiled yeast and honey also works if you do not have beer on hand.

Step 4

Lay a flat piece of cardboard or wood on the ground near the potted plants. Cover the board with a layer of inverted citrus rinds or flipped-over flower pots. The slugs and snails will crawl under these items for protection when the sun rises. Pick up the board and throw the slugs in the trash.

Step 5

Apply a specially designed slug or snail pesticide. Such pesticides contain iron phosphate. When slugs and snails eat it, the chemical destroys their metabolism, killing them within days. Metaldehyde pesticides also work, but they are toxic to pets and people.

Step 6

Place containers filled with sage or mint around other potted plants. Slugs and snails dislike the strong scent, so they stay away.


How to make simple slug-defense contraptions.

It is possible to recycle things that would otherwise end up in the trash, and use them as a means of slug control.

For example, bottles or cups can be redesigned in a few simple steps to protect vulnerable plants from slugs and snails.

The idea is not only to recycle but to upcycle: to make something better out of trash or old unused stuff around your property.

This is an efficient way of minimizing waste and your consumption demands. The environment and the wallet will be happy.

So instead of buying new stuff, take the time to create peaceful slug control measures for the garden.

Any of the following solutions can be fun with children. In addition, they will make an excellent gift idea for those who are regularly afflicted by slugs and snails.

Homemade Slug Barriers: DIY

Why buy something expensive if it is possible to build it yourself?

Offer a small gift to nature by making your vegetables and flowers happy through recycling or upcycling.

Transforming old drinking cups and yogurt pots into snail collars does not require a lot of prior manual knowledge.

Likewise, old bottles can become plant protection hats, and rain gutters or metal sheets can be redesigned as slug fences.

Make these slug barriers yourself

  • slug collars
  • garden cloches
  • slug fences

How to Make Slug Collars

Small collars, to protect against slugs and snails, can easily be made from old plastic cups. Likewise, bigger collars can be made from buckets.

Particularly suitable for this purpose are cups with a wide edge/rim, which, like the original snail collar, extend far with a sharp point around the corner.

The broader and sharper the edge, the better it is for slug control.

Even buckets or similar packaging containers made of hard plastic – preferably food grade – can be used.

Furthermore, it is advantageous if they are transparent and have a lid.

Larger vessels are better because they can accommodate more plants.

If the surrounding container is transparent, light will penetrate through and help the plant grow.

To transform cups and buckets into slug collars, the only thing one needs to do is to cut their bottoms off carefully. After this, put the collars over the plants in order to protect them.

Large transparent cups (volume 12oz / 0,5 liter) are well suited for young plants in their early stages.

Buckets (volume ~1 gal. / 3 to 5 liters) are well suited for protecting bigger salads, cabbages or bean plants.

Especially useful: snail and slug collars with lid.

If the edge does not stop all slugs and snails as desired, one can put a lid on the collar/ bucket at night, when the slugs are particularly active.

It is also possible to make a lid by cutting a piece of wood, cardboard or plastic that fits on or in the opening.

Furthermore, it is advantageous if one uses yogurt cups, to not completely tear off their closure, so they can be closed again if necessary.

In general, cups and buckets with an extra lid are perfect, especially if they are transparent.

One can then pierce some holes in the lid, and the snail guards provide perfect protection.

At the same time, a small greenhouse for the young plants is created, and they will benefit a lot from their modified protected microclimate.

Transparent cups for iced coffee that are already equipped with a sturdy dome lid work well. They are transparent and a bit larger than regular cups.

Nevertheless, simple, transparent fast-food cups, smoothie cups or dessert cups work just as well.

With opaque materials, the problem is that the plants are often in the shade, which is not good for their growth.

In this case, one can consider removing nontransparent collars on sunny, dry days and only use them at night.

The self-made snail collars are well suited to protect plants that are still small and particularly vulnerable.

It, therefore, makes sense not to put the cups in the bed when the plants have already grown to their capacity, but to sow the seeds already in the planted collars.

More information here: snail and slug collars

In addition, you can improve this slug control measure with copper against slugs, slug repellent paint, mosquito nets or even bird protection nets – as in the following video.

Video: Use a bird protection net and a transparent bucket to build slug protection

From old bottles, you can make plant protection “hats.”

It is relatively easy to make your own plant hats.

For this task you need, for example, big old jars or large plastic/glass bottles. The bigger, the better.

32oz (1.5 – 2 liter) plastic bottles are a good fit for larger plants, while 16oz (1 liter) bottles are enough for small plants.

The bigger the bottle, the longer it can offer protection before becoming to little for the plants to grow inside.

One can remove the bottom of the bottles and glasses, as described for the cups.

To remove the bottom of plastic bottles one can use secateurs. It is easy to injure be careful and mindful.

With the glass bottles, it is a little bit more difficult to remove the bottom. This can be done either with a glass cutter or a cotton thread that is ignited. See here:

Video: How to remove the bottom of a glass bottle

After the bottom is removed you could defuse the new sharp edge with coarse sandpaper in order to finish off the plant protector.

If the bottle has a lid that you want to use, you can drill or pierce small air holes in it, so that fresh air can reach the plants.

To be able to use old glass jars, one can either remove the bottom and then use their lid or turn the jar on its head and drill holes into the bottom with a diamond drill. See here:

Video: How to drill a hole in a glass bottle

If the bottle/jar does not have a lid, it is possible to close the opening with a piece of mosquito net.

In this way, the plants can still breathe, but slugs and snails will be kept outside.

More information here: Plant protection hat as snail control

Make a garden bell/greenhouse bucket yourself

Garden bells/cloches or greenhouse buckets differ from plant protection hats only in size.

They are taller, larger and can even be configured into a row or small tunnel.

Sometimes they are also called Victorian bells.

Pails, drums, buckets, barrels, boxes, or the like are used in order to make these bells or buckets.

There is basically no difference between a big snail collar with a lid and a garden bell.

Usually, snail collars are smaller, but if you make them yourself, you can make them larger.

In the case of garden bells, on the other hand, the edge does not matter because they normally stay closed.

It’s best to use old transparent storage containers. Again, the bottom of the vessels is carefully removed, and this allows you to slip them over the garden plants.

Then drill or pierce holes in the lid, so that fresh air, rain, and irrigation water can get inside.

An advantage of these self-made garden bells is that their lid is removable when the inside conditions become too warm for the plants.

In addition, when the plants outgrow the inside, it is possible to expand the space upwards with mosquito net or a bed protection blanket.

Just place a few wooden or bamboo sticks in the corners or over the middle of the rim, and a mosquito net can be draped over the modified frame. In this simple way, a small slug proof shelter is created, which can be adjusted in height.

One can adjust slug collars in a similar manner.

Build a D.I.Y. Slug Fence

The dream of any snail-colonized garden is a snail-proof fence that can effectively keep the pests out of the beds so that the vulnerable plants are safe.

But the metal fences are relatively expensive and not affordable for some gardeners. Plastic fences, on the other hand, are often not effective enough.

But there are some options worth considering on how to construct a DIY slug fence.

If one does not have a bed enclosure border, it needs to be built together with the slug fence. Possible materials are metal sheets, wooden planks or bricks.

The challenge of upcycling is to use things that otherwise would be thrown away.

This means that one needs to improvise and come up with completely new ideas.

Here are a few suggestions on how a DIY slug fence could work:

Upgrade an existing bed enclosure

If you already have a bedding border or high lawn edges, you can include some of the following slug repelling materials:

1. Copper tape

2. Slug repellent paint

3. Slug collar

4. Electric slug fence

Slug fence with copper

Since most snails and slugs do not like crawling over copper, one can protect a garden bed with special copper tape.

To do this, tack or glue the copper tape around the bed enclosure without leaving any gaps.

Copper is also suitable for protecting raised beds.

One must make sure that the material of the bed enclosure border is appropriate for the copper tape to be attached.

In the marketplace, there are products with copper wire mesh. Their effectiveness seems to depend also on the type of slug or snail you are dealing with.

Also suitable is self-adhesive copper tape, which should be at least two inches (five centimeters) wide. Narrow copper strips can too easily be overcome by persistent slugs.

More information here: Copper against snails in the test

Snail fence with slug repellent paint

The new slug deterrent paint “Schnexagon” can also be used to create a slug-proof fence.

The repellent paint is applied to the bed enclosure about 4 inches wide (10 centimeters).

It is best if one can paint Schnexagon under a small overhang, because the paint will be better protected against wind and weathering, and will, therefore, last longer.

After rainy periods the paint slowly loses its deterring effect and has to be renewed.

U- or J-channels and L- or V-shaped plastic or metal bars, which could be attached to the existing bed enclosure borders are handy for this purpose.

More information here: Application of Schnexagon

Slug fence with collar/edge

The original slug fence is effective because it has a special double-folded edge that irritates the slugs, preventing their passage.

When trying to crawl around the edge, they fail to do so or fall down. Therefore, one can try to recreate a similar sharp edge.

For example, if one has a wooden bed frame, it is possible to attach a thin metal bar or a flat iron to it.

If, like the snail collar, it points downwards at about 45 degrees, many slugs will be repelled.

These edges are difficult to overcome for slugs, as they are too sharp for the animals to climb around the corner.

Therefore, it is essential that the used sheet metal or angled iron that is as thin as possible. An edge made of wood is not suitable in most cases.

This method is worthwhile only if one has already matching metal or iron.

If not, it will probably be cheaper to buy the original metal slug fence.

More information here: slug barriers

DIY electric slug fence

Electric slug fence

Another way is to construct an electric slug fence.

In this case, two parallel lines of copper or galvanized metal are attached to the border of the bed enclosures.

Each line is connected to a pole of a rechargeable battery, and the battery is hidden in a waterproof case.

It is also possible to use a solar panel to recharge the battery.

More information here: electric slug fences

Slug Fence from Gutter

Since land snails and slugs cannot swim and drown under water, one can use gutters to create a trench around the beds.

Of course, old gutters made of copper are also suitable without water as a form of protection against the slugs.

Rain gutters are already good protection in themselves if they have a sharp edge, which will be a problem for the slugs to pass.

If one connects a series of gutters to make a continuous ditch that is subsequently filled with water, the plants will be secure.

So, before dumping old gutters, one can use them in the garden.

Matching corners are usually needed for this to work, and these can be bought from any hardware store or ordered online.

In this situation, one should carefully calculate whether the purchase of an original slug fence would be cheaper or more expensive than guttering.

Additional protection against snails

The self-made slug collars, plant hats and garden bells can have extra protection with Schnexagon or copper tape.

These two agents are versatile for their use against snails and can easily be connected with other ideas.

It is especially worthwhile to use copper or slug deterrent paint with cups, pots, and jars which have no safe edge or lid. I hope these ideas can be used to help you create slug-proof beds and to protect any vulnerable vegetables and flowers.

If you’ve tried something, please post a comment with a picture to share with the community.

Thank you very much and enjoy slug control crafting!

Further methods to control slugs and snails

Promote biodiversity and natural enemies of slugs

slug resistant flowers

slug resistant vegetables

Add on: Build a mini greenhouse

I have found a DIY-guide on how to construct a slug-safe mini greenhouse with a simple means of production.

Again a great video of the “Landei”, which I would like to share here because the idea is simple and great:

(Audio in German)

Recommendations slug control

Copper Mesh Fence Slug Fence Set: For 6m² Sheep Wool Pellets
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Last update: July 17, 2019

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Are You Being Driven Mad by Slugs and Snails? Here are 7 Plants They Hate

Regardless of their slow, laboured pace; slugs and snails have a terrible habit of turning up unexpectedly (and certainly without invitation) in gardens, munching on plants and leaving nothing but destruction in their wake.

The job of searching through the garden and picking up these slimy invaders is not one of the great, rewarding gardening tasks, and is one we’d all rather avoid. So rather than spritzing your plants with slug and snail killing formulas, why not introduce plants which the little blighters hate? This is an elegant solution which means you can reduce the number of slimy visits your garden receives without having to harm any little lives.

Slugs and snails may seem like greedy little leaf-chompers, chewing up all in their path; but there are certain plants they’ll turn their noses up at – most notably, thick-leaf plants which prove hard for them to chew their way through, and highly fragrant additions to the garden.

And to make things even easier, we’ve compiled a list of seven plants that slugs and snails absolutely hate – plant these and your garden will be left in peace.


Low maintenance, incredibly hardy and well down the slug and snail menu; ferns make an attractive, hassle-free addition to the garden. It’s the thick and difficult-to-chew leaves of ferns which put off slug and snail visitors from having a good munch.

Thriving in moist, well-drained spots with a decent amount of shade; ferns rarely require feeding when planted in the open ground, perfect for those who can’t commit a great deal of time to their gardening. Ferns make great ground-covering and background plants, wonderful if you’ve got a big garden and plenty of space to fill with attractive, slug-repellent plants.


The delicate pink, white and blue flowers of the hydrangea plant may look beautiful to you or I, but they are not a welcome sight for our slug and snail friends. Creating a beautiful barrier against slimy pests, hydrangeas are a wonderful addition to the back garden – and their ability to change colour in different soils adds another exciting element to planting these shrubs.

Like ferns, hydrangeas will flourish in moist, yet well-drained garden spots with a degree of shade. When planting hydrangeas, be careful about picking east-facing sites, as the cold winds could damage young spring growth.


The milky sap of euphorbias possesses a bitter taste which slugs and snails simply can’t stomach. They’ll avoid these plants, veering towards sweeter-tasting treats and young plants. Euphorbias are a hardy family of plants which really come into their own when the temperature dips and the less strong-willed plants die out and go into hiding.

Even as the surrounding plants turn to mush, euphorbias will continue to stand upright, projecting dark green tones over your winter garden. All whilst keeping slugs and snails at bay.


Slugs and snails are also known to have a dislike for plants with a strong fragrance, and lavender definitely gets up their collective nose. Whilst many humans adore the rich smell of lavender in their garden and around their home, garden-dwelling molluscs will be turned off. Strategically placing lavender in the garden could help protect other plants from slug and snail attacks, creating a whiffy barrier against the gastropods.


Similarly, rosemary’s fragrance can be off-putting for slugs and snails trying to slime their way into the garden. Despite its use in human aromatherapy for centuries, rosemary offers none of the same benefits to slugs and snails – warding them away from the garden.

Like many of the plants in this list, rosemary is simple to grow, flowering throughout the year. Incredibly hardy, a rosemary bush can be with you for up 20 years, offering two decades of slug-free living.


Another thing which will quickly turn the stomachs of slugs and snails is a plant with hairy stems and leaves. So grow some hairy geraniums in your garden if you’re looking for a kind way to dissuade slugs and snails from visiting your beautiful outdoor space. The hairy build of the geraniums make them incredibly uncomfortable for slugs to travel across and munch on.

With more than 300 species, it’s super easy to find the geraniums which will complement your back garden. Super hardy, geraniums are also great ground-covering plants which will help to suppress that other hated back garden pest, the weed.

Japanese Anemone

Although establishing Japanese anemones in the garden can sometimes be quite difficult thanks to their brittle roots; once they’re in, they tend to spread like wildfire and are really quite beautiful. Another plant which will help rid your garden of a weed infestation and deter slugs and snails; a Japanese anemone patch is a great pest-busting solution.

For a great range of bulbs and seeds, head over to our dedicated section here. Alternatively, visit us in one of our three stores for more information about slug and snail-repellent flowers or anything garden related.

Do the slugs and snails in your garden seem to have bigger appetites than you? Slugs can cause year round havoc to gardens eating foliage and weakening stems. Sometimes whole seedlings and leaves can simply disappear overnight. This utter decimation can leave you with nothing to show for all of your hard work.

Slugs can on occasions be useful. They turn plant material into compost, especially useful in compost heaps. Also they are a food source for ground beetles, blackbirds and hedgehogs.

Even is occasionally useful it can pale into insignificance when we see our plants harmed. Thus, it is no wonder many of us are left reaching for the bottles of Slug Pellets. However, as many gardeners have found these are not always successful.
Whilst no slug solution is ever going to be 100% effective, This leaflet sets out a range of options from biological, non-biological, chemical and companion planting methods. It shows a number of approaches that have proved successful for many gardeners.


This includes:

  • Plastic cloches that will prevent some slugs from getting access to your young crops. It does not stop slugs coming out of the soil from below ground level
  • Copper tape around pots is an irritant to slug skin deterring them from crossing. However, hungry determined slugs will believe in the saying “no pain, no gain” and bypass the irritation
  • The use of citrus fruit such as oranges and grapefruits cut in half and scooped out sunk side down in the ground have been said to work in some cases
  • Laying a range of common items are said to be effective in some cases. The form a barrier when laid around plants. Items that have proved effective for some gardeners have included crushed egg shells, sawdust, the breakfast cereal bran flakes, sharp sand and sharp grit. The effectiveness is lessened by rain and hungry slugs will still pass over the barrier
  • Beer traps – part filled traps or jam jars sunk into the ground attract and cause slugs to fall into them drowning. Rain will dilute the beers scent
  • In damp weather hand picking slugs off of plants with a torch at night is successful but time consuming
  • Applying boiling water can fry slugs causing them to die. Also watering salt solutions will have the same end result. Although this can in time harm the soil
  • In winter raking over soil and raking up fallen leaves will deprive slugs somewhere to hide and expose their eggs for birds to eat. This is not a quick fix


This includes:

  • Scattering slug pellets thinly around vulnerable plants, such as your hosta, seedling and vegetables is effective. However, they can harm children, wildlife and pets if consumed in large quantities. Also their effectiveness is reduced by heavy rain. The biggest issue is that it only kills slugs on the soils surface
  • Slug Gone was BBC Gardeners World Magazines “Our Choice.” The pellets are formed from pure sheep wool. They are organic and safe around pets and children and also release beneficial nutrients into the soil. The pellets work by deterring slugs because wool is an irritant that they are not overly willing to pass. However, hungry slugs will still go over them, they form a cloggy unattractive mess after rain and you need a lot to protect a small number of plants
  • Slug liquids are available in a concentrated form that you have to dilute and water on to vulnerable plants. It is good value for money as it covers a greater area than the pelleted alternatives. A 250ml bottle will cover 67m2 in the garden. It is safe for use around children and pets as it is invisible to the eye meaning there is no risk of them ingesting a harmful dose. The liquid also soaks into the soil killing slugs and snails living below the soils surface. It can also be applied to plant stems to deter climbing snails. However, rain dilutes the effectiveness of this product and it is not safe to be used on edible plants.


What is this?

Microscopic nematode that is watered into the soil. It works by entering the slug body and infecting them with a fatal bacterial disease. These can often be found naturally in garden soils although often not in large enough quantities to provide effective control


  • Environmentally friendly and organic approved
  • Specific to targeting molluscs with no harmful adverse effects to children, pets, birds and wildlife – suitable for use around edible crops
  • Works underground, where young slugs tend to stay. This is particularly useful in targeting slugs that attack potatoes in the ground
  • Unlike traditional methods and slugs retreat to die underground so you are not left with dead slugs on the soils surface.
  • Treats a large area and can’t be over applied
  • Lasts longer than the traditional “Slug Pellet” method only needing reapplication every 6-8 weeks
  • Works well in wet conditions, where slugs are most active and where ”slug pellets” poisons are less effective


  • Needs a moist soil so not effective in dry conditions or in heavy clay soils
  • Needs warm soil between 5 and 20oC so only effective in late spring to early autumn. Slugs remain active all year round
  • Most slug reproduction is in spring and autumn at times when this method of control is not always at its best
  • Must be stored correctly, often refrigerated, to be effective
  • Much higher initial cost than other methods
  • Requires a few weeks to reach full effectiveness unlike “slug pellets” which start working immediately

The first defence against slugs is to try to keep you plants in the best state of health you can. The first plants to be attacked will be those that are stressed. For example those that are:

  • Over or under fed
  • Incorrect watered
  • Weather damaged
  • Moved without extra assistance
  • Planted in the wrong type of conditions
  • Seedling that are not hardened off

In particular over feeding is a cause of slug damage as it leads to a lot of young, juicy growth that slugs absolutely love.

Slugs in the compost heap can be great at recycling plant matter. However, they do not differentiate between plant waste and tasty young seedlings. By hardening off your seedlings well the young leaves are in the garden for a shorter period of time before growing up. Thus, reducing the risk.

Sometimes it is possible to deter slugs by placing some chopped leaves, for example comfrey, around the base of a plant. In addition, some gardeners will grow a sacrificial crop of lettuce around the edge of a vegetable plot.

There are some plants that slugs love and some they don’t. For example slugs will usually only eat herbaceous plants, vegetables and young seedlings. They are not keen on shrubs with hard stems or with hairy or waxy leaves. However, if hungry they will eat what is available.

All this means that if you do not want to be applying slug control methods on a regular basis it is best to growing the plants that slugs like least.

Slugs enjoy eating:

Herbaceous Perennials

  • Chrysanthemum
  • Daffodil Flowers
  • Dahlia
  • Delphinium
  • Gerbera
  • Heuchera
  • Hosta
  • Iris
  • Lupin
  • Sweet Pea
  • Tulip Shoots


  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Courgette
  • Dwarf Bean
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Potato Tubers
  • Runner Bean
  • Spinach
  • Strawberry

Bedding Plants

  • Chrysanthemum
  • Marigold
  • Pansy
  • Petunia


Plants less likely to be eaten by slugs and snails:

Herbaceous Perennials

  • Acanthus
  • Achillea
  • Agapanthus
  • Alchemilla (lady’s mantle)
  • Anemone
  • Antirrhinum (snapdragon)
  • Aquilegia
  • Aster
  • Astilbe
  • Astrantia
  • Bergenia (elephant’s ears)
  • Campanula
  • Centaurea
  • Dicentra (bleeding heart)
  • Digitalis (foxglove)
  • Eryngium
  • Euphorbia
  • Ferns
  • Gaillardia
  • Hardy Geranium
  • Geum
  • Hemerocallis (day lilies)
  • Lavender
  • Papaver (poppy)
  • Phlox
  • Penstemon
  • Polemonium
  • Potentilla
  • Pulmonaria
  • Rudbeckia
  • Salvia
  • Saxifraga (London pride)
  • Scabious
  • Sedum
  • Sempervivum (houseleeks)
  • Sisyrinchium
  • Stachys
  • Tradescantia
  • Verbascum


  • Chicory
  • Leek
  • Onion
  • Red Cabbage
  • Red Lettuce

Bedding Plants

  • Ageratum
  • Begonia
  • Cosmos
  • Fuchsia
  • Geranium


Companion Plants to Deter Slugs

These plants scents are said to deter slugs from entering an area where they are grown:

  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
  • Parsley
  • Peony
  • Rosemary
  • Roses
  • Sage
  • Scented Geranium
  • Thyme

Another Option

Although a long term solution rather than a short term fix adding a pond to your garden can help. If you can get frogs to the pond they are natural predators of the slug.

For further assistance contact


Tags: plants, slugs, suggestions, tips

Snails and slugs are a nuisance to gardeners worldwide. Your spring vegetable and herb garden offers a banquet to these pesky mollusks, which largely remain hidden during the day, and emerge to feast on your plants during the night.

When you go outside in the morning to check on your garden, the chewed leaves and stems of your prized garden plants provide evidence that they were out while you slept.

How do you control these garden pests?

Here are the most common ways to keep your vegetable and ornamental crops safe. Get rid of slugs and snails on your fruit trees, your greenhouse, your orchard, and organic herbs.

31 tips to control snails and slugs in the garden:

1. Pick them Off by Hand.

Ewwww. Yes, we get it, this remedy is not for everyone. If you do decide to go this way, wait an hour or two after the sun goes down, and go out and inspect your garden plants with a flashlight.

If you see any snails or slugs on your plants, remove them. If you don’t want to touch these slimey critters with your bare hands, wear a latex surgical glove, or use a tweezer or pair of chop-sticks to catch the slugs/snails.

2. Make Slug Traps.

There are a number of ways to do this yourself. You can lay boards on the dirt between the plants being attacked. Slugs will seek shelter out of the sunlight during the daytime hours.

You can then go out and lift up the boards, scoop-up any slugs you find, and remove them from your garden.

Another DIY trap is to take an old terra cotta flower pot, and turn it upside down over a board, leaving it propped-up on one side so snails and slugs can crawl under the pot to hide during the day.

Besides making your own there’s also the option of store-bought slug traps. Periodically check the pot and dispose of any slimy critters you come across.

  • Pro tip: If you set snail traps by digging a hole in the ground and set a used can inside make sure NOT to place it so that the edges are even with the soil. This will cause beneficial creatures to fall in and drown as well. Slugs and snails will climb in even if it’s not buried at all.

3. Feed them Citrus Peels.

Slugs love citrus, so don’t throw away your orange or grapefruit rinds. Instead put them in your garden to bait the slugs and snails away from your plants.

In the morning, check your peels to see if any slugs or snails are on them, and remove these from your garden. Refresh with new peels as appropriate to continue your decoy operation.

4. Encourage Predators to Visit Your Garden.

Try to encourage lightning bugs to breed in your garden. The larval form of this insect (the glowworm) is a voracious predator, and slugs are on its menu.

Rove beetles are another carnivorous insect that are attracted to slugs and snails. Encourage toads to inhabit your garden, as they will also eat a lot of slugs.

Releasing a pet duck or chicken in your garden will also result in many eaten slugs and snails. If a possum visits your neighborhood at night, it will also eat snails and slugs.

Frogs and toads are natural predators of slugs and snails too. Encourage these critters to reside in your yard by setting up a ceramic toad house. Or make a DIY toad house from an old plant pot.

  • Other predators: crows, blackbirds, jays, owls, robins, trushes, starlings and seagulls.

5. Deter them with Scratchy Surfaces.

Slugs and snails do not like to crawl over scratchy surfaces. You might try surrounding the stems of your plants with crushed egg shells, a layer of diatomaceous earth, or insert a sand-paper collar around the stem.

These methods will not kill slugs or snails, but might slow them down and keep them off your plants.

6. Use diatomaceous earth

Also called insect dust, this natural product which is safe for human or animal consumption, works as a barrier.

Just like with egg shells it has sharp, very fine, edges that are harmful to the soft bodies of slugs and snails.

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on soil around plants you want to protect. Keep in mind that it is less potent when wet requiring new application after rainfall or plant watering.

Make sure to get food-grade, untreated diatomaceous earth that is formulated for garden use.

7. Deter them with Copper.

Research shows that slugs and snails cannot tolerate crawling on copper surfaces, which gives them a mild electrical shock when they touch it.

You can put copper bands around your flower pots, fruit-tree trunks, etc., to deter them from crawling up and onto the foliage of your plants.

You can also attach copper flashing to the edges of your grow-beds and greenhouse benches. This method will deter slugs and snails, but will not kill them.

In addition to special copper mesh (commonly uses as a mice deterrent), copper tape barrier, and copper band rings to put on plant pots, you can also use pennies to keep slugs and snails away.

7. Deter them with Predatory Snails.

See if the European Decollate Snail has been introduced to your area to combat the invasive garden snail. If it has, introduce them to your garden.

It will eat any snails or slugs it comes across. Though it might also feed some on your vegetation, it is mostly carnivorous and attracted to other land-mollusks.

8. Deter them with Herbal Repellents.

Plant sage (salvia officinalis) or mint around your garden plants. These will help deter slugs and snails from coming into your garden. Other herbs and plants which may deter snails and slugs include hyssop, chives, garlic, fennel, geraniums, and foxgloves.

Don’t make the mistake to plant Salvia splendens (scarlet sage, tropical sage) which actually atracts slugs.

9. Make a Vinegar Spray.

Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a pump spray bottle. Go out into your garden during the hours that snails and slugs are active, and spray any that you see.

Vinegar is mildly acidic and will kill any snails or slugs it touches. Vinegar is toxic to vegetation, so only spray snails or slugs that are not on your plants.

10. Make an Ammonia Spray.

Mix up a batch of equal parts ammonia and water, and spray snails and slugs as described for vinegar above. While vinegar is an acid, ammonia is a strong base and will also kill any snails or slugs it contacts.

11. Make a Dog or Cat Food Trap.

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Take a tin-foil pie plate and cut openings along the rim large enough to allow snails to enter. Place these upside down over a small pile of dog or cat food.

The slugs and snails will be attracted to the pet food and find the upturned pie plate a nifty hiding place for the day. Go out during day time and remove the pie tin and scoop up and dispose of any snails or slugs you find.

12. Use a Beer or Yeast and Honey Mixture.

Snails and slugs are attracted to the scent of beer or a mixture of yeast and honey. It is a common wisdom that the pests love beer but it’s in fact the yeast in the popular beverage that attracts them. Which explains why yeast (with our without honey works too).

Put out a saucer filled with (stale) beer, or the yeast and honey mixture. Sink the saucer into the ground enough so the lip of the saucer is at ground level.

Slugs and snails will get into the mixture and drown. Empty and refill the saucer every couple of days.

  • Pro tip: A tin can or other kind of container works too. Do not put the edge to ground level to prevent that certain beetles and other beneficial insects tumble in.

13. Spear Some Snails and Slugs.

Get a flashlight and a long wooden Shish-ka-bob skewer and go out to your garden one evening to impale any snails or slugs you come across. When you are finished, chuck your skewer and impaled mollusks in the trash.

14. Dispatch them with Coffee.

Snails and slugs cannot tolerate caffeine, so you can deter them by placing coffee grounds around your plants, or spraying them with a coffee spray.

This is a much disputed anti-snail remedy. We have tried it ourselves without success. Snails and slugs just don’t seem to be bothered. This despite the fact that research demonstrates that caffeine indeed does kill slugs.

Scientists theorize caffeine acts as a potent neurotoxin thus causing the reduction in appetite and death.

Studies showed that a 1-2% caffeine spray was sufficient to kill slugs and snails. At lower concentrations, about 100 times weaker, the slugs lost their appetite.

Be careful with plants though, because although coffee is a natural substance,

“1-2% is a very high concentration of caffeine. That might be potentially damaging to plants and invertebrates other than slugs such as insects.”

Said Dr David Bohan, of the UK agricultural research institute IACR-Rothamsted to BBC News Online.

15. Deter them with Garlic.

Research published in the academic journal, Crop Protection has revealed that garlic kills snails and slugs. You can make a garlic spray and spray them when they emerge in your garden at night.

16. Deter them with Hair.

Go to your local barber shop and ask for some floor sweepings from the day. Put the hair around the bases of your plants.

The slugs and snails will get tangled up in it as they approach your plants. The hair will also add nitrogen to the soil around your plants as it decomposes.

17. Attack them with Salt.

Salt is a desiccant and will cause snails and slugs to dry out. Just don’t get too much of it on your plants, because it is not good for them, either.

18. Deter them with Epsom Salts.

Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) sprinkled on the soil will help deter snails and slugs and also help prevent magnesium deficiency in your plants.

19. Destroy their Slime Trails.

Slugs and snails tend to follow each other’s slime trails. When you come across one, wipe or wash it away. This will help to keep a slug’s friends from following it.

20. Deter them with Petroleum Jelly.

If you see slugs or snails climbing up your plant pots while enroute to their dinner (your plants’ foliage), you can foil their plans by applying a layer of petroleum jelly around the bases and tops of your pots. The slugs and snails will have difficulty crawling over it.

21. Place Sawdust around Your Plants.

Snails and slugs find sawdust to be unattractive and will avoid crossing it unless they are starving. They also do not like to crawl over sand.

22. Save Your Salted Nut Shells.

Any salted nut shells can be placed around your plants. The edges are sharp and the shells are salty, which the snails and slugs do not like.

23. Place Bird and Insect Netting over Your Plants.

This may not deter slugs, but if your problem is primarily snails, their shells will get tangled in the netting.

24. Change your watering routine

If your watering schedule involves watering your garden in the evening you may want to adjust. Slugs thrive at damp conditions and are most active at night.

Water in the morning instead, this will ensure the surface soil is dry by evening. Research indicates this can reduce slug damage by 80%.

25. Use Organic Baits on them.

Two of the best organic snail and slug bait products on the market are Sluggo and Escar-Go which contain iron phosphate.

When snails or slugs eat these baits, the iron phosphate interferes with calcium metabolism in their gut, causing the snails and slugs to stop eating almost immediately.

They die 3 to 6 days later. These products are safe to use around pets, humans, fish, birds, beneficial insects, and mammals.

26. Use Methaldehyde Baits.

If all else fails, treat them with methaldehyde baits. Metaldehyde is a molluscicide that attracts the pests and dehydrates the snail or slug rather rapidly if it eats this poison.

Slug and snail baits with metaldehyde are sufficiently toxic that they are not recommended for use around edible vegetables, and can be harmful to dogs, cats, and fish.

  • Safety note: commercial snail bait typically contains either iron phosphate or metaldehyde. Metaldehyde is poisonous to many living creatures, including you and your family. Iron phosphate only kills snails and slugs so this is the preferred first option.

27. Employ the ‘scorched earth strategy’

The historically proven military strategy to destroy anything that can be used by the enemy can be used here too.

Slugs and snails can quickly dry out and die on a hot sunny day. Especially if you limit the number of moist hiding places.

Get rid of ground cover by removing dead wood, rocks, by cutting back vegetation, and raising items in the yard off the ground. Place plant pots and storage sheds on blocks instead of directly on the ground.

28. Pick them up and move them

Transporting slugs and snails is probably the most eco-friendly solution. Moving snails just 20 feet (6.1 m) away from your garden apepars to be just as effective as termination.

Snails do have a homing instinct, which means they tend to return to their home colony (your yard), especially during the summer and specifically in the autumn for hibernation.

Nonetheless, studies show little benefits to a gardener from killing snails.

Snails casually found and killed are only a small sample of a much larger population.

This means you either have to declare war on the slimy foes by deterring and killing as much as you can, or be prepared to make considerable efforts in moving snails consistently.

29. Install an electronic slug fence

Another safe, non-toxic method to keep slugs from eating your precious heirloom vegetables (or any plants in your yard for that matter).

The Slugs Away fence is simple yet effective 24-foot long barrier that runs off a 9 volt battery.

Contact with the fence causes slugs to turn back (it doesn’t kill them). The battery powers the fence for about 8 months. Safe for use among humans and pets.

30. Use pine seed extract

Pine seed extract offers another useful eco-friendly solution. The substance is also used in commercial, dynamic horticulture. Application of a high dilution (3:1000) is a non-lethal method to keep slugs at a distance.

31. Rhubarb leaves

Got a large yard? Chances are there’s a rhubarb plant in it too. You can pick some leaves and place them on the ground around the plants affected by slugs. Be careful as rhubarb leaves are toxic and ingestion can cause health problems.

Snails home. D J Dunstan1 and D J Hodgson2 Published 15 May 2014 • © 2014 The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences,

Methaldehyde. A Pesticide Information Project of Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis,

Control Measures for Slug and Snail Hosts of Angiostrongylus cantonensis, with Special Reference to the Semi-slug Parmarion martensi,


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April showers bring May flowers, but they also bring those slimy pests, slugs and snails.

Snails have taken over the birdhouse! Photo by Deb Sanders.

Raiders of the night, they have a discerning appetite for succulent foliage and flowers. And from dusk to dawn, they can make short work of leaves, flowers, soft herbs, vegetables, seedlings, tender green bark, and ripening fruit.

On our Gardener’s Path Facebook page, Deb Sanders, one of our readers from Oregon, wrote of her troubles with a snail infestation.

Photo by Deb Sanders.

The armored gastropods are so prevalent in Deb’s garden, she can’t grow veggies, and her bird feeder station is overrun with the sticky critters. Worse yet, they hide under the rim of her containers, resulting in handfuls of slimy, squished snails when she moves them – ugh! Now that is gross!

Plus, because of the many visiting birds and outdoor pets on her property, Deb is looking to control these pests in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.

Photo by Deb Sanders.

I feel your pain, Deb! My garden’s a little further north than yours, and I know firsthand just how fond snails and slugs are of the lush, moist environment of the Pacific Northwest – and many other regions too, of course.

Over the years, I’ve tried a variety of tricks and products to control these pests. Some work well, others don’t; some are safe for other garden creatures, while some are deadly to all.

In my experience, management of slug and snail infestations is most efficient when a combination of tactics is used. Baiting and trapping make it easy to remove the creepy cousins, and barriers prevent them from accessing your plants.

Let’s have a look at the best, and safest, suggestions for controlling snails and slugs, so you can enjoy your garden again!

Habitat and Habits

Not all nighttime marauding is caused by gastropods. An easy clue to determine who’s causing the damage is by the telltale trail of shiny mucous they leave behind – if a slime trail is present, you know the culprit is a slug or snail.

Snails and slugs both belong to the mollusk phylum, and have similar bodies and biology. The primary difference between the two is that slugs are without the snail’s external spiral shell.

They both propel themselves with a muscular “foot” that continuously secretes a slimy mucous to help them glide, and both thrive in similar environments.

Native to Western Europe and the Mediterranean, they’re now found in temperate and semi-tropical regions worldwide.

Both species prefer cool temperatures and are most active at night, or on overcast days. On bright, sunny days, or when temperatures are high, they’ll seek cool, shady havens to beat the heat and bright light.

In cold weather, they’ll hibernate underneath any debris that provides shelter, or burrow into topsoil. But in areas with mild winters, they can be active year-round.

Disrupt and Displace

A good starting point for your slug and snail management program is to disrupt and remove their daytime hidey-holes, to the greatest extent that you’re able to.

Preferred hangouts can be a tall stand of weeds or the underside of just about anything on or close to the ground – particularly in moist, shady areas. Underneath boards, garden decor, planters, ledges, decks, low-growing branches, pot rims, debris, and protective ground covers are all prime real estate for gastropods.

Photo by Deb Sanders.

To disrupt their environment, undercut low branches, burn weeds with a weed torch or trim weeds close to the ground, and remove any unnecessary material they can hide under.

Obviously, some areas like rock walls, decks, meter boxes, permanent bird feeders, and so on can’t be removed – but these spots make good locations to bait and trap.


If you have the stomach for it, handpicking is an effective option when practiced diligently.

To lure slugs and snails, water any infested areas at dusk. After nightfall, use a flashlight to hunt them down, pick by hand, and dispose of them – you’ll definitely want to use gloves for this option!

You’ll need to do this nightly until their numbers are decimated, after which a weekly foray should suffice.

Once caught, you can dispatch them in a bucket of soapy water or by spraying with a solution of diluted ammonia. One part ammonia mixed with 10 parts water in a spray bottle will do the trick.

Bait and Trap

A good point to remember is that to bait gastropods is to attract them – so keep bait and traps a safe distance from any plants you want to protect.

The Beer Dish Trap

Simply fill a shallow container with beer and sink it into the soil, then leave overnight. Slugs and snails are attracted to beer, glide over for a sip, then drown in it.

Remove the corpses in the morning, and refresh with their favorite suds!

Esschert Design Ceramic Slug Trap, available on Amazon

Containers can be as simple as a plastic deli dish, or you can opt for something a bit more decorative – like this cute ceramic snail.

Hidey-Hole Trap

Create a welcoming environment for slugs and snails to hide under in the daytime with any flat object, or anything that makes a nice gastropod den.

A piece of plywood, thick dark plastic, pot saucers, overturned containers, or anything that will provide cool shade will work. The rinds of citrus (like oranges and grapefruit) and melon halves make an alluring den for them as well.

Water the area first, lay down the trap material, bait with a piece of leaf lettuce if needed, and return in a day or two to remove and destroy the crawly critters.


A variety of repellents can be used to divert gastropods away from plants you want to protect.


Researchers in the UK have found that garlic oil applied to the soil around crops will repel gastropods, and it kills those that come into contact with it.

An effective method for small-scale gardens is to crush garlic cloves (lots of them – easy to come by if you grow your own!) and lay them around the perimeter of the at-risk area.


The natural salts that form from oxidizing copper also act as a repellent. Uncoated copper flashing, banding, and mesh are all suitable options to lay around any area in need of protection.

Kraftex Copper Foil Tape with Conductive Adhesive

An adhesive copper tape, like this option available on Amazon, is a good option as it stays in place nicely, maintaining the barrier.

Vaseline and Salt

As the underside of planter rims is a favorite hiding spot, smearing this area with a mixture of Vaseline and salt will act as a repellent.

Coffee Grounds

Scientists have recently found caffeine to be highly toxic to snails and slugs. For use as a repellent, sprinkle used coffee grounds (full caffeine, not decaf) around the edge of flower and veggie beds.


Gastropods have delicate tummy tissue, and any sharp materials will irritate and potentially cut their tender undersides.

For an extra layer of defense, build a small berm at least three inches wide with fine stone chips, crushed egg shells, diatomaceous earth (DE), or crushed oyster and clam shells.

Diatomaceous earth is derived from silicon dioxide and has sharp, abrasive edges. But it must remain dry to deter gliding gastropods.

Use food grade DE, not the material used in aquariums (which has smoother edges), and follow instructions when applying.

Biological Warfare

For combating gastropods, my personal weapon of choice is beneficial nematodes.

One hundred percent natural, nematodes are naturally occurring microscopic worms that are mixed with water for application.

The best times to apply nematodes are once soil temperatures have warmed up in spring, and after intense summer heat has ebbed in late summer/early fall.

They won’t kill adult snails or slugs, but once applied to the soil, nematodes enter the gastropods’ eggs. They then release bacteria that kills the eggs, then feed off the eggs and reproduce before moving on – with an effective killing rate of about 90 percent.

People, birds, pets, and helpful insects such as bees, ladybugs, and earthworms are completely resistant to these hardworking microbes.

Nematodes move swiftly through pre-moistened soil, and can be applied with a hose and sprayer or with a watering can for smaller areas.

You won’t see immediate results with nematodes, but the following year you’ll notice a significant reduction in the slimy herbivores.

Beneficial Nematodes Mail-Back, pack of 5

For best results, make three consecutive applications – spring/fall/spring, or fall/spring/fall. After that, an application once every 18 months will keep gastropod numbers at bay.

Timing is important with this method. A package contains approximately 10 million live nematodes, and if you don’t plan on using them immediately, they need to stay refrigerated until application. In the package, they have a limited shelf life.

Nematodes can be purchased online, at Before purchasing them, ensure soil temperatures are adequate, and that you’ll have the necessary time available for application.

Read our complete guide to doing battle against creepy crawlies with nematodes here.


Natural predators will also do their fair share in keeping slug and snail numbers down, provided you have a welcoming environment – which usually means no cats or dogs to chase them away.

Some predators known to feast on gastropods include frogs and toads, garter snakes, lizards, hedgehogs, moles, thrushes, blackbirds, magpies, and rooks.

Which brings us to our final tip…

Escargot, Anyone?

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but I like my escargot served piping hot with plenty of garlic and butter!

If you have snails in the garden, chances are they’re the common, or brown snail, Helix aspersa (a.k.a. Cornu aspersum) – one of three main species used for escargot, along with H. pomatia and H. lucorum.

Brown snails have a soft, beige or brown body with a cream or yellow shell and brown spiraling stripes. When mature, they measure approximately 0.75 to 1.25 inches high, and about the same, or slightly larger in width.

Land Snails and Slugs of the Pacific Northwest

If you’re not sure how to identify them, you can always pick up a reference book for your region such as Land Snails and Slugs of the Pacific Northwest by Thomas E. Burke and William P. Leonard, available on Amazon.

Collect them at night (see Handpicking above) and place in an escape-proof bin. Sweeten them for one week with a diet of people-friendly food like lettuce, basil, carrots, melons, apples, and so on. This will improve their flavor and clean out their digestive tracts.

After sweetening, purge for two more days with no food or water.

After purging, place the snails in a lidded quart jar and put them in the fridge for about an hour – this will put them into a deep sleep before cooking.

To cook, par-boil for three minutes, drain, and remove shells. Rinse in water, followed by a bit of vinegar. Then prepare the little buggers following this delicious recipe for Bourguignonne escargot .

This is karma at its sweetest!

Of course, if you do plan to use this particular method of gastropod management, your garden should be free of all pesticides – including the so-called “safe” slug and snail baits.

A Safe Slug Bait?

At present, there are three different types of commercial slug baits sold in North America.

The traditional molluscicide in use since the 1930s uses metaldehyde, which has a highly toxic profile for pets and wildlife, and can find its way into waterways during heavy rainfalls – not a great option for anyone who’s looking for a safe, ecologically sound method to limit gastropod damage.

In the mid-1990s, a new molluscicide (available under various brand names) arrived on the market that uses iron phosphate as the active killing ingredient.

According to the EPA, iron (ferric) phosphate is considerably less toxic to pets, birds, worms, and other garden friendlies, and is generally regarded as safe (GRAS). But, it’s also fairly slow acting and can take up to a week to kill gastropods.

To speed up the killing action, an inert ingredient known as ferric sodium EDTA (sodium ferric ethylenediaminetetraacetate) was added to some iron phosphate baits – and is also sold as the primary killing compound in other brands.

However, ferric sodium can be toxic to pets and wildlife such as aquatic arthropods, and should not be used in or near aquatic environments.

If you do choose to use commercial baits, read the label carefully for toxic ingredients, and follow application instructions closely. And consider taking steps to keep pets away from these baits.

The Trail Stops Here

Slugs and snails are persistent in their foraging, so you’ll need to match their efforts.

Use a combination of traps and bait, handpicking, barriers, repellents, and predators to effectively control their environment and routines – and your plants won’t be bothered by the gooey little pests again!

Thanks for reaching out with your concerns Deb, and for the photos of those nasty snails – it was a great topic idea!

What about you folks, do you have any garden problems or questions you’d like to see addressed in an article? If so, drop us a line in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

We love providing solutions to your gardening concerns, and have a host of experienced and expert writers to help you out!


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Photos by Deb Sanders. Used with permission. Uncredited photos: .

About Lorna Kring

A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!

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