12 ways to get rid of slugs naturally

get rid of garden slugs
© J.R. Sosky

Get rid of slugs (and snails) without the use of pesticides that harm beneficial creatures and pollute our waterways.

I’ve always loved slugs and snails for their cute storybook-character looks and because they’re just cool little creatures. But slugs and snails in the garden eating the things that I want to eat; this I do not love. Because along with those adorable optic tentacles comes a voracious mouth that files through leaves and fruit, ruining it for the rest of us.

While there are all kinds of slug-killing concoctions available, using toxic pesticides is bad for beneficial insects and bad for our waterways. So instead, if you are suffering from an assault of slugs, try one of these instead.

1. Allow natural predators to thrive


Since invasive species are not fun, we should all be wary of introducing new kinds of creatures to an ecosystem unless they are native and would be there anyway. That said, you can encourage native slug-hungry predators to inhabit your garden. For example, birds love slugs, so you could install a bird bath. Who else likes slugs? Ducks, chickens, nematodes, frogs, salamanders, newts, toads, snakes, turtles, hedgehogs, shrews, praying mantises, ground beetles, rove beetles, and fireflies, for starters.

2. Catch and release with a “hiding place” trap

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

3. Set up a beer trap

Works for frat boys and slugs! (Just kidding, we don’t want to drown frat boys in beer.) This is cruel and leads to slug death, but if you are desperate, here goes. Bury an open container so that the rim is level with the ground and put about an inch of beer in it. The slugs will dive into this shallow beer pool and meet their hasty demise. Check the trap each morning and clean it out as necessary.

4. Employ grapefruit halves

After eating grapefruit halves, place the empty peels, open side down, near plants that the slugs are drawn to. Slugs and other pest friends will take cover in the fruity domes and in the morning, voila. If you want to feed the birds, you can offer them a slug breakfast in a citrus bowl.

5. Use ouchie eggshells

Scatter broken eggshells in a perimeter around slug favorites. The sharp edges are not comfortable on those soft slimy bodies. The eggshells will decompose and benefit the soil, as well.

6. Put old coffee grounds to use

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

7. Sprinkle sand about

If you are made uncomfortable by the feeling of sand stuck to your feet, imagine how a slug feels with those tiny shards of sand sticking into its body. Scatter it around plants in the spring; it will also help the soil retain moisture.

8. Make tiny copper fences

Lore has it that copper shocks slugs; though I haven’t seen much science behind that theory. Whatever the magic, copper tubing, flashing, or tape works as an excellent barrier in keep slugs at bay. You can put it around certain plants or around whole beds – just be sure to have previously trapped all the slugs within the fenced area first.

9. Be vigilant with slug favorites

Plants that take a real licking from slugs include basil, beans, cabbage, dahlia, delphinium, hosta, lettuce, marigolds, strawberries … and well, a whole lot of others. But that’s a start. Pay extra attention to these plants and focus your slug slugging here.

10. Opt for plants that slugs shun

When all else fails, plant a garden that is decidedly not slug friendly; or at least do so in areas where slugs are persistent. Slugs don’t like highly scented things, so go with lavender, rosemary, begonias, and sage. Other slug repellers include ferns, cyclamen, hydrangea, California poppy, nasturtium, and lantana.

11. Companion plant

Strategically placing complimentary plants together is one of the best things ever; Mother Nature is a genius, so why not let her help? You can place sacrificial plants that slugs love near your precious plants to lure them away from the plants you want to save for yourself.

12. Make your garden inhospitable

Slugs love dark and damp, so keeping the garden tidy can reduce places for them to find comfort. In early spring, make sure to rake your garden to remove leaves, debris and slug eggs. Don’t use large wood chips, and do not use mulch deeper than three inches. Since they love moisture, water in the morning so that things have dried up once they start their evening meandering.

Bonus! Since you stayed around to the end, here's some advice: Why you should never ever eat a garden slug.

Sources: University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources; University of Minnesota Extension; The Old Farmer’s Almanac

12 ways to get rid of slugs naturally
Get rid of slugs (and snails) without the use of pesticides that harm beneficial creatures and pollute our waterways.

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