12 Ways to Get Rid of Slugs Naturally

Get rid of garden slugs (and snails) without the use of pesticides.

natural ways to get rid of slugs

Treehugger / Alex Dos Diaz

I’ve always loved slugs and snails for their cute storybook-character looks and because they’re just cool 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, consider one of these natural alternatives 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. Use the Catch-and-Release Method

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

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 Broken Eggshells

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

6. Put Used Coffee Grounds to Work

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 Around Plants

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 is believed to provide an excellent barrier to 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. Remove 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. Use Companion Plants

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 companion 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. (Just remember that you are removing habitat for other creatures as well, so do it thoughtfully.) 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 the slug patrol begins its evening meandering.

View Article Sources
  1. How to get rid of slugs and snails in the garden. The Old Farmer's Almanac.

  2. Oregon State University. Managing slugs and snails.

Additional Reading