What Stops Slugs Eating Plants

by | Plants and Trees, Slugs, Slugs & Snails

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If slugs are eating your new little seedlings, bulbs’ shoots, vegetables, or even fully grown plants, it’s time try a few tactics to stop them in their slimy trails.

To stop slugs from eating your plants, try to kill slugs before they hatch or come out of hibernation. Once slugs are in your garden, you can attract other animals or insects that eat slugs, sprinkle iron phosphate slug pellets on garden beds, or use copper to keep slugs away from precious plants.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to stopping slugs, but we can use different techniques to see what works best in our garden. I did a little research and decided to make this easy reference list with every slug-stopping method I could find.

And here they are:

Keep turning your soil

Slugs lay their eggs in damp soil, where their eggs won’t dry out.

Rake your garden and turn the soil as often as you can, then leave the soil to dry out. This dries out damp soil and any wet debris, so slugs aren’t attracted to your garden in the first place. It also kills any hibernating slugs and their eggs.

Be sure to use a fork to turn over the soil, especially along borders of the beds.

Stop watering so much

Wet soil makes it easier for slugs to slide along the ground, saves them energy because they don’t have to produce so much slime to make a trail, helps keep sleeping slugs’ bodies moist, and is a great place to lay slug eggs that won’t dry out.

Slugs love wet soil – the drier your garden soil is, the less slugs you’ll have eating your plants.

This is why you should only water when necessary and water in the morning.

In fact, you can cut slug damage by up to 80% just by watering in the morning. If you do, the soil will have time to dry out during the day while the slugs are sleeping. When the slugs wake up at night the soil will be dry, and they’ll have to move on to find wetter soil elsewhere.

You can also switch from a sprinkler to a drip hose, so your soil is never very wet. If you still want to water your own plants, water them at the base and make sure the soil is well drained.

Keep your plants spaced apart so the sun can reach the soil and dry it out.

Cover your plants

One of the easiest and most effective ways to stop slugs from eating your plants and bulbs is to cover them. This works very well for small and tender young plants, which is exactly what slugs love to feast on.

You need to be very strict about going out in the late afternoon, before slugs become active, and covering your plants for the night. If you’re too late or you forget to do this and you have a slug problem, there’s a good chance slugs will find their way to our plants.

To cover plants, use a cloche, plastic sheeting, netting, old bed sheets or pillow cases, towels, blankets, drop cloths, newspapers, or an enclosed tent (Amazon links). In fact, you can use anything that covers your plants completely and doesn’t have any holes that slugs can get through.

Use stakes or hoops to keep soft covering lifted over your plants, so the covering doesn’t weigh down the plants or damage them.

Attract animals and insects that eat slugs

What stops slugs eating plants - Blog

Even though probable will never be able to get rid of all the slugs in your garden, you can do your best to keep the slug population down. And fewer slugs means less damage to your plants.

There are many animals and insects that eat slugs. If you attract these natural predators into your garden, they will eat the slugs for you. If you’re going to let mother nature take care of your slug problem, don’t ever put down snail pellets or bait with metaldehyde in them because these animals will get poisoned when they eat the poisoned slugs in your garden.

Here’s a list of animals and insects that love eating slugs:

  • Badgers – Make a small hole in your garden fence to let them in
  • Beetles (larvae and adults)
  • Birds, like thrushes
  • Centipedes
  • Chickens – Adopt chickens that are free to run around during the day. You can even train your chickens to eat slugs by tossing slugs into their run so they know that slugs make good food
  • Chipmunks
  • Ducks
  • Earwigs
  • Firefly larvae
  • Frogs
  • Geese
  • Hedgehogs – Make a small hole in the fence to let them into your garden
  • Lightning bugs (glow worms)
  • Lizards
  • Moles
  • Nematodes
  • Newts
  • Salamanders
  • Shrews
  • Skunks
  • Slowworms (legless lizards)
  • Snakes
  • Toads
  • Tortoises
  • Turtles
  • Wasps

If you don’t believe that wasps eat slugs (wasps eat many pesky garden pests – here’s the full list), below is a video of a wasp eating a garden slug:

Pick slugs by hand

Sometimes the best way to stop slugs from eating your plants is to go out there and pick them off your plants yourself – that’s if you aren’t squeamish!

At night, go outside with a flashlight and look for slugs on your plants. Pick off any slugs that you can find and throw them into a bucket of soapy water to kill them.

Slugs look like snails, but they don’t have a hard outer shell on their back like snails.

Plant herbs that slugs stay away from

To keep slugs away from your plants, surround your plants with herbs that slugs don’t like such as:

  • Anise
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Fennel
  • Ginger
  • Sage
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Plant these herbs in a circle around your plants or vegetables, or between plants to keep slugs away. For extra protection, make a mixture with crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, and rosemary together. Sprinkle this mixture on the ground around your plants to keep slugs away.

If you have the time and the patience (and a lot of chives to waste), tie chive leaves near to the ground around the stems of any plants that slugs are eating. Some gardeners claim that this stops slugs from climbing up the stem to eat the plant.

Use safe slug pellets

Some slug pellets are made with metaldehyde which does kill slugs, but metaldehyde pellets can also hurt pets and any animals that eat the pellets or eat slugs that have eaten these pellets. It’s best to stay away from these more traditional slug pellets.

Organic slug pellets are made with iron phosphate (or ferric phosphate – they are the same thing), which kills slugs. But iron and phosphate are also good for your plants and garden in general, and they won’t harm your pets or other animals in the garden.

Organic pellets are a great way to fight slugs in your garden. Just be sure to follow the directions on the packaging for the recommended amount to use.

When the sun starts setting on a warm, sunny day, sprinkle the pellets sparingly on top of the dry soil in your garden beds. If possible, do this in Spring to kill any slugs that are hatching or coming out of hibernation.

Use an electric fence

Raised garden beds are very effective at keeping animals out, but you may need to take some extra steps to keep out slugs.

If you have raised garden beds, you can easily make your own electric slug fence. Here’s a video that shows you how to build your own electric slug and snail fence in four easy steps:

Tools and materials you’ll need to make an electric snail fence:

Zap slugs with copper

It’s thought that a slug’s mucus reacts to copper and this gives the slug a light electric shock when it touches copper.

Copper can stop slugs from crossing into an area but slugs can cross over in other ways, such as when a plant’s leaves grow long enough to touch the leaves of anoher plant. Slugs can then reach the plant by crossing over on the leaves. Be sure to keep your plants trimmed and not let them touch each other.

Here are some ways to use copper to stop slugs from eating your plants:

Put copper foil, flashing or mesh around plants, greenhouses, garden beds, raised beds, plant pot rims, pet bowls, water tanks, and outdoor furniture to stop slugs from eating your plants because slugs can’t cross the copper barrier.

Put pots on a copper grill mat

Sprinkle copper fragments on the soil around plants that slugs love eating.

Glue copper pennies around the edge of a garden bed, without leaving any space between them

Copper products available on Amazon (Affiliate links)

Grow plants in pots

If you are a fan of container gardening, then you’ll find it even easier to stop slugs from eating your plants.

If you have plants in pots that slugs are eating, you can try the following methods to keep them away from your plants:

  • Fill the drainage trays with sharp gravel to stop slugs from getting into your pots in the first place
  • Use feet to lift your pots off the ground and make it harder for slugs to access your plants
  • Put copper around the rims of pots or on the feet that elevate the pots
  • Put pots on copper mats
  • Rub petroleum jelly or spray WD40 around the bottom of your pots so slugs lose traction and can’t climb all the way to the top

Sprinkle deterrents on the soil

Slugs must crawl along the ground to get to your plants. They prefer wet, flat soil when they move along the ground. Sharp things on the soil can cut their body or make it uncomfortable for slugs to move along the ground, so sprinkling sharp things on the soil around your plants can stop slugs from getting to your plants.

Here are some things you can try sprinkling on the ground around your plants to stop slugs from eating them:

  • Coarse perlite
  • Coarse sand
  • Coffee grounds (gardeners have mixed results when they use coffee grounds, but it’s worth a try)
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Crushed seashells
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Fur
  • Hair from your hair brush
  • Lava rock
  • Pine needles
  • Sandpaper
  • Straw
  • Vermiculite
  • Wood ash, wood chips, or wood shavings

Wash away trails

When a slug moves, it leaves a slimy trail behind it. When another slug finds this trail, it follows the trail. Slugs follow slug trails to find a slug to mate with or save energy by using a trail that’s already there.

This means that when a slug makes its way into your garden, other slugs will find its trail and follow suit.

If you see a silver, slimy slug trail in your garden, sprinkle it with baking soda to dry it out. Then sweep it up or wash it with warm, soapy water.

Set a trap to catch slugs

If you can catch slugs, you can get rid of them.

Slugs are active at night. When the sun starts coming up, they find a place to hide and sleep for the day. You can set a trap to catch them when they’re out looking for food at night or when they find a hiding place to sleep in during the day.

Here are some of the ways to set traps and catch slugs in your garden:

How to make a flat slug bed

Get sheets of wood, pieces of cardboard, carpeting blocks, or even plastic sheets. Place these on the soil around the plants that slugs are eating, to make an attractive bed for them.

Slugs will eat the plants at night then hide under in your slug bed during the day.

Every morning, check your slug bed and collect any slugs sleeping under there.

How to make a raised slug bed

To make a slug trap, turn over an empty flower pot.

Place it on the ground near the plants that are being eaten, and prop up one side of the pot with a stone.

Check the pot every morning to collect any slugs sleeping in the pot.

How to make a beer trap

In the evening, water your garden well and set a beer trap by placing a small plastic bowl in the ground near the plants the slugs are eating.

Put the bowl deep enough to leave 1 inch above the ground, so other insects like rove beetles that eat slugs don’t fall into your trap. Or you can cover the trap with a loose lid to stop other insects from falling in.

Fill the bowl halfway with fresh beer.

Check the beer trap in the morning to see if there are any slugs in it. If the trap works and is catching slugs, put fresh beer in the trap every night until you no longer find slugs in the morning.

If you don’t want to make a slug beer trap, you can buy beer traps from Amazon

I'm Monique. I love gardening and spending time in my backyard growing things. Here's where I share what I know about backyard pests and what to do about them, so you can enjoy your yard too.

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Monique loves gardening and spending time in her backyard, where she grows flowers, succulents, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Monique spends a lot of time researching how to protect her backyard from harmful pests and trying to attract beneficial insects and animals.

She shares everything that she learns and tests here at Backyard Pests.


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