How to Get Rid of Slugs From The Garden
An expert guide
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My garden often resembles a warzone with the slugs on one side and me on the other. In the middle are pellets, traps, deterrents and anything else I can think of.
Unfortunately, these pests love my dahlias, so much so that last year, they nibbled the stems all the way to the ground, but there’s no way I’ll stop growing dahlias!
I’ve noticed that in my garden, the slugs do more damage in the spring than in the summer, and I’ve had good results with some of the products on this page.
Below you’ll find my honest opinion and review of several popular products, all of which I’ve tested in the last five years:
Wool Slug Pellets
Slugs have a wet and slimy underbelly that helps them travel over surfaces such as lawns, patios, decking, concrete and even artificial grass.
This moisture is crucial for the slug, without it, they would dry up and travel nowhere.
It’s also their weakness, as several products are on the market that absorbs moisture from the slug’s underbelly, preventing them from travelling over the product.
Slug Gone by Vitax is a product I tested a few years ago, and the results were mixed, I think it’s best suited to potted plants, but when I used it in my flowerbeds, the slugs just went around it. The only way I could see this product working is by covering the entire bed with wool pellets, but that’s not practical and would cost a fortune.
How They Work: This product contains wool which the slugs in my garden seemed to hate.
Suggested Use: They worked best in my pots, planters and baskets.
Don’t Use On: I have huge flowerbeds, and it just wasn’t practical to carpet the entire area with these wool pellets.
Other Benefits: They also suppressed weeds as they acted like surface mulch.
My Rating: 5/10
Nematodes (Natural Predators)
Over the years, I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to eliminate slugs and snails is to introduce natural predators into the garden.
Nematodes are microscopic worms that are invisible to the naked eye, they occur naturally and enter the slug’s body and multiply. The slugs then stop eating and die, usually within a day or so and often after they burrow underground.
Each pack contains a powder that the gardener adds to water and then it’s just a case of watering the lawns and flowerbeds. Surprisingly, each small packet contains over 12 million nematodes.
I’ve used nematodes to kill off many garden pests including lawn grubs and I know they do work but you need to consider this:
- They are alive and I had to store the packet in my fridge to keep them chilled until the weather was suitable.
- If they dry out, they die.
- Each pack contains over 12 million nematodes and treated about 40 square metres of my garden.
- Nematodes won’t live forever and I found that I needed to reapply them.
- I had good results by using them twice in the spring.
- I had issues in the summer, where I suspect they died because the ground was too dry.
Here’s what you need to know:
Use On: Lawns, flowerbeds and vegetable patches.
Don’t Use On: Hard surfaces, pots, or baskets.
Safe For: They won’t harm pets, children, birds or other wildlife.
Effectiveness: I found they kept the slugs at bay for about 4-5 weeks in the spring but they didn’t work in the summer.
My Rating: 8/10
- Effective and fast acting.
- Apply once or twice a year to your entire garden.
- Won’t harm any other wildlife and are natural.
- You’ll need to use them immediately or store them in the fridge.
- When I tested them I found they were ineffective in dry, drought conditions.
- They have a very short shelf life.
Slug Beer Traps
I’ve had moderate success with this method so give it a try.
Slugs love beer, so much so that I’ve seen them climb into glasses filled with this drink, they get drunk and can’t escape, well most of them can’t, some do and wander off.
This is an oldy, but I’ve found it works a treat. In my garden the beer traps attracted slugs from a distance of about half a metre, so I placed them strategically with pellets and wool near the plants and the traps further away so they didn’t attract slugs towards the plants.
All you need to do is dig a small hole in the flowerbed and place a glass in it, so the rim is just above ground level, then fill the glass halfway with beer, it really is that simple. Come back in a day or so to remove the dead slugs and refill the trap.
Easy and effective, I’ve tested beer traps, and they’re a great way to catch slugs but will work best as part of a more complete slug deterrent system that includes nematodes, wool pellets and traditional pellets.
I’ve even seen plastic traps on sale, and they work in the same way as my beer traps.
Use: In flowerbeds but I’ve had better results by placing them away from plants, so they don’t attract slugs towards the plants.
Limitations: I had to empty and refill them with beer every few days, and after every time it rained. They do attract slugs as well.
My Rating: 6/10
Low Toxicity Slug Pesticide Pellets
Slug pellets that contain Metaldehyde are harmful to hedgehogs, birds, other wildlife and many pets which eat the slugs and consume the dangerous chemical.
They were banned in 2019, although the ban was overturned in late 2019 (update, they’re banned again).
Garden centres and most online retailers now sell slug pellets that do not contain Metaldehyde.
An alternative product currently on sale is Ferric Phosphate pellets, I’ve found that these aren’t quite as effective at killing slugs but have lower toxicity and are less harmful, although not entirely safe, for pets and wildlife.
Ferric Phosphate also breaks down into natural fertilisers, and almost all products containing Ferric Phosphate are marketed as organic and suitable for organic farming.
Are these pellets 100% safe? No, if a small animal were to consume a large quantity of them, there would be side effects, but they are safer than Metaldehyde.
The Royal Horticultural Society currently sells these new pellets and advertises them as organic.
I tested these pellets in 2022, and here’s what I found:
- They killed slugs and snails in my garden.
- I had to use more of them compared to the old pellets.
- They dissolved more easily compared to the old pellets and didn’t last as long, especially after rain.
Use On: Flowerbeds, baskets, troughs and pots.
Effectiveness: Very good.
Issues: They didn’t last long in the spring when it was raining.
My Rating: 9/10.
Based on my experience, I think you’ll get good results by using these pellets, but I’ve found that they work best as part of a larger strategy that includes at least one other product. If you have a severe slug infestation, I suggest nematodes as well.
For those of you who wish to learn more about how to get rid of slugs, try these:
Salt is extremely harmful to slugs and kills them quickly, unfortunately, salt dissolves with rainfall and moisture such as morning dew. Daily application is required and it won’t work during heavy rainfall. Salt is also toxic to the soil and will persist, sometimes for years.
Seaweed is naturally salty and deters slugs, it also lasts longer than salt granules. Seaweed is also a natural fertiliser and garden feed.
Hedgehogs love slugs, it’s one of their favourite foods. Unfortunately, far too many gardens are walled and fenced off, this stops the hedgehog from using the garden. Create entrance holes around your garden’s perimeter and leave a hedgehog house or two under shrubs and bushes, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to attract hedgehogs to your garden.
Birds also eat slugs, so why not make your garden as bird-friendly as possible? Bird tables, feeders and seed bowls encourage birds to your garden, where they’ll find and consume tasty slugs.
Slug Killer Products That Don’t Work
During my battles with slugs and snails, I’ve had good results and also some bad ones too.
I’ve found that these don’t work and are a waste fo time:
Caffeine/concentrated coffee is supposed to kill slugs if sprayed onto them or applied to some hard surfaces. I’ve found that it’s not really practical in the long run and didn’t work when I tested it.
Exploding slugs – well that’s what’s supposed to happen when slugs eat cornmeal, the foodstuff apparently expands inside the slug and causes the pest to explode. Another myth busted by myself and team here at DIY Gardening, it didn’t work.
Crushed eggshells (or other sharp objects) – An old myth that’s been around for years. Dozens of blogs and websites claim slugs won’t travel over sharp items such as crushed eggshells. In fact, slugs can slide over much sharper items, including knives and razor blades without any problems at all. Myth busted, I tested it, and eggshells didn’t work.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is used to control small insects with hard shells, several websites claim that it will kill slugs. The Garden Myths site tested DE and it didn’t kill slugs but did deter them to a limited degree. (Shout out to Garden Myths for the insightful research)
Copper is used around plant pots in an effort to stop slugs climbing into the pot and consuming the plants. I couldn’t prove that it worked, and every slug I saw slid over the copper without any issues. Some purchasers on Amazon claim it works very well and have left glowing reviews (see them here) but I couldn’t find any scientific evidence to back up these claims.
Plants That Slugs Don’t Eat
Try these popular plants that slugs won’t eat. I’m currently growing most of these:
- Herbaceous Geraniums
The above list isn’t conclusive, but I have planted and tested these and am confident slugs will leave them alone.
Are slug pellets safe for pets, wildlife and children?
Slug pellets that contain Metaldehyde are harmful to cats, dogs, hedgehogs and dozens of other animals. Ferric phosphate pellets are far less toxic and unlike Metaldehyde which has been detected in drinking water, do not easily dissolve in water.
How long do slugs live for?
There are many species of slugs but in the UK, most slugs reach maturity at age one and live for between two and three years.
How many eggs do slugs lay?
Slugs and snails lay between 30 and 60 eggs around 30 days after mating. This may happen up to 6 times a year.
When are slugs most active?
Slug activity depends on the weather and conditions. Most slugs burrow underground in the winter when the temperature drops below 5°. Slugs are most active from April to October.
How many slugs are there in a typical garden?
The average garden will contain between 100 and 200 slugs for every cubic metre of soil.
Meet The Author: Daniel Woodley
Daniel has over 18 years of experience in the construction, home improvement, and landscape garden industries.
He previously worked as a project manager and has experience in managing teams of tradespeople and landscape gardeners on both small and medium sized projects.
Daniel is also a keen gardener and enjoys growing unusual plants and tending to his lawn.
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Daniel Woodley wrote this guide, and he has a wealth of experience in dealing with slug infestations.
This guide was reviewed and fact-checked by Paul Farly prior to publication.
Explore: Paul’s profile and qualifications.
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