How to Get Rid of Slugs From The Garden
A practical guide to deterring, repelling, trapping and killing garden slugs
Part of the pest control guide by the Team at DIY Gardening
Is your garden inundated with slimy slugs and snails?
These creatures are a serious pest, they destroy seedlings, fruit and vegetable crops, flowers and leaves.
Without adequate control measures, they would damage or destroy entire commercial crop fields. For gardeners, they are a pest and annoyance.
Not every garden suffers from damaging slug infestations, but if your patch is attracting these pests, they can do a lot of costly damage in a very short amount of time.
The good news is you’ve got plenty of options and with a little patience and perseverance, you can eradicate almost all the slugs from your garden.
Check out our guide to getting rid of garden slugs – we’ve also listed pet, wildlife and child-friendly products that you can use with confidence in your garden.
Organic 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.
Slugless is a 100% organic slug pellet that once laid over a surface, will absorb moisture from slugs that attempt to travel over it. The slugs hate this product and will avoid it.
This natural slug repellent is made from straw and nothing else – no nasty chemicals. Slugless will not harm pets, wild animals or children.
The product comes in bag sizes of 1, 3.5, 5, 10 and 20 litres, with the smaller bags suitable for plant pots and the larger bags ideal for flowerbeds and patches.
Once laid in the garden, these pellets will gradually break down over the course of the year and eventually act as a feed for the soil. Slugless is even approved by the UK’s Soil Association, a charity organisation working towards a fertiliser-free and organic future.
This slug repellent also acts as a soil mulch, suppressing weeds and keeping sunlight off the soil, so it stays moist for longer.
Use Slugless in: Flowerbeds, vegetable patches, pots, planters and baskets.
Don’t use on: Lawns, artificial grass, hard surfaces.
Nematodes (Natural Predators)
One of the most effective ways to get rid of slugs and snails is to introduce natural predators into your garden.
Nematodes are microscopic worms that are invisible to the naked eye, the nematodes 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 should be added to water and fed to the garden via a watering can or hose. Surprisingly, each small packet contains over 12 million nematodes.
This is a perishable product and must be applied within 2 weeks after purchase – don’t buy this product until you are ready to use it. Should you need to store nematodes for a few days, do so in a fridge.
Apply to the garden only when the temperature is above 5° and during the growing season of March – September.
Nematodes are 100% safe, natural and organic, they pose no risk to birds, other wild animals, pets or children. They exist naturally in the soil of every country but in smaller quantities.
Each pack treats an area of 40 sq metres and lasts for around 6 weeks so you’ll need to reapply throughout the growing season. Even with less frequent applications, you can expect a significant reduction in the number of slugs in your garden.
We have tested nematodes to get rid of slugs and also ant infestations, they work extremely well and are one of the most effective natural products you can buy.
Use this slug repellent on: Lawns, flowerbeds, vegetable patches, in pots, baskets and planters.
Don’t use on: Hard surfaces.
Create Beer Traps
Slugs love beer, so much so that they’ll 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 it works a treat, the trap will attract slugs from a distance fo about a half a metre so place these traps near sensitive plants that slugs love to consume.
Just dig a small hole in the flowerbed and place a glass so the rim is just above ground level, 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, beer traps are a great way to catch slugs but will work best as part of a more complete slug deterrent system that includes nematodes and wool pellets.
Don’t want to use your glassware in the garden to kill slugs?
We don’t blame you, it’s kinda gross.
You can buy custom made beer traps made from plastic:
Low Toxicity 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. Most garden centres and online retailers now sell slug pellets that do not contain Metaldehyde.
An alternative product currently on sale is Ferric Phosphate pellets, 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:
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.
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.
Products That Don’t Work
Caffeine/concentrated coffee is supposed to kill slugs if sprayed onto them or applied to some hard surfaces. Not really practical in the long run and didn’t work when we 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 the 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, we tested it and eggshells don’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. We couldn’t prove that it worked and every slug we 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 we 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:
- Herbaceous Geraniums
The above list isn’t conclusive, but we have planted and tested these and are 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.
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