Slimy, gross, and annoying, slugs have few benefits and many disadvantages. Learn more about getting rid of slugs in your garden and preventing them from coming back.
How to get rid of slugs in the garden? To get rid of slugs, start by visiting your garden at night when they are most likely to be out. Search in damp areas and under leaves to gather them. Then, set up beer traps or layout coffee grounds, sawdust, or eggshells to prevent slugs from getting into your garden.
Are slugs good for the garden?
Even though slugs are a major pain for most gardeners, they do have some benefits. Slugs feed off plant matter and as they digest this, they leave behind extra nitrogen for your garden.
You can think of slugs as working similar to earthworms. They take unwanted debris in your garden and turn it into fertilizer.
Slugs also work on the other end of the food cycle. Birds, frogs, snakes, and some insects eat slugs.
Why do I have so many slugs in my garden?
Slugs like a particular ecosystem and if your garden has all these attributes, then they will think they’re right at home.
Slugs need moisture to stay alive. If they are in a dry, hot area, it will only be a matter of hours before they will die. If you have a garden that has a leaky hose or you just prefer to keep your soil continuously damp, slugs will naturally seek out this moisture.
During the day, slugs need a cool, dark place to live. The more dark, damp areas you have around your garden, the more slugs you will have.
The area at the base of garden sheds, which are usually perpetually in darkness, will attract slugs. Underneath potting containers is also a special favorite of slugs.
If you are worried about a surplus slug population in your garden, take a look around your yard to inventory these dark areas. Then if you can, take steps to brighten up your garden.
Slugs need to eat and are especially attracted to old plant growth or new plant growth that is fragile. While many gardeners leave old plant growth to naturally compost itself, you can try to deter slugs by placing these old plants in a compost bin.
The weaker or newer your plants are, the easier it is for slugs to eat them. Cover new lettuces and other plants with a netted cover to prevent slugs from getting too close. Make sure your soil is full of nutrients to create healthy plants.
Lack of predators
Do slugs have free reign over your garden? Are they worried about swooping birds or frogs?
The more biodiverse your garden is, the smaller the slug population will be. Use other animals in nature to help you control your slug population.
What attracts slugs to an area?
Slugs need their bodies to be damp in order to stay alive. Any time you have a damp or moist area, slugs will naturally congregate in this area.
Add in a food or water supply, and slugs will be even happier. Slugs eat plant leaves, earthworms, and plant debris, which can be found in all gardens.
How do I get rid of slugs in my garden?
Birds love to eat slugs so if you can bring more birds to your garden, you can give your avian friends a snack and protect your plants. Start by making an area that will attract birds.
Bushes with berries provide a food source and fountains provide a water source. Hedges and shrubs can be a nesting area or at the very least a shady area to rest.
Frogs and toads especially like slugs, so if you have a larger garden you can think about installing a pond to attract these amphibians. The fewer barriers you have in your garden, such as fences, the easier it is for wildlife to travel, which will create a natural ecosystem that includes animals that eat slugs.
Create healthy soil
Plant health starts at the roots, so the healthier your soil is, the stronger your plants will be. Slugs want an easy meal and will gravitate toward plants that are unhealthy or weak.
Add compost to your garden to increase the nutrients in your soil. You can also use well-rotted manure to keep the area healthy.
Remove at night
To be the most productive at removing slugs from your garden, pick a time when they are most likely to come out. Slugs don’t like the hot, dryness of afternoons, so they are more likely to explore your garden just after dusk.
Use a flashlight to look for slug trails and be sure to check the underside of leaves. Have a bucket ready to drown them in and if you want, use a pair of gloves to lessen the ick factor.
If you want to make slug removal easier, lay a trap for them during the day so that at night it is even easier to find them. If you place food, such as bread rolls or vegetable leaves in one area, the slugs will gather and you can more easily collect them.
Look for eggs
Slugs lay their eggs in the spring and the fall so be on alert as finding and destroying eggs can prevent a lot of headaches in the summer. Slug eggs are small and look like translucent, white eggs.
Slugs lay their eggs in dark, moist areas, such as under containers and at the bottom of fences. You can either destroy the eggs right away or leave them in an open spot so that other insects can make a meal out of them.
Feed them bran
Slugs love bran which seems counterintuitive to spoil these unwanted pests. However, if slugs eat too much bran they become, well, sluggish.
Slugs will move slower as they try to get back to their hiding areas. In the meantime, birds will see them and be treated to a feast.
You don’t have to use fancy beer for this to work; instead, a cheap, hoppy beer will be just fine. Bury a container in your soil so just the rim is exposed.
Fill half the container with beer and the slugs will be attracted to the smell. Then, they will fall into the beer and won’t be able to escape. You will need to empty the traps each day.
Just be sure to place the beer traps around the edge of your garden. If you place them inside your garden, the slugs will munch on your produce on the way to the trap.
Grow plants with texture
Slugs are attracted to plants that have smooth leaves and stems. If you have plants that have a leathery or hairy texture to them, slugs will avoid them. Strong scents, such as garlic, will also repel slugs.
How to prevent slugs from coming back to my garden
If you don’t want slugs to get into your garden, the easiest solution is to create a barrier that slugs won’t want to cross. Slugs are highly sensitive so it’s best if you can combine multiple senses into one barrier.
Crushed eggshells are an easy way to prevent slugs from getting into your garden. The sharp edges can hurt the slugs, so they won’t want to cross over them.
Also known as DE, diatomaceous earth is made from the remains of fossilized aquatic organisms. The material is incredibly rough and while it won’t kill slugs, it will prevent them from crossing through the substance.
While copper wire won’t hurt humans, it will give slugs a slight shock thanks to its slimy surface. The shock won’t kill slugs, but it will be an unpleasant feeling, so slugs will avoid the area.
Slugs don’t like to move over anything that is rough or dry, two characteristics that sawdust has. You can spread sawdust or wood shavings around your garden for a natural barrier.
Almost every household will have coffee grounds so why not put them to good use? Sprinkle the grounds around your garden as the smell and texture will deter slugs.
As a bonus, coffee grounds are good for your garden and will naturally add more nutrients to the soil.
Use mesh in containers
If you are worried about slugs, place a layer of mesh in your containers before adding your plants. The mesh will allow water to drain but will prevent slugs from getting into the containers through the hole.
Water in the morning
Try switching to morning watering so that your plants still get enough hydration but their soil is on the dryer side when it comes to nighttime. This way, the soil will be dry during the night, which is when slugs come out. If your soil is dry, they will move elsewhere.
Slugs are attracted by damp, dark areas, an abundance of food options, and a lack of predators. After dark, collect slugs from your garden and then set up barriers such as eggshells and beer traps to prevent them from coming back.