Slugs and Snails
Slugs are one of the most hated of garden pests. You may have spent time carefully planting
out your seedlings into the bed, but when you return next morning, you find chewed leaves, the growing points
nibbled away and a mass of slimy trails all around. All clear evidence that slugs, or sometimes snails, have been
enjoying a nocturnal feast at your expense.
Slugs thrive in moist temperate conditions and feed at night when
temperatures are greater than 50°F. They love mild winters, wet springs, moist summers, and irrigation. When you
look at ways of protecting your plants, the large number of defences and remedies that have been suggested
indicates the extent of the problem.
Since slugs need somewhere to hide during the day, the first line of defense is to keep your garden
tidy and remove any flat stones, boards, pots or piles of damp plant refuse. Once you have achieved this, here is a
list of other methods that you can try:
Slugs dislike rough surfaces so sprinkle crushed eggshells, sharp grit, lime or Diatomaceous Earth
around the stems of your plants. Copper strips are also an effective barrier since contact produces an electrical
charge which slugs dislike. Copper wire shaped into a tight conical spiral with the narrow end buried in the soil
is an alternative. In each case make sure that there are no slugs inside the barrier when you put it in place.
Collect by hand and destroy by sprinkling with salt or dunking in a bucket of soapy water.
This is best done after dark.
Trap by placing small pieces of board or flat stones near your plants. Each morning check
the traps and dispose of all slugs that you find.
Beer trap. Sink a small bowl into the bed and fill with a mixture of beer and water. Slugs
are attracted by the smell and will fall in and drown. Some people have found non-alcholic beer to be more
effective. Keep the bowl covered to prevent other creatures taking the bait. There is a commercial version called
Slug-X which can just be placed on the surface of the soil.
Treats. Place grapefruit peel or old lettuce leaves near the plants you are trying to
protect in the hopes that the slugs will be distracted. Another suggestion is to plant marigolds in the bed since
slugs love these and so will ignore your favored plants. However others claim that slugs seem to avoid plants with
strong-smelling foliage, such as marigolds.
Iron Phosphate granules. These granules have a wheat aroma to attract slugs. After eating
them, slugs stop feeding, dry out, and die within a few days. This is a non-toxic product which is available
commercially as Sluggo.
Chemical treatments include ammonia. Dilute with an equal quantity of water and spray on
soil and leaves - test each plant first by spraying on a small section and leaving for a couple of days. The other
chemical is metaldehyde which is sold as slug pellets. This is not recommended since it is harmful to birds and
Encourage your local wildlife to do the job for you. Birds, frogs and toads will all eat
slugs. So feed the birds and welcome frogs into your garden pond.
Water your plants in the morning so that the foliage will not stay damp overnight.
If all else fails, change your plants. In general, slugs dislike anything with leaves that
are glossy, waxy or hairy so that there is quite a long list of slug-resistant plants that you can choose as an
alternative. As with many aspects of gardening, you will often find that choosing plants that are suited to the
soil conditions in your garden will produce the best results. If this means growing flowers that that tend to be
ignored by slugs, you will have a far easier time than if you have to wage a constant battle to protect plants that
are continually being attacked.