Slugs can be real nuisances to gardens. While some slugs in your garden are good for transforming the soil into nutrient-rich fertilizer, too many pose a threat to your plants.
There are plenty of chemicals out there that will decrease the slug population in your garden, but many gardeners find that these chemicals are too harsh and damage their plants and soil while getting rid of slugs. Plus, most insecticides are useless against mollusks like snails and slugs and end up harming insects beneficial to your garden, such as butterflies and bees.
Fortunately, there are plenty of natural, organic ways to repel slugs from your garden. The rest of this article will tell you everything you need to know about each of these methods, the science behind how they work as a natural pest repellant, and steps on how to apply each method to your garden.
Non-Lethal Options for Getting Rid of Slugs
The following 19 methods are ways to repel slugs without directly killing them. These methods rely on natural deterrents or natural predators to rid slugs from your garden.
1. Surround your garden with plants that naturally deter slugs
By forming a barrier around your garden of plants that naturally deter slugs, slugs are unlikely to pass the unsavory plants to travel to the plants inside the barrier.
What plants deter slugs? There are quite a few.
- Foxglove – these tall, elegant plants with their bell-shaped blooms produce toxins that naturally repel slugs. They have the added benefit of attracting bees and have tall, graceful stems that will add layers and vibrant colors to your garden.
- Important note: foxglove is highly poisonous to humans, so reconsider adding it to your garden if you have small children or pets
- Japanese anemone – these pastel-colored beauties resemble daisies and don’t taste good to slugs
- Daylilies – the furry stems are unpleasant and difficult for slugs to climb, and their large, colorful blooms add a splash of color to any garden
- Astrantia – the scent produced by these delicate white blooms acts as a natural slug repellant
- Herbs – the powerful scents produced by many herbs deter slugs, who can’t tolerate the smells
- Salvias – these colorful flowers, with small blooms that bud along tall, slender stems, are naturally aromatic and deter slugs
- Succulents – the waxy and sometimes spiky texture is unpleasant and difficult for slugs to climb over
2. Add a layer of bark, gravel, or woodchips to your garden beds
The rough, dry textures of bark, gravel, and wood chips are difficult for slugs to slide over to get to plants. Slugs naturally want to avoid any textures that are difficult and unpleasant for them, so adding a ground cover of gravel, bark, or wood chips over your soil will serve as a natural slug deterrent.
3. Water your garden early in the morning
Slugs and snails are active at night, and if you water your garden in the afternoon or evening, the moist nighttime soil provides fertile territory (no pun intended) for these garden pests to breed, lay eggs, and feed.
Watering your garden early in the morning, preferably around 8 or 9 am, gives the topsoil plenty of time to dry out before nightfall. And dry soil is not conducive to slug activity, as it makes your plants much more difficult for them to get to.
4. Add copper to your garden
Copper reacts with slugs’ slime and creates an unpleasant electric shock when their bodies come in contact with the metal. It goes without saying that this is quite the incentive to find someplace else to eat.
The most convenient way to add copper to your garden is by applying copper adhesive tape along the edges and rims of your garden beds. It can also be applied to the edges of potted plants.
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Copper tape is available at most garden stores and online.
If you have a lot of extra pennies lying around, you can glue the pennies around your garden beds for a similar result.
5. Remove potential shelter for slugs
Logs, large stones, and garden sculptures provide shelter for slugs. Remove as many of these things as possible from your garden so there are fewer places in your garden for slugs to hide.
6. Sprinkle crushed eggshells around your garden beds
Crushed eggshells have sharp edges, which are painful for slugs to climb over. Break the shells into small pieces and scatter them around your plants. They will also biodegrade and add extra nutrients to your soil.
7. Add sacrificial plants to your garden
Adding a barrier of plants that slugs naturally love to eat around your garden is a great idea, though a downside is that the slugs will eventually eat through the sacrificial plants and make their way to the plants you are trying to protect.
Lettuce and cabbage are great plants you can use to attract slugs and deter them from your other plants.
8. Sprinkle coffee grounds in your garden
Coffee grounds, with their bitter taste and scent, are a natural deterrent to slugs and add extra nutrients to your soil. Sprinkle them around your plants and in your soil.
9. Set citrus traps
Slugs love citrus. Make sure to save your lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange peels and scatter them around your garden before nightfall. By the morning, you will find many slugs are still feasting on the rinds. Gather the slug-covered peels and move them far from your garden.
10. Create a prickly barrier
Creating a prickly barrier around your garden is an effective and natural way to keep slugs away from your plants. Slugs are soft-bodied mollusks that are sensitive to sharp, abrasive textures.
To create a prickly barrier, you can use pine needles, coarse sand, pinecones, and thorny twigs to keep slugs away from your garden. If your climate allows, you can plant cactuses around your garden, as well.
11. Set a lure
This technique works like the citrus trap, in which you intentionally lure slugs to congregate in one area so you can remove them in large numbers from your garden at once.
A lure can be made with many different foods that slugs like, such as lettuce leaves or cat food. Place them in a dish and set the dish in a corner of your garden. Early in the morning, you should see quite a few of the pests in the dish.
Make sure to move the slugs far from your garden or leave them out in the open for birds and other predators.
Lethal Options for Getting Rid of Slugs
The methods listed below are still natural and organic but work by killing the slugs instead of merely deterring them.
1. Sprinkle salt and baking soda in your garden
Salt and baking soda are simple and accessible household items that prove a simple solution to your slug problem. Each of the ingredients reacts violently with slugs’ bodies and quickly kills them.
2. Set beer traps
For this method, you can either place half-full beer cans under each of your plants or fill a shallow dish with beer. The slugs are attracted to the yeast in the beer and will climb into the dish and drown.
3. Spray with homemade slug repellant
This tip comes in both lethal and non-lethal varieties.
Cold coffee is a good way to either deter or kill slugs, depending on how you apply it to your garden. Spray your plants and soil with cold coffee to repel slugs, as the bitterness keeps them away. To kill the slugs, spray the coffee directly on the slugs’ bodies.
For another non-lethal homemade slug repellant, simply mix garlic and water and spray on your plants and soil.
4. Add nematodes to soil
These micro-organisms dwell in the soil and are naturally parasitic to slugs. Mix the nematodes with water and apply them to the soil.
Unfortunately, these nematodes are currently only available in the U.K. and are sold as a product called Nemaslug.
5. Attract slugs’ natural predators to your garden
One popular option is to let the life cycle naturally take care of your slug problem. Remove barriers that potentially keep slugs’ natural predators from your garden and let nature do its work.
You can also work to create an environment that is welcoming to these predators. To attract birds, add birdhouses and feeders around your garden and yard. Create habitats that invite amphibians to the garden.
Natural predators to slugs are listed below:
- ground beetles
6. Add ducks to your backyard
If you have the space, getting ducks is always a great way to rid slugs from your garden. Ducks love to eat slugs, and their manure is great for composting.
An added benefit is that you’ll get to enjoy fresh duck eggs alongside a slug-free garden!
These are just a few of the ways you can work to lessen the slug problem in your garden. Using a few of these options together is often the best way to naturally and effectively reduce your slug population without resorting to harsh chemicals.
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