Photo by Woodlouse

How to Get Rid of Slugs in the Garden | Quick Guide to Organic Slug Control

Slugs are persistent plant-feeders that will feast on the leaves or fruits of just about any plant. They thrive in cool, damp conditions and have the potential to be very destructive, so using a combination of natural preventative measures and DIY treatment methods is key to keeping your harvest safe.

What are slugs?

Slugs are small, slimy mollusks that resemble snails without shells. They belong to the Mollusca phylum and are pests for two primary reasons: they leave unsightly slime trails wherever they go (which is usually on your plants and soil) and they eat the leaves and fruits of plants.

Identifying slugs

Slugs can be tough to spot because they usually come out to feed from dusk to dawn—they don’t like the heat and dryness of the daytime. However, taking a peek at your garden during their peak times to spot the slugs themselves is an easy way to identify them.

If that isn’t an option, look for the goopy white slime and white eggs in your soil first thing in the morning. Of course, you can also look for the telltale shiny slime trails on the leaves of your plants.

How to prevent slugs

As with any pest, prevention is the best and least time-intensive remedy for slugs.

Rake your garden in the spring

This is a smart idea in general, but is especially helpful in unearthing any overwintering slug eggs and pockets of moisture that might attract slugs.

Use deterrents around your plants

Copper tape or sheeting is an excellent slug deterrent, as are wood ashes—and the latter is also a nice nutrient supplement for your soil.

Try companion planting

There are two approaches to companion planting. The first uses plants that deter slugs around the perimeters of a garden or interspersed with vegetable plants. Garlic and rosemary are strong slug deterrents.

try companion planting slugs

The second uses plants that slugs like more than prized tomato or bean plants so they will (ideally) eat your secondary plants instead. Try marigolds, hostas, or pansies.

Only water when necessary

This technique only works if you have plants that don’t require constant moisture. However, because slugs are attracted to moisture, those with a persistent slug problem may find it useful not to keep their soil saturated at all times. Instead, only water when the soil starts getting dry, and don’t soak the soil.

Some people also find success by watering only in the morning—that way, the water dissipates significantly by the slugs’ normal feeding time and creates a less hospitable environment.

How to manage a slug infestation

If you’ve already got slugs, all hope is not lost. Slugs are comparatively easy to eradicate and rarely become so widespread that they can destroy an entire garden. Organic methods are slightly more labor intensive but just as effective as non-organic methods of treatment.

Organic slug treatment methods

  1. Make an alcohol solution: Mix either rubbing alcohol or ethanol with water and spray it over the affected plants. You can also spray it directly on the slugs. Alcohol kills slugs and other mollusks.
  2. Use beer: The tasty beverage attracts and kills slugs through drowning. Place open containers of it throughout the affected areas of your garden to combat slug populations.
  3. Catch them by hand: If you’re willing to get a little slimy, hand-picking slugs in the case of a mild slug infestation can be very effective. Just be sure to kill them (you can use soap and water) or dispose of them offsite so they don’t come back. Go out to the garden between sunset and sunrise to access the most slugs.
  4. Move them to your compost: If mass slug destruction isn’t up your alley, you can also put the pests to good use. They’re very useful in composting, so handpick or trap the slugs and then place them in your compost pile—as long as it’s far enough away from your garden that they won’t just crawl back.slugs compost

Inorganic treatment methods

There are also pesticides available to kill or deter slugs, and one of the most popular is a product called “Defender”. These products can be bought in ordinary garden supply stores and come in either a powdered, granulated, or liquid form. Spread them on the affected areas of your garden as indicated by the manufacturer, usually after a rainstorm when many slugs are present.

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