How do I stop slugs and snails eating my plants? (Hint

Get rid of slugs (and snails) without the use of pesticides that harm beneficial creatures and pollute our waterways

By Melissa Breyer Melissa Breyer Twitter Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. Learn about our editorial process Updated April 1, 2022

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2. Stop using pesticides on your lawn

Firefly larvae are one of the most prevalent predators of newly hatched slugs, and putting synthetic pesticides on your lawn doesn’t just kill the “bad” bugs, it also kills beneficial insects, such as fireflies, that live in the lawn and help you control pests like slugs. Instead, switch to organic lawn care techniques and let these good bugs help you control slugs naturally.

4. Employ Grapefruit Halves

After eating grapefruit halves, place the empty peels, open side down, near plants that the slugs are drawn to. Slugs and other pest friends will take cover in the fruity domes and in the morning, voila. If you want to feed the birds, you can offer them a slug breakfast in a citrus bowl.

13. Bait snails and slugs with beer

This is another lethal option and should only be used if your goal is to kill the snails. Place a shallow dish or pan of beer in your garden. The snails and slugs will be attracted by the yeast and will crawl into the beer where they will drown and die. Again, this kills the snails instead of just warding them off, so you might want to try some of the other options first.

3. Water your garden in the morning

We know that snails do most of their garden destruction at night. We also know that snails have more difficulty getting around on dry soil than they do on moist soil. So, if we put these two pieces of knowledge together, we have another way to keep snails and slugs out of your garden: watering early in the morning. This gives the top layer of soil more time to dry out before nightfall, which makes it more difficult for snails and slugs to get to your plants.

6. Set up a slug fence

Believe it or not, you can make an electric fence for slugs. Yep, that’s right. Here are plans to make a tiny electric slug fence to place around raised beds and protect the plants from slugs. It runs on a 9 volt battery and zaps the slugs when they come in contact with the fence. It won’t hurt humans or pets and is a great way to protect a raised bed or other small garden.

2. Crack Open a Cold One

Slugs like beer as much as they like the leafy greens of your garden plants. Crack open a beer and pour it into a few margarine tubs, then distribute the containers in various places around the yard, burying them so that about an inch remains above ground. The slugs will be attracted to the scent, crawl into the tubs, and drown overnight. Dispose of the containers the next morning in your trash or compost bin.

How To Prevent Slugs In Your Garden

Once you figure out the methods that work the best to get rid of slugs in your garden, you’ll want to keep them from coming back. Here are a few quick slug prevention tips…

  • Clearing your garden of dead plant materials and debris in the fall can help to prevent slugs from overwintering there.
  • If you have a compost bin, be sure to turn it often to prevent slugs from feeding, hiding, and mating in there.
  • Try using a natural slug repellent made from wool. Slugs don’t like the feeling of it, so it will keep slugs off plants.
  • Slugs prefer areas covered with heavy mulches. So try using a lightweight mulch in the slug-infested areas of your garden instead.
  • Tilling or turning the soil in the fall will help to expose or kill slugs and their eggs.
Slugs eating green bean leaves

Slugs eating green bean leaves

Disrupt and Displace

A good starting point for your slug and snail management program is to disrupt and remove their daytime hidey-holes, to the greatest extent that you’re able to.

Preferred hangouts can be a tall stand of weeds or the underside of just about anything on or close to the ground – particularly in moist, shady areas.

Underneath boards, garden decor, planters, ledges, decks, low-growing branches, pot rims, debris, and protective ground covers are all prime real estate for gastropods.

To disrupt their environment, undercut low branches, burn weeds with a weed torch or trim weeds close to the ground, and remove any unnecessary material they can hide under.

Obviously, some areas like rock walls, decks, meter boxes, permanent bird feeders, and so on can’t be removed – but these spots make good locations to bait and trap.

Barriers

Gastropods have delicate tummy tissue, and any sharp materials will irritate and potentially cut their tender undersides.

For an extra layer of defense, build a small berm at least three inches wide with fine stone chips, crushed egg shells, diatomaceous earth (DE), or crushed oyster and clam shells.

Diatomaceous earth is derived from silicon dioxide and has sharp, abrasive edges. But it must remain dry to deter gliding gastropods.

Use food grade DE, not the material used in aquariums (which has smoother edges), and follow instructions when applying.

What Does Slug Damage Look Like?

Slug damage to plants looks like irregular shaped holes, or ragged edges on the leaves. At their worst, slugs can devour mature plants all the way down to nubs.

They can also eat fruits and vegetables that are still on the plants. That damage looks like perfectly rounded holes, almost like someone used a mini-melon baller on them.

As for small plants and seedlings… well, those can be eaten down to just a stem, or disappear completely overnight. Grr!

Slug damage on leaves of my hostas

Slug damage on leaves of my hostas

Are slugs useful for anything?

It might seem tempting to napalm the slug population after they’ve eaten your strawberries, but slugs aren’t all bad! In fact, a healthy (but well managed!) slug population is good for the garden. Slugs break down garden debris and turn it into nitrogen-rich fertilizer that enhances soil nutrition (similar to worm composting). They also are a natural food source for many beneficial insects, birds, frogs, snakes, and toads.

4 Cheap Ways to Naturally Get Rid of Slugs

Okay, you tried preventative methods, and now you’re ready to get rid of slugs in your garden without the use of synthetic pesticides. Good news! There are a ton of ways to use traps and baits to reduce the slug population in your garden.

Manually Removing Slugs

As we’ve already talked about, slugs aren’t all bad! If you have a small infestation, just head out after dusk with a headlamp and pick those suckers off your plants. Drop them into a bucket of soapy water to kill them immediately, or move them to an area where birds and snakes can eat them—and the circle of life continues!

Plant Trap Crops

Planting trap crops is easily our favorite way to get rid of slugs and many other common garden pests. The gist is this: plant a crop that the slugs REALLY love to enjoy, they choose that plant from the garden buffet, and then you can sacrifice those plants and concentrate your slug removal methods there.

In general, slugs like to eat the tender leaves and shoots of new seedlings, but some plants are irresistible to slugs at any stage of growth. Slugs absolutely love to eat marigolds and basil. A robust border of either (or both) around your garden can go a long way to draw out slugs from your tender seedlings.

Beer Traps to Bait Slugs

Beer Traps to Bait Slugs

The most common piece of advice you’ll get when dealing with slugs is to put out beer traps. Beer traps are easy and cheap to make, and the traps work well because slugs are attracted to the scent of the yeast in the beer. However, we don’t recommend them as a first line of defense. These traps do drown and kill slugs, but they frequently also kill beneficial insects, so we recommend only going this route if you are dealing with an overwhelming infestation.


To make a beer trap, simply take a clean, shallow container (a cleaned-out tuna can, small yogurt container, or butter tub all work really well), and bury it in the ground with about an inch sticking up out of the soil. Fill the can with beer—any beer works, but slugs tend to really like the yeasty smell of darker beers—and then wait for the slugs to crawl in and meet their demise.

Growfully Protip

Empty and refill your beer traps regularly. Slugs are not as attracted to stale beer as they are freshly-poured.

For beer traps to be successful, you need to place them about every 3 feet—which can become quite costly and labor-intensive for larger growing spaces.

Grapefruit Traps to Get Rid of Slugs

Grapefruit (and other citrus fruit) traps are live traps that are less deadly to beneficial insects than beer traps. Enjoy yourself a half of a grapefruit—scooping out the flesh inside. Then place the empty grapefruit half upside down in your garden. Overnight, slugs will be attracted to the sweet scent and take cover in these citrus domes, and in the morning, you can remove the grapefruit half, take it far away from the garden, and feed the birds!

Growfully Protip

Half a hollowed-out cantaloupe and an orange rind also work well for the grapefruit trap method. Some folks also use upside-down flowerpots or bowls to achieve a similar trap.

5. Gather a Search Party

5. Gather a Search Party

If you’re feeling particularly vengeful, gather your salt shaker and a flashlight, and venture out at night for some real slug hunting. Sprinkle a little salt on every slug you see; it will draw the water out of it’s watery body, causing the creature to dry up. It seems gruesome, but this solution is very effective. Just be cautious when dispensing salt, as an abundance of the seasoning can harm your plants and soil.

For the most part, slugs thrive in highly moist environments. One of the best preventative measures you can take is to make sure your garden does not stay overly wet. Keep plants spaced apart so that air can circulate between them, and water early in the day so extra moisture has time to evaporate before nightfall when the slugs come out to feast.

For another creative way to get rid of slugs, try using Coca-Cola! Watch our video below to learn more.

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