Slugs in Your Garden or Yard? 12 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Them

Beer Bash

Bury tuna fish cans or plastic yogurt cups up to their rims, then crack a beer and fill the cups (the older and more stale the beer, the better). Slugs and snails will be attracted to the yeasty aroma, fall in and drown. Replace the beer as needed.

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7. Set up a slug bar

You know I had to mention everyone’s favorite/least favorite slug control: beer-baited traps. Yes, no list of tips on how to get rid of slugs in the garden is complete without a mention of beer traps. Plastic traps like these or these are baited with beer (non-alcoholic works best). The yeast in the beer attracts slugs who then fall in and drown. It works, but it’s also incredibly gross. In order to prevent a festering pile of slug corpse-infused beer, be sure to empty and re-bait the traps daily.

Set the Bait

Iron-phosphate baits are considered safe for wildlife but deadly for slugs and snails. According to Oregon State University Extension, iron-phosphate baits are just as effective as metaldehyde baits, but not toxic to pets and wildlife. The mollusks eat the bait, cease feeding and die within a few days. Some brand names include Sluggo and Garden Safe Slug & Snail Bait.

2. Use Ammonia to Kill Slugs

Household ammonia not only kills slugs but, at the dilution ratio discussed below, actually provides a source of nitrogen that plants absorb through their leaves. So it’s good for your plants.

  1. Mix 1 part ammonia with 5 parts water in a watering can. I have seen suggestions for stronger solutions, but with a 1:5 ratio, there is a smaller chance of burning the tender foliage of the plants you are trying to protect.
  2. At dawn or dusk, walk around your garden and water all the plants in sight.

4. Get Rid of Slugs With Eggshells and Coffee Grounds

Serve your slugs their last breakfast. Collect eggshells and coffee grounds. Crush the eggshells, and then scatter the eggshells and coffee grounds around the area you want to protect from slugs. The coffee grounds are a natural pesticide against slugs, and crushed eggshells will cut up the undersides of any slug trying to go over it. The added benefit of this method is that both eggshells and coffee grounds are a great natural fertilizer for your garden.

5. Use Broken Eggshells

Scatter broken eggshells in a perimeter around slug favorites. The sharp edges are not comfortable on those soft slimy bodies. The eggshells will decompose and benefit the soil, as well.

1. Allow Natural Predators to Thrive

Since invasive species are not fun, we should all be wary of introducing new kinds of creatures to an ecosystem unless they are native and would be there anyway. That said, you can encourage native slug-hungry predators to inhabit your garden. For example, birds love slugs, so you could install a bird bath. Who else likes slugs? Ducks, chickens, nematodes, frogs, salamanders, newts, toads, snakes, turtles, hedgehogs, shrews, praying mantises, ground beetles, rove beetles, and fireflies, for starters.

4. Construct a Fruity Trap

Next time you snack on a citrus fruit like grapefruit or orange, unpeel the rind carefully so you can keep one bowl-shaped half in tact. Poke a hole that’s large enough for a slug to fit through, and then sit the fruit upside down like a dome in your garden. The sweet scent will lure slugs in, distracting them from their usual meal: your plants. If a predator doesn’t get to them first, collect the fruit scraps the next morning and kill any live slugs by dumping them into a container of soapy water.

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.

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.

How To Get Rid Of Slugs In The Garden Naturally

Now that you know all about slugs and where they come from, you can focus your pest control efforts to eliminate them from your garden.

Luckily, you don’t need to resort to using toxic chemical pesticides (and you shouldn’t!). There are tons of safe slug control methods that you can use to rid your garden of these slimy, plant eating pests.

5. How to get rid of slugs in the garden with copper

The metal copper reacts with slug slime to cause a mild electric shock and send the slug packing. You can purchase copper tape here and surround susceptible plants with a ring of copper. This is an easy technique if you just want to protect a few hostas, but it’s more challenging for larger garden areas. However, one easy way to keep slugs out of raised beds is to make a copper collar around the outer edge of the whole bed by stapling or nailing a strip of copper tape or copper strips around the top of the bed’s frame. This also works for containers where the copper tape can be placed just inside the upper rim of the pot. There’s also a copper mesh called Slug Shield (available here) that can be used in a similar manner and is reusable. It’s a bit easier to wrap around a single plant stem than copper tape or strips.

Garden slugs can be kept out of raised beds with c
Garden slugs can be kept out of raised beds with copper strips, tape, or mesh.

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.

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.

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.

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