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Best ways of killing slugs, without using slug bait

slug looking at plants
looking at your plants

Slugs and snails cause more damage, annoyance and stress than any other single garden pest. Is it any wonder then, that even the greenest and most Eco friendly of us resort to killing them with pesticides and other commercial slug baits and pellets,   But, (yes it is a big but) there is a problem with using slug bait or pellets.

The five things I do in my garden, to kill slugs without using slug bait:

  1. Simple garden maintenance methods to control slugs that really work.
  2. Encourage animals, bids and insects that are natural predators of slugs.  
  3. I have described two organic ways of controlling slugs. 
  4. How to protect those special plants from being eaten by slugs. 
  5. Common sense ways of getting rid of slugs from your garden.


Simple garden maintenance ways to control slugs that really work

Gardeners who use a lot of slug bait and other chemicals have probably killed of most of the natural predators of slugs. To encourage them back, although possible, would mean making major changes to your garden and gardening methods. However, before reaching for the pesticides and slug baits, here are a few other ways to kill and control slugs.  
  1. Watering Schedule.  One of  the best and easiest actions we can take to control slugs, is to do the watering in the morning. Slugs are active at night and in damp conditions to avoid sunshine and traveling over dry soil. Watering your garden in the morning so the surface soil has dried out by evening can reduce slug damage by up to 80%. 
  2. Seaweed. If you live near the coast and can harvest seaweed, it's good for the soil and is a natural repellent for slugs (they hate salt).  Pile it about three inches thick around  plants and borders, it will shrink to just an inch when it dries. Keep it away from direct contact with the plants plant stems. It will become very rough as it dries giving double protection from slugs. 
  3. Copper strips, Wrap strips of copper around flowerpots, raised beds and wood barrels used as planters. Copper strips, stop the slugs and snails crawling up the container to feed on the plants. More information below. 
  4. A non-toxic copper-based metallic mesh gives slugs and snails an electric-like shock  when they come in contact with the mesh. More information and available to buy below. 
  5. Electronic slug fence. An electronic slug fence is a safe method for protecting a garden or flower bed from slugs and snails, it is 24 foot long and runs off a nine volt battery. The electronic fence repels slugs and snails, but is harmless to people and pets. 
  6. Salt. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on the slug and it kills it quickly. Not particularly pleasant, but use as a last resort. Large quantities of salt will harm soil. 
  7. Beer trapSlugs are attracted to beer, pour a small amount of beer into a shallow wide mouthed jar buried in the soil up to its neck. Slugs crawl in and drown. 
  8. Slug and snail TrapsUse overturned Flowerpots or Grapefruit Halves with a stone placed  to tilt it up a bit, leave the trap overnight and remove the slugs and snails in the morning. 
  9. Plastic sheet  simple slug and snail traps. Place a board or black bin-bag on the ground, lift it in the morning and remove the slugs and snails.
  10. Garlic-based slug repellent. There are effective garlic based slug killers on the market under various brand names.
  11. Coffee grounds and  new caffeine-based slug/snail poisons.   Coffee grounds scattered on top of the soil will deter slugs and snails. They can also be killed when sprayed with a caffeine solution. I have not tried this method, look out for commercial sprays which are caffeine-based, let me know if they work.
  12. Amonia Mix a solution of 70-80% household ammonia with water, use a spray set to squirt and spray any slugs you can find. The ammonia is harmless to plants, but the slugs die within a couple of seconds. 
  13. Diatomaceous earth is the sharp, jagged skeletal remains of microscopic creatures. It lacerates soft-bodied slugs and snails, causing them to dehydrate and die.
  14. Nematodes the best and surest way to kill slugs. The most natural way to get rid of slugs might be to accept a balance, keep the character of your garden and protect your plants by encouraging predators and trying natural non-toxic methods like NematodesClick on the picture below for more information about using the safe Nematode method for controlling slugs.

What are the natural predators of slugs in the UK.

In the UK these animals, birds and insects are Natural predators of slugs and snails.

  1. Frogs. Large frogs eat the large slugs and snails (shells too). Smaller frogs will eat the smaller slugs and snails. Slugs make up very high proportion of a frogs diet. They can be encouraged into your garden by building a nature pond 
  2. Song Thrushes, Mistle Thrushes and Redwings. If you are lucky enough to have these natural predators visit your garden, they eat slugs and snails all year round. You will need dense hedges and bushes nearby to attract them.  Unfortunately using slug pellets to kill slugs and snails has reduced their numbers. Vicious circle. 
  3. Ground Beetles, Ground beetles hunt and kill slugs . They require stones or logs, etc. to nest and rest and moist shady conditions and feed mostly at night, just like slugs and snails. 
  4. Hedgehogs, Hedgehogs eat large numbers of slugs and small snails.  They require piles of leaves or brushwood or hibernation boxes under sheds, etc. Unfortunately once again, numbers are falling fast, no one knows quite why, but lack off safe habitat and slug bait are a major factor. 
  5. The Common Shrew. This predator will kill and eat a large number of slugs and snails over night.  Difficult to attract, but if they have sufficient cover, especially long rough grass and an undisturbed site for nesting, like a hole or burrow in the ground. You might see them in your garden at night clearing slugs. 
  6. Marsh flies are parasites of snails and slugs. Each fly larva can kill up to 25 snails or slugs by burrowing into them. They are attracted by wildlife ponds and wild flowers.  
  7. Slow worms eat the small white slugs and some other slugs and snails too. They are attracted to an undisturbed spot, a compost heap is ideal, vegetation, a sunny spot, old ivy covered wall, hedge bank, railway embankment, corrugated iron sheet placed on the ground and I have found them under loose patio slabs.  
  8. The Common Newt will eat slugs and snails. If you have a nature pond edged with rocks and without predatory Koi fish you will almost certainly already have newts leaving the pond to kill slugs for you. 
  9. Toads were once commonly kept in greenhouses to control slugs and snails.
  10. Domestic predators of slugs. Ducks, most breeds eat slugs and snails. The downside is, they  will also eat fruit like strawberries. So ducks are best let into the garden for short periods in the evening or early morning when there are slugs about. Hens. Small breeds or Bantams are best to clear slugs and snails as large breeds are very destructive, clearing the slugs and snails, but most of the vegetation too!

The problem with using slug pellets

 Slug pellets also kill the birds, hedgehogs, frogs and toads that are the natural predators of slugs and snails.

The more slug bait we use the more natural predators of slugs we kill and the more dependent we become on, guess what slug bait.

Where overuse of slug bait has killed off natural predators try these non-toxic methods of controlling slugs and snails.

The two best organic ways of controlling slugs.

Nematodes are the  best slug killer for organic gardeners. Pack treats 100sqm or 125 sq yds. Apply Nemaslug by watering can or hose end feeder over the soil between your plants. Slugs pick up the nematodes and crawl away and die. 
I have been using Nemaslug to kill Slugs for years. My daughter and her husband now use it and have already reported a dramatic drop in number of the slimy, horrible creatures. If anyone out there is still in two minds about nemaslug, give it a try. It really works to kill slugs.

  • Diatomaceous earth is the sharp, jagged skeletal remains of microscopic creatures. It lacerates soft-bodied slugs and snails, causing them to dehydrate. It is a powdery granular material and can be sprinkled around garden beds or individual plants, or mixed with water to spray. Purchase the natural or agricultural grade diatomaceous earth, not pool grade.  More information, click the amazon picture . 
  • Diatomaceous Earth Repels Slugs and Snails
  • Improves plant growth Improves the plants uptake of nutrients
  • Safe for pets and other garden wildlife

How to protect special plants from being eaten by slugs

A non-toxic copper-based metallic mesh fence gives slugs and snails an electric-like shock  when they come in contact with the mesh. It is available to buy here.

The metallic mesh fence is an effective, non-toxic way to protect your plants from slugs without using chemical slug bait. The  barrier acts as an electric fence for slugs and snails. They are repelled because it feels similar to an electric shock - they are not harmed, they just go the other way!

It is effective all season and is totally weatherproof, very easy to install, and can be joined to encircle larger plants.

Copper strips to protect plants in container and flowerpots
Wrap strips of copper around flower pots, raised beds and wood barrels used as planters, this stops the slugs and snails crawling up the container to feed on the plants.
  • Copper tape generates a small electrical charge to stop slugs climbing the frames
  • 4 metre pack with adhesive backing for easy application
  • A natural way to protect plant pots and greenhouse staging, as well as raised beds and cold frames

Common sense ways of getting rid of slugs from your garden

Slugs don't like certain types of soil and terrain, knowing this can make it easier to take action to deter slugs from entering a garden. Some gardens, especially those with sandy soil, won't attract slugs and can actually deter them..

For all types of soil that you are not going to dig over to often it's worth spreading a load of gritty sand over the whole surface.  

Because slugs have to produce mucus (slime) to move, they prefer not to move over soil that is dry, dusty, sandy or rough grit. They would need to produce so much slime that they exhaust themselves and die.

On gritty sandy soil, especially during the hot dry weather that would normally kill slugs they sit tight in the moist conditions below ground waiting for rain. Or more likely we get the hosepipe out to water the garden at just the optimum time for slugs. Which is late evening, allowing the soil to stay damp for long enough for slugs to come up to the surface. Also, for snails to crawl out from under rocks and together rampage through our plants for the next eight hours.

Watering in the morning helps control slugs.

I know popular advice is to water plants at night to reduce condensation and save water. However, to stop slugs from eating our produce by up to 80%, on dry sandy or dusty soil. It makes more sense to do the watering in the morning benefiting the plants, but allowing the surface to dry out by evening trapping the slugs underground.

Habitat slugs and snails thrive in.

Slugs and snails like the same gardens I do, nature friendly, damp and shady with dry-stone walls and moist spots, piles of leaves, old nursery pots, weedy areas and low-hanging leaves at the base of plants. 

Slugs like almost anywhere at ground level that provides moisture and shade,

 The dilemma gardeners with damp shady gardens have is this. Clearing the garden of hiding places for slugs also destroys the habitat that attracts wildlife, including predators that eat slugs. You might protect your plants, but end up with a sterile boring garden. Using toxic slug bait and pesticides is even worse over the long-term, it is effective in killing slugs and snails, but is destroying our natural environment.

If you want to keep your garden as natural as possible Nematodes are the best slug killer to use. They are effective almost straight away, easy to apply and a single application is effective for up to six weeks.

Why did i have so many slugs in my garden last year?

Wet summers, followed by  warm winters mean that slugs will have been eating and breeding all through the winter months.

This causes a slug population explosion, so from about now through to next winter be prepared for about 20,000 slugs to be active in your garden, chomping away at and destroying your flowers, fruit and vegetables. 

You will find slugs and snails in almost every garden, although they do seem to prefer some gardens more than others, chomping on our flowers and fruit and vegetables.