The short answer is YES! Slugs may be the most damaging pests in the garden. A family of slugs can devastate your vegetable garden in a matter of days.
Understanding a few facts about slugs — what slugs eat, where they live, and what their natural predators are — can help you control slugs in your garden.
Why Is Garden Slug Control So Challenging?
Slugs are gross! They’re slimy and disgusting. Most species are decomposers that feed on decaying plant and animal wastes. A handful of slug species prefer to feed on living plant material, and those are the ones you are battling as a gardener.
No one likes to pick them off plants one by one, so gardeners are always in search of alternative ways to rid themselves of these pests.
Facing a slug infestation is a serious business. Slugs are a common garden pest, but they aren’t insects. Instead, slugs are land-dwelling mollusks. Most gardeners don’t care what they are. They just want to know how to get rid of them! Gardeners often ask the following questions:
What do slugs eat? Slugs prefer the most tender leaves. Slugs will also eat vegetables and fruits, too, causing damage to crops. No one wants these pests to munch on their hard-earned work.
Where do slugs live? Slugs love moisture. Familiar places to find slugs are under containers, mulch, rocks, and overgrown vegetation. They often hide from the sun during the day and feast at night.
What are slugs’ natural predators? Attracting predators to your garden can help control slugs. Snakes, frogs, chickens, ducks, and raccoons all love slugs! But attracting toads and nonpoisonous snakes are the best choice to get rid of slugs without damaging your plants.
Why are they hard to kill? Controlling slugs organically requires the right techniques. Slugs don’t have a shell, but a small, saddle-like plate called a mantle.
Slugs tend to feed at night or on rainy days when they’re protected from the sun. They tend to hide under rocks or other moist locations during the day.
The Dirty Work They Do
Since slugs feed at night, gardeners notice the damaged plants, but they can’t find the culprit. You might spray with a general insecticide, which will not work against slugs.
Ridding your garden of slugs can be problematic. No one likes to pick them up one by one! Continue reading to learn how to target them based on how they feed and how they breed.
Learn to Identify the Damage Slugs Cause
Consider the following characteristics of slug damage:
- If you find garden damage in the morning, slugs are likely the pest in question.
- Round holes in tomatoes and strawberries can indicate slugs. No one likes their precious fruits and veggies destroyed!
- Ragged holes in leaf edges and centers instead of smooth. Slug mouths are lined with tiny teeth that shred leaves. This type of eating leaves holes with jagged edges, rather than the smooth-edged holes left by beetles or caterpillars
- Slime trails in and around your garden are vital indicators that slugs are involved.
7 Ways to Control Slug Damage
1 – Prevent slug damage with these practical steps that can become part of your regular routines
Slug prevention includes the following:
- Avoid using mulches. Use compost or leaf mold as a substitute.
- Avoid watering the garden in the evening.
- Switch to drip irrigation.
- Plant resistant plants.
- Encourage lizards, snakes, birds, toads, frogs, and beetles to live in your garden.
2 – Stop using pesticides in your yard
Putting pesticides on your lawn kills beneficial insects, such as fireflies, that live in the grass and help you control pests like slugs.
3 – Trap slugs with wood
Lay boards between rows at dusk. The next day, turn over the boards and collect the slugs. You can also trap slugs under melon rinds.
4 – Use wool
Slugs are bothered by itchy, rough wool, just like humans. They don’t like the texture. Pellets are made from this tool that you add water to, and they quickly expand.
The barrier of wool keeps the slugs out.
5 – Use copper
Copper reacts with slug slime and causes a mild electric shock. You can purchase copper tape and surround susceptible plants with a ring of copper. For large spaces, you can make a copper collar around the outer edge of the bed or inside the upper rim of the pot.
Some go to the trouble of building electric fences with 9-volt batteries, but copper saves some time and trouble for a similar result.
6 – Have a beer trap
Yes, beer traps work. Plastic traps are baited with beer. Non-alcoholic beer may work best. The yeast attracts slugs who then fall in and drown. It works, but it’s also incredibly gross.
You will have to change these traps daily.
7 – Use organic slug bait
Organic slug baits work well. But not all slug baits work equally well, and some are toxic to pets. Methiocarb or metaldehyde is the active ingredient that can cause harm to pets.
Iron phosphate is the ingredient you want to look for. Slugs eat the bait, immediately stop feeding, and die within a few days. These baits can be used in the vegetable garden around food as well.
Try these other less recommended options.
- Diatomaceous earth is a powder that is very sharp microscopically, and the edges effortlessly cut through slug skin and desiccate slugs as they crawl over it. As it gets wet, it’s rendered useless, however. You would need to make a circle of dust around every plant and then reapply it after every rain or even dew.
- Salt may kill it, but the slug could equally shed its outer layer and be fine.
- Sharp-edged items, such as sweetgum seed pods, crushed eggshells, and dried coffee grounds, have all been touted as slug deterrents. But they are less full proof than the seven items mentioned above.
Take action now, but also maintain an organic control program for the entire growing season. You will keep slugs in check and significantly decrease the damage they cause.
Good luck on your mission to rid your garden of slugs!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.