How to Get Rid of Slugs and Snails From Your Home Garden
Yes, it is possible to get rid of slugs and snails without using toxic baits and sprays. Here’s how:
Slugs are soft-bodied mollusks without a shell that can chew plant tissue and lead to reduced harvest and even injure young seedlings.
If your yard has many garden slugs, don’t worry our guide to get rid of slugs and snails is the only resource you’ll need for effective, affordable slug control at home.
They are one of the most troublesome pests found in home gardens, orchards, and landscaped areas across North America. Slugs and snails thrive in damp, shady spots and can often be found along foundations, under rocks, or in well-mulched garden areas.
Most active at night, they feed on a variety of living plants as well as on decaying plant material. Pests chew large holes in foliage and may cause extensive damage to seedlings, tender, low-growing, leafy vegetables or herbs such as basil, and ripening fruit such as strawberries, artichokes, and tomatoes.
Almost all garden vegetables, ornamental flowers, and some fruit trees, especially citrus are subject to attack.
If your garden seems to be under attack from these pests, read on to know exactly what you can do to get rid of slugs and snails effectively, once and for all!
What are Slugs?
Slug is the common name used for any gastropod mollusk that doesn’t have a shell, or has a very reduced shell. There are up to 15,000 different kinds of slugs, and they’re basically soft-bodied mollusks.
Slugs are hermaphrodites, which means that they each possess both male and female sexual organs and have the potential to lay eggs.
They use their mouthparts known as radula to chew plant tissue, creating irregularly shaped holes in leaves, fruits, and flowers. Slugs can injure plants, especially young seedlings if they feed on them a lot. They can even reduce your harvest.
Slugs are not true insects, but rather members of the mollusk phylum. As a result, they are closely related to snails in structure and biology except the snail has a shell and the slug does not.
Both garden pests rely on their muscular foot to move and the secretion of mucous or slime on which they glide. This shiny slime trail often gives them away as it marks their travel.
Life Cycle of a Slug
Several species overwinter in the soil as adults or nearly mature young. In spring and early summer large numbers of eggs are deposited (as many as 100 at a time) in soil cracks, underneath mulch or dead leaves, and in other cool, moist protected areas.
Eggs develop and hatch in 1-3 weeks, but may require as long as 12 weeks if conditions are less than perfect. Once hatched, the young mollusks remain close to the nest for several days until branching out in search of food.
Development to maturity may take as little as 3 to 6 months or as long as a year or more depending on species.
Are Garden Slugs Harmful to People or Pets?
Slugs can be harmful to both humans and pets if they’re ingested. The mucus produced by slugs can lead to excess drool and even induce vomiting in humans and especially pets like dogs and cats.
They can sometimes even produce excess mucus when stressed which can lead to your pet ingesting quite a lot of it. Some slugs are even ingested with parasitical lungworm and this parasite can infect your pet. If you believe your pet may have ingested a slug, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian and check if they can provide your cat or dog with a lungworm vaccine
What Attracts Slugs to Your Yard?
Slugs are primarily attracted to your plant because of food sources or the presence of moisture. In terms of food sources, unfortunately, everything from flowers to vegetables can feed them since they’re not picky eaters whatsoever!
If any area tends to stay moist for the majority of the day, or during hot spells, slugs are attracted to it. Mulch, sod, leaves, and even straw can retain moisture making them attractive to slugs.
They’re also always on the lookout for spaces where they can lay eggs, so keeping your yard free of debris is essential to keep slugs away.
How to Get Rid of Slugs Effectively
Getting rid of slugs and snails doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s everything you can do to effectively control these pests:
Keep Your Yard Clean
Keeping your garden clean is the first step in eliminating slugs and snails. Remove debris, bricks, lumber, and weeds from all growing areas, and do not apply heavy layers of mulch around plants (1-3 inches is plenty).
If you’re planting in rows, make sure to make them narrow approximately 12 to 18 inches wide when possible. Amend your soil with compost if it’s consistently damp. Avoid using chopped leaves as they’ll encourage slug habitat.
Handpicking pests can make a sizable dent in the population and is most productive in the evening, two hours after sunset.
If handpicking is inconvenient, try trapping. Strips of cardboard, cabbage leaves, rocks, or plywood all make excellent traps for daytime collecting.
Beer traps also work really well. To do this, shallow pans of stale beer sunk into the soil can also be used. The yeast in the beer attracts these pests, which fall in and drown. For best results, replace beer every few days or after rain.
Introduce Natural Predators
Slugs can be controlled by natural predators. Slugs are eaten by a variety of species, including beetles such as ground beetles, rove beetles, and fireflies, as well as toads, snakes, turtles, shrews, ducks, starlings, and other birds.
When it makes sense, encourage these natural enemies in your garden. It is important to remember that using pesticides to kill slugs may also harm their natural predators. Spot-treat minor pest problems or use baits when possible.
Water Your Garden Wisely
Since slugs are active in the evening, it’s advisable to water in the early morning instead of at night. Researchers found lettuce consumption with morning watering was less than 1/5 of the consumption with evening watering.
Try Companion Planting
Companion planting is an excellent technique to keep these pests at bay.
Plants that slugs and snails enjoy feeding on can be placed near your more valuable plants to act as a trap; infested plants can then be discarded. Chervil, marigold, and thyme are effective slug traps to use in this way.
Apply Diatomaceous Earth
Copper Tape and diatomaceous earth are popular barriers that prevent pests from reaching the leaves, fruits, and flowers on which they feed.
Although many people before coffee grounds or crushed eggshells work, unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that they’re effective treatments or even deterrents so we advise you to not waste your time using them.
Broadcast Boric Acid Granules
Broadcast weather-resistant boric acid granules around flower gardens, groundcovers, and ornamentals to eliminate pests. Reapply every four weeks, as needed.
Use Slug Baits
Natural Guard makes a great slug and snail bait that’s effective for up to four weeks with one application. In fact, one pound of it can cover an area of up to 2,000 square feet. It can be scattered on the lawn or the soil around any vegetables, flowers, fruit trees, or bushes to reduce pest numbers.
Sluggo is an organic bait, containing iron phosphate, that can be scattered on the lawn or on the soil around any vegetables, flowers, fruit trees or bushes to reduce pest numbers.
This copper tape acts like an electric fence to keep slugs from attacking plants.$8.50Read more
Contains diatomaceous earth, a fine powder made from tiny fossilized algae-like plants.$14.95Read more