How to get rid of slugs in your garden the natural way

slugs and snails control

Are you fed up battling with snails and slugs in your garden?

Does it feel like a losing battle sometimes? Don’t worry, there are ways to control these little creatures.

I’m not a fan of using pesticides or any kind of toxic poison in the garden unless it is really necessary. Most of the time there are harmless alternatives that can do the trick.

What I will say next might shock you, but I’m willing to take the risk:

I like snails.

I don’t mean I like the taste of them in garlic butter, I mean I like them as interesting little creatures. When I observe them, I love the way their little long eyes move about like small antennas.slug and snail

They curiously poke the air and then quickly disappear inside their shell when sensing danger. Slugs may not be as cute, but I think of them as divorced snails, shuffling along and complaining that their partner ‘got the house’.

So when I think of ways to ‘get rid of them’, I’m facing a dilemma.

As much as I get angry when my plants have been attacked by them, I know they are part of nature and the eco system.

I don’t want to use slug pellets because they are poisonous to birds and other wildlife. Instead I have tried alternative organic methods to control them and most of them are home-made, from things that you can find in your kitchen or easily bought online or from garden centres.

Natural Slug Control Methods

1. Nematodes

This is one of my preferred methods of slug and snail control. Nematodes are tiny organisms that basically cause the death of slugs by bacterial poisoning and are completely harmless to pets or children. They are not cheap, but they are very effective. The only problem I found is that as my garden is not small, I didn’t buy enough to cover all of it. But I would say that it’s the most effective way to control slugs. It’s not as effective on snails though, as they live over ground and the nematodes work underground.

2. Beer traps

I have tried this and it was a great success. You fill small traps with beer and sink them into the soil so that the edges are flush with the ground. The snails and slugs are attracted by the beer and fall into the trap, literally. However, you do have to have a strong stomach when emptying the traps. The sight and smell of stale beer and dead slugs is not something I will remember fondly. For that reason, I haven’t used this method again.

3. Coffee grounds

This is something I haven’t tried myself, but I thought it was worth mentioning as I’ve heard other people have had some success with this. All it involves is scattering used coffee grounds around any plants you want to protect and apparently the caffeine in the grounds is toxic to slugs. With the amount of coffee I drink, I doubt I’ll run out of supplies so I’ll give it a try and report back to you.

4. Copper tape

I must admit, I haven’t had much success with this one. You can buy sticky copper tape from most garden centres or even online and you stick it to the rim of plant pots that you want to protect. The copper emits an electrical charge when the slugs or snails try to cross over it to get to the plant. That’s the theory but my slugs and snails must be made of sterner stuff than others because they didn’t find this a problem. So this method gets a thumbs down from me unfortunately. If you have had any success with this, I would love to hear from you!

5. Vaseline

This works as a barrier method around plant pots. Just smear a good layer of Vaseline around the rim of the plant pot and this stops the slugs from getting to the plant. If you don’t have Vaseline to hand, Petroleum jelly or Vicks will do just as well.

6. Grapefruit trap

A very simple way to make a trap for slugs and snails is to use half a scooped out grapefruit peel and place it face down near the plants you want to protect. Slugs like dark damp places and will find their way into the hollowed out grapefruit. Check the next day and see if there are any snails or slugs underneath. Apparently you could also use half oranges or lemons. Personally, I had all sorts of other bugs in them but found no slugs. Not sure if this has worked well for others but it’s an easy thing to try.

7. Torchlight search

This is a relatively easy way to control slugs and snails but also time-consuming. Snails and slugs tend to come out in the evening, especially if it’s damp and this is a good time to go out with a container and a torch and just hand-pick your little enemies.

8. Attract predators

A very easy and beneficial way to control slugs and snails is to attract wildlife that feeds on them. Attracting birds by providing bird tables and water is a good way of controlling their numbers. If you can build a pond in your garden and attract newts and toads who love to eat them, you can control their numbers. Hedgehogs are also great animals to attract in your garden and will help keep the snail numbers down.

9. Crushed egg shells

This is so far the best method that has worked for me, together with the nematodes. Every time I make an omelette or use eggs, I keep the shells to dry on a container that I keep especially for this purpose. Once they are completely dry (some people dry them in the oven), you can crush them finely and store in an airtight container. I find a pestle and mortar easiest to grind them. Once I have a good quantity of crushed egg shells, I sprinkle a good layer around plants that are vulnerable to slugs and snails. In my garden, lupins are the slugs favourite, but last year they managed to grow nicely thanks to the crushed egg shells around them. Find how to prepare your egg shells and other useful tips here.

10. Garlic and Chilli Spray

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this method, so this is something I’m going to try myself. All you need is a small jug or jar, fill it with 2 or 3 finely chopped garlic cloves and half a teaspoon of chilli power or some chilli flakes. Add a few drops of washing up liquid (only a few drops, you don’t want a soapy mixture). Pour boiling water over the chilli and garlic and let this all sit overnight and infuse. The next day all you need to do is to strain the liquid and pour it into a spray bottle. You can now use this spray to treat your plants. Make sure you don’t use this on very hot sunny days as this may burn the plants, and don’t do it if it is going to rain as this will wash off the garlic solution. Couldn’t be easier, right?

snail on apple

Slug resistant Plants

You could always plant a garden full of snail resistant plants. There seem to be some plants that slugs and snails just don’t touch. Maybe they’re not as tasty to them or maybe they are too tough. However, this would limit your choice very much in the garden and if you like planting vegetables, your options are really narrow.

You may want to incorporate some of these plants though, because it’s always nice to feel that small sense of victory over the slugs when they leave some of your plants unharmed. In my garden I find that my snails leave the following well alone:

Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle)
Anemone (Japanese anemone)
Antirrhinum majus (snapdragon)
Aquilegia species
Bergenia (elephant’s ears)
Digitalis (foxglove)
Euphorbia species (spurges)
Fuchsia cultivars
Geranium species
Hemerocallis cultivars (day lilies)

beautiful snail

Our lavender hedge, Sedums and Lambs ears also seem quite tough and of no interest to them. So these are plants that you could try if you feel you are losing your battle with the snails. Avoid planting Hostas and Lupins as they seem to be like a magnet to snails and slugs, at least in our garden.

I think everybody will have different experiences with their own battle against these pests and sometimes it’s a matter of trial and error and working out what works best in your own garden.

Every garden is different so what works for one may not work for another but I hope you find your magic method and if you do, please tell everyone!

I hope this post has helped and you find the method that works best for you.  Let me know what you think in the comments. If you have any questions, I will try my best to help out.

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  1. Nick
    29/06/2020 / 3:04 PM

    The Torchlight search is great for smaller gardens – gather them up with a spoon and re-locate them to the compost heap where they can munch to their heart’s content ! Best results are after rain following a dry spell – success guaranteed !

    • Nuria
      29/06/2020 / 4:26 PM

      Yes, I agree Nick, sometimes that’s the only way. I tend to relocate them to our front garden which is wild and neglected and I don’t mind if they munch on the weeds 🙂

  2. 12/04/2019 / 10:04 PM

    Haven’t used coffee grounds in my garden, but it works really well to get rid of ants. Dump a whole pot of coffee grounds (water and all) into an ant area and they just vanish. I sprinkled grounds all around the foundation of my house and it seems to be working on keeping the ants from coming in through the foundation as well. Not 100% but can tell the difference. Makes good fertilizer too, so that’s a bonus. 🙂

    • Nuria
      12/04/2019 / 10:32 PM

      What a fantastic tip Heather, thank you! I will definitely try the coffee grounds on ants. At the moment they’re not too much of a problem but we did have quite a problem last year in one particular area of the garden.

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