Slugs and snails are voracious predators. There isn’t anything more frustrating than going outside in the morning to check your garden only to find all of your leaves and stems chewed up?
In fact, they’re a major problem most gardeners face at some point in time, particularly when it comes to vegetable and herb gardens. They’re great at hiding during the day, then going out to destroy your plants at night.
What do Slugs Eat?
Slugs are mostly scavengers – they love to feed on dead things. However, they are not picky eaters and will go after anything. Tender leaves of any plant are what they’ll target in your garden, so keep an eye out for them.
What do Snails Eat?
Snails will feed on fungi and mushrooms mostly, but they also go after the leaves, stems, fruits, and bark of live plants.
Is a snail an insect? No. Slugs and snails span from the phylum Mollusca family, and so they are more closely related to squids than to insects.
How to Get Rid of Leaf Eating Slugs and Snails?
Are there effective ways to get rid of slugs and snails naturally? Absolutely. While there are tons of slug and snail killing products available, many of them are toxic and damaging to beneficial insects and our waterways alike.
If you’re suffering from slugs and snails destroying the garden you’ve worked so hard on, try one of these 12 ways to get rid of them naturally. They’re effective enough to fix the problem!
1. Pick Them Off
This might be a gross remedy to keep slugs and snails off plants, but it works.
Wait about an hour or two after the sun goes down, then go look at your garden. Bring a flashlight so you can properly see the offending critters.
You don’t need to use your bare hands. In fact, we recommend using a pair of tweezers or wearing latex gloves.
You’ll find more in their season:
They’re typically active from spring through fall, but they hibernate during the winter, so look for them when it starts to warm up. You can find them after dark, on cloudy days, or before dawn.
Look under plants and any dark/shady areas, such as on the bottom of rocks. This is the best way to find them and pick them off, but you should also look for eggs.
When looking for eggs, keep in mind, they’re colorless and about the size of a BB ball. They usually appear in clusters under dirt or large leaves near the crown of plants.
Eggs are particularly common in the fall. You should also stay on the lookout for damage caused by slugs and snails. You’ll notice irregular chewed out spots on leaves.
Look on specific plants:
There are specific plants they’re fonder of, including basil, cabbage, strawberries, lettuce, hostas, dahlias, beans, citrus trees, and more.
If you have lush or succulent plants, pay special attention to keeping them protected.
Another way to notice if they’re around is looking for trails. They typically leave a mucous trail that lubricates the areas they’re crawling.
Slugs and snails love cornmeal; however, when eaten, it expands in their stomach and kills them.
Pour small piles of cornmeal at various locations in your garden. You can also place a jar with cornmeal and lay it on its side for the critters to crawl in and have their last meal.
3. Beneficial nematodes
Nematodes are microscopic worms that will penetrate soft-bodied insects like slugs and snails and feed on them. They will also kill other harmful insects lurking in the soil.
You can purchase beneficial nematodes online. Follow the usage instructions that come with your order.
4. Table Salt
Table salt is an excellent home remedy to get rid of slugs and snails. Sprinkle it directly on these pests. It will absorb their body fluids and dehydrate them, eventually killing them.
5. Safe and Natural Slug Control Products
These are both made of ingredients that are safe for use in your organic garden, as well as around pets and children.
6. Grapefruit Halves
This is a great trick that many people overlook. First, enjoy a grapefruit!
Next, take the empty peel halves and place them open side down near the plants you’ve seen slugs and snails destroying.
They’ll hide underneath the domes, and in the morning, you can simply remove them.
Alternatively, you can feed them to the birds! They’ll enjoy this delicious breakfast.
7. Put a Trap Down
You can also try a wet piece of wood near the area you see slugs gathering most often.
They’ll likely hide underneath the trap. This means you can simply lift it up and remove the slugs in the morning.
8. Scratchy Surfaces
Fun fact: slugs and snails dislike scratchy surfaces.
If you surround the affected area with scratchy surfaces, such as sandpaper or crushed eggshells, you’ll find a lot of them leave your garden fairly quickly.
Of course, this doesn’t kill them and they may come back. This method should be used as a first-resort to minimize the problem before trying other methods.
9. Beer Containers
This is another highly effective method to keep plant eating slugs and snails off plants.
Look for a spot where you can bury a beer container. Make sure this is close to the affected area of your garden.
Now, let the beer get stale and flat, then fill the container.
You’ll want it about an inch deep. Place this into your spot and bury it so the rim is level with the ground.
Slugs and snails are attracted to the smell of beer, so they will drop into the trap and drown.
10. Used Coffee Grounds
Who doesn’t love the smell of coffee grounds? Slugs and snails, actually!
They really don’t enjoy the smell, which makes this method highly effective at getting them to leave your garden alone.
How to get rid of slugs and snails with coffee? Sprinkle it around your plants, particularly those that they love.
As an added bonus, coffee grounds will decompose and help keep your plants healthier than ever before.
11. Natural Predators
This is one of the best methods for getting rid of slugs and snails. Birds absolutely adore pecking at them, so why not use them to your advantage?
Set up a birdbath or a couple of bird feeders nearby. They’ll come to check out the area, and more than likely, eat most or all of your slugs and snails.
It’s a win-win because you’ll get to enjoy the birds while they take care of your garden problem.
12. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth, also known as insect dust, is a natural product that’s safe for consumption, but it works incredibly well as a barrier to annoying pests like slugs and snails.
It features sharp, fine edges that slugs and snails dislike.
Sprinkle it around the affected area, but keep in mind, you’ll want to re-apply if it rains or you’ve watered your plants as it’s less effective when wet.
13. Copper Surfaces
Studies show slugs and snails don’t like copper surfaces. Why? Because it gives them a mild electrical shock when they crawl on it.
Try using copper bands around your flower pots to deter them from destroying your plants.
You can even use copper attached to your grow-beds or greenhouse benches. If you don’t have access to pieces of copper, simply put a few pennies in the garden.
14. Vinegar Solution
This is one of the easiest methods to get rid of slugs and snails.
Simply mix equal parts water and vinegar in a bottle with a pump spray. When these pests are active, go out and spray them directly.
The vinegar will kill any slugs or snails you’ve sprayed, but be careful — it’s toxic to vegetation. You don’t want to spray directly onto your plants.
15. Human Hair Clippings
If you have a local hair salon or barbershop, ask them for some floor sweepings of human hair.
You can sprinkle this around the base of your plants to help eliminate slugs and snails. How does this work? It’s simple.
Slugs and snails will get tangled up in the hair. Bonus: the hair will add nitrogen to the soil as it starts to decompose — making your plants even healthier.
Slugs and snails are annoying, and unfortunately, they’re one of the more difficult pests to control.
The methods above will certainly help, but keep in mind, they’re hermaphrodites (female and male) so they can lay tons of eggs up to six times per year.
This means you’ll want to use the methods above as soon as you notice them gathering in your garden.