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.
Slugs and snails are 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.
Are there effective non-toxic ways to keep them away? Absolutely. While there are tons of commercial products available, many are toxic and damaging to beneficial insects and our waterways alike.
Here are some tips on how to get rid of them naturally.
1. Pick Them Off
This might be a gross home remedy to stop them from eating your 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 offenders.
You don’t need to use your bare hands. We recommend using a pair of tweezers or wearing latex gloves.
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 damages. You’ll notice irregular chewed out spots on leaves.
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 by looking for trails. They typically leave a mucous trail that lubricates the areas they’re crawling.
2. Beneficial Nematodes
Nematodes are microscopic worms that will penetrate soft-bodied insects 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.
Both 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 them to crawl in and have their last meal.
4. Table Salt
Table salt is an excellent home remedy to kill them.
Sprinkle it directly on these pests. It will absorb their body fluids and dehydrate them.
5. 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.
It features sharp, fine edges that these creatures dislike.
Sprinkle this natural snail killer 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.
6. 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.
7. Grapefruit Halves
One of the best home remedies for slugs, 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 them 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.
8. Put a Trap Down
You can also try a wet piece of wood near the area you see them gathering most often.
They’ll likely hide underneath the trap. This means you can simply lift it and remove them in the morning.
9. Scratchy Surfaces
Fun fact: molluscs 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.
10. Beer Containers
This is another highly effective method to keep them 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.
The critters are attracted to the smell of beer, so they’ll drop in and drown. Works great for greenhouses and indoor spaces as well.
11. Used Coffee Grounds
Who doesn’t love the smell of coffee? Our slimy foes!
They don’t enjoy the smell, which makes this repellent highly effective at getting them to leave your garden alone.
Sprinkle it around your plants (particularly those that they love) or make a caffeine spray and douse them.
As a bonus, coffee grounds will decompose and help keep your plants healthier than ever before.
12. Natural Predators
This is one of the best methods for getting rid of any pest. Birds 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 the bad guys.
It’s a win-win because you’ll get to enjoy the birds while they take care of your garden problem.
13. Copper Surfaces
These guys 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
Does vinegar kill snails? Yes, it will, but be careful not to spray directly on plants as it’s toxic to vegetation.
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.
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 and affected areas of your house to help eliminate them. It also works great for potted plants.
How does this work? It’s simple. They 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.
What do slugs eat?
They are mostly scavengers (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?
They 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, it’s not. They span from the phylum Mollusca family, and so they are more closely related to squids than to insects.
Snails and slugs 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 an infestation in your garden.