What’s the best way to kill garden slugs organically? Here are 3 proven methods, plus additional tips on crafting a slug-unfriendly garden environment.
What’s the best way to kill garden slugs organically? Well, I’m glad you asked.
There’s more than one way to kill slugs in the garden… instead of giving you one cure-all, today I’ll give you three easy ways to slaughter the slimy saboteurs.
This post was inspired by JTF, who asked: “Please tell me how you stop slugs eating through your crops! l have a million slugs, you would think l was trying to grow them! Any help appreciated.”
A few years back we had a major slug infestation in our gardens and I had to act fast. Now if slugs attack, I’m ready.
Here are three ways to catch and kill garden slugs that actually work.
How to Kill Garden Slugs Method #1: Scrap Lumber
One simple method to find slugs is to wet some pieces of scrap lumber, then lay them on the ground in the evening.
The next morning, the slugs will often be underneath them, hiding from the sun.
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Actually killing them now requires you to embrace your hatred.
You can throw slugs into a bowl of sudsy water, put salt on them, or just go full psycho and chop them into pieces with a knife or scissors.
How to Kill Garden Slugs Method #2: Cheap Beer
If the slugs in your garden are really out of control, go out and get yourself a few cans of cheap beer.
Now, drink them all. After a few minutes, you will no longer care about the slug infestation.
Just kidding. The beer is for the slugs, not you.
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Get yourself some little bowls and put them here and there around the garden in the evening. Pour an inch or so of beer in the bottom of each one. The next morning, each bowl should have dead slugs in it.
See, slugs are nature’s alcoholics. They have very sensitive senses of smell and will crawl to wherever there is beer and literally drink themselves to death.
This method was quite effective in our garden. But we also paired it with slug-killing method #3 for a complete beatdown.
How to Kill Garden Slugs Method #3: Hand-Pickin’
Slugs are mostly nocturnal. They like the cool, moist evenings.
When the slugs really started destroying our pea plot a few years ago, my wife and I went out with flashlights a little after dark and started slug hunting.
Sure enough, we found dozens.
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The first night’s hunt I brought a little dish of salt with me and we tossed them in there to bubble away into slimy, desiccated corpses…. but then we found it was just easier to take scissors in hand and nip the slugs in half with the blades.
A few last points.
If you have mulch in your garden, slugs love that. They don’t like bare ground as much. Slugs and their cousin the snail like lots of material they can hide in. Bare ground doesn’t provide that. Raised beds with wood or stone borders also give them a place to hide. That’s one reason to just build your beds from mounded soil, like so:
It’s also cheaper than buying boards or blocks.
Also, staying on top of slug issues will keep you from losing as many plants. Look for shiny trails around the garden and obviously gnawed areas—and don’t wait to get started! Hunt around and get killing before they eat up your hard work.
If you have ducks, they love to eat slugs. Letting them wander the garden now and again might work, though I don’t have enough faith in ducks to do so. Better to just pick off garden slugs and throw them to the ducks.
You can also throw the bowls of beer and slugs into your compost pile. Slugs compost just fine, as does beer.
Show no mercy.
What Do You Think?
How do you deal with slugs in your garden? Share your best tips in the comments below!
This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on January 22, 2018. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments, however we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!
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David The Good is a Grow Network Change Maker, a gardening expert, and the author of five books you can find on Amazon: Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening, Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, Create Your Own Florida Food Forest, and Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics. Find fresh gardening inspiration at his website TheSurvivalGardener.com and be sure to follow his popular YouTube channel.
Thank you i stress over when i see them all in my garden
All 3 methods work….. Work is the operative word here. Most of us gardeners are looking for the easy way out. There is no simple easy way out of nothing in the garden but that is why we do it cause we are all looking for extra work, right. Actually working in the garden helps us relax. Is that an oxymoron??
I live on the Olympics in Washington where snails and slugs live in very healthy numbers. I find that the Sea Gules are great at eating them in the spring. Your other three remedies work great as well. Thanks for all the tips!
Debbie, make a ring of copper around each plant. You can use pennies or a copper wire making a circle. It needs to be clean, like shiny. Also egg shells, broken into small pieces, the slugs/snails do Not like to crawl on them, this is also good for the plants as it adds calcium.
I had a horrible infestation of slugs and snails last summer in my plot in the community garden, where collecting them at night was not really an option. Whenever I was working there, I went around picking them off by the hundreds and throwing them into a bucket of soapy water, but they still kept coming. I tried the beer as well, but something to note is that if you get a lot of rain, which I did, it quickly dilutes the beer, making it less attractive. I think covering the bowls with a scrap of lumber, a propped up flat rock, or anything else you may have, while still leaving enough space for the slugs to access them, might work better. I also sprinkled diatomaceous earth around the garden perimeter, for an abrasive barrier to keep out slugs that were not already there. That can be expensive though, and needs to be reapplied after rain. Another option I am considering is to surround the plants I want to protect with something they do not like, like onions or garlic, or some other strong-scented herbs or flowers, to confuse them. I will have to see how that works out.
I accidently found an excellent way of catching slugs. One year I decided to try a method I’d read about for watering tomatoes to give them consistent moisture. Between every two tomato plants I sunk clay pots in the soil up to their rim, painted the inside of the saucers with white paint, filled the pots with water and put the saucer on top. The paint keeps the water in the pots cool. The tomatoes roots grew around the pots and took a drink whenever thirsty and I had a bumper crop of tomatoes. Then I noticed when I refilled the pots that I had loads of drowned slugs in the bottom of the pots. I’m sure they would have died happier if I’d filled the pots with beer but I’m not sure my tomatoes would have appreciated it. Now I bury a few pots all around the garden for catching slugs. The pots are just cheap clay pots about 8″ across the top and I push corks into the drain hole to keep the water from draining out. Slugs seem to be able to squeeze through the tiniest opening but I make sure the saucer doesn’t fit too tightly so they can find their way in.
Nature’s alcoholics….who knew….lol!!!! Thanks for the tip, and thanks for being you!
They smoosh nicely onto bare feet, too. Hard to clean off.
My comment might be strange to every gardener, but this topic is close to my heart so I write anyway.
After moving from the cold northern part of Canada (where no slugs existed) to the coast, I had to relearn how to garden in a very different climate. For a number of years I practice co-creative gardening and killing slugs did not sit well with me. (Imagine those huge “banana slugs”.
Everything has a consciousness and a task to fulfill while on the Planet, even the tiniest creature we consider a pest. Knowing this, I contacted the overall consciousness of the slugs and explained my problem. I also explained that I understood their side of life.
Then I asked for a compromise to help both sides; I asked to move the slugs out of the garden-beds onto the land where all kinds of weeds are growing. And I promised not to kill any slugs.
It took a few days until the situation was satisfactory. But since then, I only had very little damage on my vegetables and I seldom had to remove a slug and put it to another place. There is co-existence and respect for each other now.
My wife and I use all these ways of killing slugs and hard shells and have for over 10 years I also before and after tilling use a weed burner to heat the soil to a killing temp. That works very well if you have a heavy amount to kill. Also it helps destroy the eggs which are in a bundle of about a1’000 looks like a small frog had laid. Also they never hibernate so we hunt year around. Even if it’s cold you should hunt them year around . You will tell it on the dinner table this summer.
And here is another way, easy, non-toxic and inexpensive
It cleared my garden for a few months, with just one or two applications. The snails and slugs disappeared.
@ Lydia above
I have used a very similar method for getting rid of wasps inside my house wall as well as, at another time, a minor mouse infestation in my home. The wasps dissappeared within 12 hours and the mice within 2-3 days.
I agree with Lydia. All life has consciousness and we are meant to live in harmony with our environment. Before I came to this understanding we had a garden with lots of slugs and snails and my husband suggested using salt. Watching them die that way made me sick and I vowed not to do it again. As long as we lived in that house, we had a kind of uneasy truce between us and the snails. That left me open to what Lydia suggested.
Communicating directly with nature is not all woo-woo stuff. It really works. I even talk to my car. For this to work on living creatures, take the time to get quiet and connect with them a minute or two before speaking to them as friends, co-inhabitants on this planet. You do not have to speak aloud. Mental communication is just fine. All the time you are working in your garden, speak to the plants as well as all the critters in the soil as if they were your children. If you are loving, they respond to that love. Just give it a try.
Thank you so much for a really good laugh! After working outside in the hot sun all day this was just the best article!!
One of the best crops, or should I say easiest crops, that my garden grows is slugs. I have tried the cheap beer method over the years, but mostly just ignore them at this point, as they don’t do too much damage in this particular garden.
The best slug reduction solution I ever had was a couple of resident skunks. I didn’t realize what a great job they were doing because I never had any slugs until the skunks disappeared and suddenly–I had slugs! If you can encourage a skunk or two to patrol your garden, that might be the easiest and best solution yet! Other than that, get out the cheap beer.
Hand remove slugs. Collect used coffee grounds (coffee shops will save them for you if you need) and sprinkle or pile a 2 or 3 inch border around your garden, or the area the slugs like most. They seem to hate to cross coffee grounds but you need a wide enough border so they can’t lift up & over. The coffee grounds will feed the soil too. Reapply occasionally.
Also, around my individual lettuce plants I’ve put badly-crushed eggshells, that hurts their tummy so they avoid as well.
I have had the greatest success with the beer when I place my saucers almost even with the ground within the zone of my affected plants.
In early evening, I fill the saucers almost full of beer; almost, so they can’t easily climb back out.
On following morning, I empty the remains of “the party” into a covered coffee can which I stash behind something during the collection week. I hose out the saucers, with remaining sludge, in a bucket of water and replace on the bed, ready for the evening refill.
On trash day, I pitch the can and start a new covered collection container.
“The party” attendants become fewer over time. I then put my saucers away until I see evidence of reinfestation.
This has worked for me on an ongoing basis. The covered can and swish and clean make it easy, and ground level placement makes it effective.