Slug It Out! – Rid Your Garden of Slimy Pests with Natural Slug Solutions
I live in the Pacific Northwest and that means rain…and garden pests – especially slugs, which have ruined many a strawberry patch in my yard. I’ve learned that you have to get on those pesky critters early and be persistent. So today I’m researching ways to Slug It Out and find natural slug solutions this garden season.
To battle these voracious garden consumers you have to know a little something about them. According to Oregon State University (which has a whole page on slugs and snails, there really are a lot of them around here!)
“They have a bad reputation, slugs. It’s the slime thing. And probably that they are basically a stomach on one large foot. Spineless, rapacious, how can one like these loathsome creatures? They do have a vital role to play in their place and they can be quite fascinating.”
Well, that’s their opinion! In the Northwest, March, April, May, June, and October are considered the best months to monitor for slugs. They are more abundant after light rains and when night temperatures are above 50 degrees F (10 C). Handle slugs with gloves as they may carry parasites potentially harmful to human health.
Slugs like to spend time underground. This means slugs are also more of a problem with root crops, buried seeds, and your newly planted seedlings.
Natural Slug Solutions that Work
Caution – slug catching can become addictive. Try one or more of these natural slug solutions in your garden this year.
- You can use flashlights or headlamps for night monitoring and collecting, although you might want to warn the neighbors, so they know what you’re doing.
- I’ve used beer-baited slug traps made with plastic cottage cheese-type containers with lids, sunk into the soil and with one inch square holes cut in the sides at soil level. Leaving dead slug bodies in the traps may attract more slugs.
- I have had with some success using crushed eggshells, saved for months ahead in a 1-gallon Ziploc bag. They need to be sprinkled fairly thickly in a circle around the plant. The idea is that the shells are too prickly for the delicate underbelly of the slug to cross.
- Hazelnut shells have a big benefit with their ability to keep slugs away from perennials, vegetable and fruit plants. The shells have a sharp edge when cracked, which keeps the slugs from wanting to crawl over them. The same sharp edge also works to keep cats from using your gardens as a litter box, but that’s another post!
- Set a slug trap – place an old board in the garden with a stick or stone under it at one end. You are leaving room for them to set up house! Check it in the daytime. Their likely habitat is under wood, in moist protected areas, tall grass, and under pots. Their eggs can be found beneath pieces of wood or debris or in small crevices or holes in the ground.
- Overturned flowerpots, with a stone placed under the rim to tilt it up a bit,work the same way as boards. Leave them overnight, and you’ll find the slugs inside the pots in the morning. Grapefruit halves also work, with the added advantage of the scent of the fruit as bait. these will need to be replaced every few days.
- Collect them in the morning and feed them to birds or koi.
- Pour salt on them like we did as kids, as long as you’re not revolted by their rotting remains!
By far the best way I’ve found to annihilation – keep a spray bottle of half ammonia and half water in my garden area. One well aimed shot does it quick and you don’t have to remove them! It’s a great job for my grandkids. They love it. Ammonia is better for the garden than salt and faster and easier to administer if you have good aim.
- Adjust your watering schedule; this can reduce your slug damage by 80%. Since slugs are most active at night and are most efficient in damp conditions, avoid watering your garden in the evening if you have a slug problem. If you water in the morning – the surface soil will be dry by evening.
- Use diatomaceous earth, the sharp, jagged skeletal remains of microscopic creatures. It lacerates soft-bodied pests, causing them to dehydrate. Sprinkle this powdery granular material, around garden beds or individual plants. Diatomaceous earth is less effective when wet, so use during dry weather or be prepared to re-apply after a rain.
- Zap ‘em – cut 2″ strips of thin copper and wrap around the lower part of flower pots, like a ribbon. Place it around your flower pots or raised beds as an obstruction, or set the strips in the soil on edge, making a “fence” for the slugs to climb.
- Wayne B., in Oregon City, OR has this tried and true idea: “As for stomping on slugs, there’s an art on how to do it. Anyone can smash a slug underfoot, but if you only stomp on the portion of the slug behind the “breathing” hole, you end up turning the slug inside out. The explosion that projects forward is very rewarding. Now you have an empty husk. But be forewarned: If you stomp further back, the projection will shoot straight up! So learn to stomp your slugs with style, throw a little risk into something that’s not too damaging.”
What effective slug solutions have you used in your garden? Share your ideas on our Facebook page.