10 Ways to Stop Slugs Eating Your Plants
There’s nothing worse than heading out into the garden, only to see your plants - or what’s left of them - roughly resembling a crumpet. The trail of destruction seems endless. Despite our best efforts, slugs seem to find a way to munch and crunch their way through and, being rife at this time of year, we need to work together to fight the war.
A point of contention for many gardeners is how to rid the garden of slugs, without also harming wildlife, microbial soil life and the environment - many slug killers will also kill hedgehogs. We know, not hedgehogs! These pesticides are often harmful to domestic pets, and other garden visitors. That’s why we’ve found these 10 natural, effective ways of deterring slugs without harming the environment, wildlife, or your wallet.
First, here’s a little bit about these slimy characters
Slugs most often feed on decaying plant matter. But, as we all know too well, they also eat leaves, stems and roots, as well as fungi, debris and earthworms. Most slugs feed at night. Very sneaky, if you ask us.
They most often live in dark, moist places. That’s why you’ll often find them on the underside of pots and planters, under bricks, or in the soil. Removing these shelters will force slugs to find refuge elsewhere, preferably in a neighbour’s garden. They stay deep within the soil when it is too cold for them to survive in the open.
However, although we see them as predators to our plants, they are also prey. Slugs are eaten by a host of different wildlife, most of which are commonly found in British gardens. These predators include: hedgehogs, foxes, badgers, birds, slow worms, toads and some species of beetle.
So, how can we stop them in their track(s)?
We all know about the classic deterrents, used by gardeners globally. Salt, eggshells and beer traps can be effective, but can also be time consuming to implement. A ring of eggshell, for example, must be laid around each individual plant, and some slugs will find a way past, despite our best efforts. We try not to get salty about it. So what can we do?
- Introduce nematodes to your garden. Nematodes are microscopic, soil dwelling creatures that act as parasites to other insects. They live in the host animal, releasing a parasite that kills it. Make sure to research which plants nematodes are suitable for use around, as they can be damaging to some plant types.
- Some plants give off a scent that naturally deters slugs. These plants include fennel rosemary, rue, wormwood and anise. Slugs are also less keen on red salad leaves, or hotter plants like mustard. Growing these sorts of plants makes you less likely to suffer from a slug attack.
- Coffee grounds. Slugs don’t like the bitter taste of coffee grounds. But, be wary if you have pets, coffee can be toxic to cats and dogs if ingested.
- Copper tape - copper reacts with slug slime, giving a tiny electric shock to slugs each time they come into contact with it - they tend to avoid it, for obvious reasons.
- The Ecofective slug defence spray and granules naturally deter slugs, without harming the environment, soil life, or wildlife. Check out the Ecofective range here.
- Encourage natural predators into your garden: toads, newts, hedgehogs, and some species of garden bird will all feast on slugs, and thank you for it, too. Chickens enjoy snacking on a slug or two, and they make great allotment pals. Ponds, hedgehog houses and wild areas of your garden will all attract beneficial wildlife.
- Spraying WD40 on the outside of pots or planters will make them too slippery for slugs to climb. This can be effective for pots and planters that sit on a path or patio, but should be kept away from soil or other plants.
- Raise planters or pots off the ground - although not always practical, this can sometimes be the best option for the pots and planters that are most often targeted. If there is no access for slugs, the plants are safe.
- Set up a decoy - whether its melon rind, beer, vegetable matter or a pile of lettuce, slugs will likely go for this option first, keeping them away from your precious plants.
- Slug pellets. Tried and tested, slug pellets are sometimes a last ditch attempt to save the remaining plants - the survivors. Be careful to find a non-toxic brand, though. Slug pellets can be harmful to humans, pets and other beneficial wildlife. Check out our highly effective metaldehyde-free slug and snail killer here.
Firstly, no salt. Pouring salt on slugs causes osmosis, a process that draws the water out of a slug’s body, through their skin. This process kills them relatively quickly, but it is unclear how much pain they feel. The salt will also be washed into the soil as soon as it rains, raising the levels of acidity in the soil, damaging or killing plants.
A combination of methods is often the most effective. Using a top layer of Bloomin Amazing compost, known to naturally deter slugs, is an excellent starting point. If you have spare eggshells, these can be scattered around your most precious plants. Otherwise, the Ecofective Slug Defence Granules are eco-friendly, natural and pesticide free and form a physical barrier to deter slugs. The Slug Defence Spray also deters slug snails from eating your plants.
The evil ally
Can slugs be our friends? Well, probably not, but their cannibal cousins can come to stay anytime. The Great Grey Slug, or Leopard Slug, is known to eat snails (who prey on unsuspecting vegetables), as well as insect larvae, worms, maggots, and other slugs. Leopard in name and nature, this slug can be a beneficial garden ally.
The war against slugs is not yet over, but at least now you have an excuse to build a hedgehog house…