9 Ways to Get Rid of Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs

9 Ways to Get Rid of Snails and Slugs from Your Garden

by James G. Craig

Of all the pesky critters that invade your garden, none is grosser or slimier than slugs and snails. They seem to be everywhere. In every nook and cranny where the sun doesn’t shine – you’ll find a snail or a slug hiding. They’re waiting to come back out at dusk and start eating your plants again.

Figure 1 – By Aleph500Adam – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47416165

Snails and slugs have a voracious appetite, and they’ll eat almost anything. Ornamentals, flowers, vegetables, fruits, and even succulents… they are not picky eaters.

There are some proven ways to get rid of snails and slugs from your garden. We’ll take a look at some of these crafty tricks below. But first, let’s look at some simple things you can change right away that just might have a big impact.

Learn About Slugs to Beat Them in Your Garden

To truly get the upper hand on snails and slugs, you need to think about the conditions that they require in order to thrive. And then you need to create the opposite conditions in your garden.

Snails and slugs love moisture. They go out and slide around looking for any source of moisture they can find. They must go through a lot of water because they leave a trail of slime behind everywhere they go. And if you leave a tray of water out in your garden overnight, you will likely find it to be covered with snails and slugs in the morning.

Figure 2 – By Charlesjsharp – Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50426101

Another thing we know about snails and slugs is that they can’t tolerate bright sunlight. That’s why you don’t see them out and about in the middle of the afternoon. They spend the bright daylight hours hiding from the sun. Look on the bottom side of any elevated surfaces in your garden and you’re likely to find snails and slugs hiding underneath during daylight.

There is a lot we can do with just these two pieces of information. Here are some creative ways to control slugs based on the conditions they like (and don’t like).

Method #1 – Water Early in the Day

If you’re out for revenge against the snails and slugs that are destroying your garden, this might not seem like a very gratifying option. But, believe it or not, this is probably the single best thing you can do to control these slimy garden pests.

As we established above – they love moisture, and they are most active at night. So, wherever moisture is present at night, you will find snails and slugs there. A simple change to your watering schedule just might completely solve your problem.

Figure 3 – Photo Credit: humble tree via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Water early in the day. Allow the moisture to be absorbed by your plants all day long, and then leave the soil dry overnight. Snails and slugs will find your garden to be a most inhospitable place, and they will move elsewhere in search of moisture.

For many people, making this small change reduces their snail and slug population by up to 80%.

Method #2 – Set a Board Trap

This is one of the simplest things you can do – but it’s also one of the most effective. When you do this trick, you’re going to take advantage of one of the things we talked about above. Snails and slugs hate bright sunlight, so all you’re going to do here is give them a very convenient place to hide.

All you have to do is place a wooden board, or a large piece of cardboard, out in your garden. Use some rocks to prop it up so there is a tiny crawl space beneath the board. When the intense daylight sunlight arrives, the snails and slugs will flock to the underside of the board. And, that’s about all there is to it.

Set the board out the night before. And the next afternoon, go out and harvest your snails and slugs from the underside of the board. You can scrape them into the trash, kill them with salt, feed them to your chickens, or just toss them over the fence – it’s up to you.

Method #3 – Encourage Nighttime Predators

Snails and slugs are most active when the sun is down. So, anything that eats small critters at night is your ally. One of the most voracious slug consumers is the toad. If you see a toad near your garden – don’t chase it off! You can even use a small toad house to encourage more toads to come join the party.

Figure 4 – Photo Credit: trekr via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Snakes, frogs, and even raccoons and opossums are known to eat snails and slugs as well.

And there are a few insects that love to eat the tiny babies of snails and slugs. Lightning bugs and ground beetles are two baby snail-lovers. So if you see them around, let them stay in your garden if they aren’t hurting anything.

Using Baits and Poisons to Kill Snails and Slugs

There are several commercially available baits and poisons that can help to control snails and slugs in your garden. Depending on how you feel about introducing chemicals into the garden – some might be a better choice than others.

Method #4 – Use Sluggo

Sluggo is a commercial line of poison bait that does an excellent job of killing off slugs and snails. It works like a charm, and it is OMRI approved for use in organic gardens.

You spread the tiny granules around your garden. Snails and slugs take the granules and slither off to feast, never to be seen again. As an added bonus, Sluggo also controls various other garden pests like cutworms, sowbugs, pillbugs, and ants.

The active ingredients in Sluggo are iron phosphate and spinosad.

Method #5 – Use Diatomaceous Earth

If you’re not too excited about putting poison in your garden, diatomaceous earth is a great alternative for you. This product is also very effective at killing snails and slugs, although it is not a poison. Diatomaceous earth kills these critters physically, with tiny microscopic sharp blades that are harmless to your skin, but deadly to a snail’s skin.

To apply diatomaceous earth to your garden, use a small air pump applicator or sifter to spread it evenly in areas where snails and slugs have been seen. They will crawl over the DE, and in doing so they will tear their skin on the tiny jagged surfaces. After their skin has been punctured, they will basically bleed out and die a slow death.

So, if you’re out for revenge, this is a pretty diabolical option for you.

If you’re going to eat from the garden in question, make sure that you’re using food grade diatomaceous earth. It should clearly be labeled as such. Never use diatomaceous earth that is designed for use in a swimming pool – that’s an entirely different product, and it’s not safe for garden use.

And always wear a face mask or respirator when you’re applying DE to the soil. It is harmless to your skin, but it can cause problems if you inhale it.

Method #6 – Set Beer Traps

If you’re a real do-it-yourselfer, you’re going to love this option. Snails and slugs are attracted to yeast and yeast enzymes. Can you think of anything easy to find that’s full of yeast? How about some beer?

Use a small container like a margarine tub, a tuna tin, or a foil pie tin, fill it with beer… and wait. That’s it. The slugs will be attracted to the yeast in the beer and they will crawl up the side of the container to get a sip. When they go a bit too far, they slip down the inside wall and drown in the beer.

It might sound pretty strange, but it really works. This time-lapse video shows how much slugs love beer:

Be sure that the wall of the container you use is at least an inch higher than soil level. If you dig it down into the ground any further, you might accidentally also kill ground beetles (and as you know – ground beetles eat slugs).

Figure 5 – Photo Credit: Chris_J via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Also, be sure to use fresh beer. The yeast in stale beer has died off, and slugs are not attracted to stale beer. Some beers seem to work better than others. For whatever it’s worth, lots of people report that they have had the best success using Budweiser to trap snails and slugs.

Thinking Outside the Box

So far, we’ve looked at natural solutions and chemical baits. But there are some other solutions available. They’re a little less obvious, but they’re worth considering if you really have a bad snail or slug problem.

Method #7 – Get Some Ducks

Depending on where you live and what your local laws allow, ducks might be a great solution for your snail or slug problem. Ducks absolutely love snails. And, luckily, ducks don’t eat many garden plants.

If you live in a rural setting or in an area where free range poultry is allowed, consider adding a few ducks to your landscape to control your snails.

You might be surprised to learn that many commercial wineries and vineyards use ducks to control the snails that invade their grape vines. The “Indian Runner” duck is the most common choice, although any duck should do just fine.

Chickens also love to eat slugs and snails, but be careful! Chickens also love to eat many garden plants. So, if you’re going to try this, stay close by and make sure that the chickens don’t do more damage to your precious plants than they do to the slugs and snails.

Figure 6 – Photo Credit: KathrynW1 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Method #8 – Get a Pet Turtle

Turtles are another domesticated animal that loves to snack on snails and slugs. If you live in an area where box turtles are common, see if you can’t encourage one to set up shop in your garden.

Don’t use exotic turtles from the pet store – these require specific conditions to live and shouldn’t be left out to deal with natural conditions that they’re not cut out for.

In many areas it is against the law to take a turtle from the wild, so be careful not to break any laws. You might find a breeder who has a regionally appropriate turtle for you to buy. And if a wild turtle meanders his way into your garden… see if you can’t coax him into staying. Just toss a few snails his way and he’ll get the message.

Method #9 – Move Your Garden

I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but if you’ve made it all the way through this list and you haven’t found an option that you like yet, this may be the best course of action for you.

Many people fight off slug and snail infestations only to have them occur again and again. If this is the problem you have, then the natural conditions of your garden may be to blame.

If your garden is located under a thick canopy of trees, consider moving your plants out from the canopy to an area that gets more direct sunshine and is less likely to appeal to snails and slugs.

If your garden is located at the bottom of a hill where water accumulates after rainfall, consider moving it up to a higher elevation where there will be less moisture, and therefore, fewer snails and slugs.

Find the Best Solution for Your Particular Situation

You understand the conditions in your garden better than anyone else, and you’re the most qualified person to deal with a snail or slug infestation in that location. Stand back and take a good long look at the conditions, and decide which course of action is best for you.

If you’re watering at night, change that first. There’s a good chance that if you change your watering schedule, you won’t need to do anything else.

If you’ve been fighting snails and slugs incessantly for many years, consider throwing in the towel and moving your garden to a more suitable location.

Beer traps are always a great option because it’s nice to enjoy a beer yourself while you think about all the snails and slugs that you’re going to trap overnight… “Here’s to you!”

Do you have a favorite technique that isn’t included in this list? If so, use the comments section below to share it with our audience. We’d love to hear what has worked well for you!


first published in Gardeners Corner

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