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Garden Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails are a common home garden pest. They slither around in the night, on cloudy days, and in early morning hours. A shiny, slimy trail marks their coming and goings. They like many common flower and vegetable garden plants. They have been known to climb right into container gardens that are on the ground. Slugs and Snails even enjoy a variety of common shrubs.

Seemingly impossible to completely rid your garden of these pests, they can at best be controlled. There are both chemical and organic means of controlling these pests. We recommend the latter, but recognize that chemical control is sometimes needed.

Did you know? Slugs have four noses. Perhaps, that explains why they are so slimy.


Organic and Natural Control:

Most everyone has heard of using beer in a dish, as effective control. Some people even suggest you bury a beer bottle up to the lip. Slugs and snails love sweet things, like your garden vegetables and flowers. They climb over the edge of the bottle or dish, fall in and drown. It works very well to control the slugs and snails around your plants.

You do not need to use beer. Soda pop, fruit juices or even sugar water works equally well. We do recommend you use plastic containers rather than glass that can shatter in your garden soil. This author uses soup or tuna cans. Make sure you know where you placed each container. You also need to empty and refill the containers regularly, and after each rain. Better yet, discard the yucky contents, container and all, and start fresh.

Another tried and true approach, is a bed of coarse sand around your plants. Slugs and snails do not like coarse materials, and will not cross it. This has limited applications. But, it works well during the early stages of fruit that lies on the ground like pumpkins and melons. Gently lift the small fruit a couple inches off the ground. Lay a bed of sand under and around where the fruit will lie, so there is at least a three to four inch perimeter of sand on the ground around the fruit. Add more sand as the fruit grows.

In controlling slugs and snails, it is important to remove their habitat and shelter. Keep your garden clean of debris. A board or piece of wood on the ground is a great home for these little pests. Mulches, consisting of large wood chips, also should be avoided.

Organic Tip: If you do have wooden boards in or around your garden, lift them up every couple days. Remove and dispose of any slugs and snails that you find. This works with earwigs, too.

Other common deterrents that slugs and snails do not like to come in contact with include:

  • Wood Ash

  • Crushed Egg shells

  • Sawdust

  • Human or animal hair

  • Salt, fatal in even small quantities.

  • Coffee grounds, slugs don't like them, possibly fatal to them.

  • Epsom Salt - Encircle the plant with organic Epsom Salt. It's a line they will not cross.

A Note on using Salt: Some people get a kick out of pouring salt on slugs and watching them melt. It works, but is not practical in your garden. Salty soil is fatal to plants.

Natural predators is another means of control. Ducks, geese and many birds eat slugs and snails. Unfortunately, these slug lovers, may also enjoy the fruits of your garden as well as the slugs and snails.

Did You Know? A snail can sleep for three years!


Chemical Controls

Slug bait and Snail pellets and dusts are readily available. But it is a chemical, and should be used sparingly. It should not be spread around your garden fruits and vegetables, as it can be absorbed by the roots. Any use in the home garden should be limited to a covered container or bait trap, so wind and rain do not wash it into your soil.


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