Slugs and snails love to hang out in our wooded, shady yard. I don’t mind seeing them slithering along our sidewalks early in the morning, leaving a trail of slime behind them. But, I hate finding them in our garden. Although these slimy pests are small, they can do massive damage to a garden. They munch on plants, leaving uneven holes in their leaves.
Fortunately, I don’t have to have to resort to harsh pesticides to make slugs and snails skedaddle. There are plenty of natural tricks that can be used safely in an organic garden.
Slugs and snails like it cool, damp and shady. That’s why The National Gardening Association recommends taking steps to keep your garden sunny and warm. It advises gardeners to plant in areas of full sun and space plants a little farther apart so that more of that sun reaches the ground. Using containers or raised beds with lots of compost mixed in is another way to warm up soil faster. Removing mulch, broken pots, weeds and rocks also helps deter slugs and snails because it takes away their favorite hidey holes, discouraging them from hanging around your garden.
Welcome Natural Enemies
When you’re getting rid of the debris slugs and snails like to hide beneath, leave a few upside down clay pots out as toad houses. If you can convince a few frogs and toads to call your garden home, they’ll eat the slugs and snails before those slimy critters can dine on your plants.
Who knew slugs and snails had a sense of smell? According to the Organic Authority, these slimy pests avoid strongly scented plants like garlic, mint, chives and geraniums. Planting them along the edge of your garden forms a floral fence.
Offer a Tasty Distraction
Studies have shown that slugs and snails will cheerfully ignore your other plants if they have easier access to red clover, explains OrganicGardening.com. Planting a patch a red clover on the outskirts of your garden may keep them too full to bother with trying to chew on the food you’re growing for yourself.
Build a Slug-Proof Fence
Regular fencing won’t work to keep slugs and snails out, but there are effective barriers you can put into place to discourage them. Simply circle your plant beds with a thin line of crunched eggshells, sand, epsom salt or diatomaceous earth (the kind formulated for gardens). Neither slugs nor snails can crawl comfortably through these materials, so they’ll steer clear. Copper strips are another great barrier. The National Gardening Association says that the metal reacts with the animal’s slime, causing an unpleasant electric shock.
Serve Dangerous Drinks
Beer traps are a perennial favorite with gardeners who find themselves duking it out with slugs and snails. Bury a shallow container like a yogurt cup level with the surface of the soil and then fill it with beer. The yeasty smell lures in the slugs and snails, which fall into the container and drown. Coffee is another tasty drink that will do these pests in. The caffeine that revs people up is actually a neurotoxin for slugs and snails, explains Mother Earth News. Gardeners can spray their plants leaves with coffee or sprinkle coffee grounds around their plants to keep them safe from slimy invaders.
Engage in Hand-to-Hand Combat
As a last resort, gardeners can handpick any snails or slugs that manage to slip past other defenses and reach their plants. It’s unpleasant, but effective.
I’ve tried several of these tricks, and, while no single one has completely eliminated the slugs and snails from our garden beds alone, employing a combination has worked fairly well. I rarely find more than one or two of these slimy pests in my vegetable garden anymore.
Interested in reading more from Bree? Check out these articles:
“Plant These Five Flowers for a Better Vegetable Garden”
“Safe Plastics for Gardening”
“Beyond the Backyard: DIY Life Lessons That Come In Handy Everywhere”