Getting rid of slugs naturally and without the use of pesticides or chemicals is not as difficult as you might think. There is more than just one way to keep slugs at bay and stop them destroying your favorite plant, be it a vegetable or flower.
Some of the best ways to get rid of slugs naturally:
- Attract & allow natural predators to thrive in your outdoor areas
- Introduce natural predators like poultry or hedgehogs
- Build and use beer traps or other forms of slug traps
- Create impassible terrain for slugs using things like sand, eggshells & brambles
- Spread your coffee grounds across your growing patches
- Use a wall of herbs such as lavender
- Slugs and snails react with copper, build perimeter fencing with copper
- Use companion planting, techniques utilising plants slugs and snails do not like
Using a combination of some of the above you can eliminate the destruction caused by slugs without using harmful chemicals that could harm wildlife or even your own pets!
The slug & snail – a rundown
The slug and snail are an insidious foe, and as any battle tactician will know the best way to defeat your enemy is to understand your enemy. So here we are going to go through the basic biology of a slug and snail in an effort to understand how best to stop them.
Anatomy of a slug
Anatomy of a snail
Gastropod: a mollusk of the large class ‘Gastropoda’ such as a snail, slug, or whelk.
The snail and slugs weak spot
The soft squidgy bodies of slugs and snails is one of their main weaknesses, it can be used in a variety of ways to help stop the little blighters munching your crops! Now this said, slugs and snails can be a pest BUT this does not mean they should not be treated with some humanity.
If you are going to ‘dispatch’ of the problem, then it needs to be done in as quick and painless way that is possible. Salt and vinegar are both very slow and painful ways to die, it is the equivalent to being covered in acid or having so much salt inside you that you dehydrate to death, not nice!
Salt & vinegar techniques are slow and brutal ways in which to kill a slug or snail!
Why killing snails and slugs wont solve your problem
The other thing to realize is that killing 1, 2 or 100 slugs will not solve your problem, more will come back if you do not either deter them completely or remove to source of their interest. Killing a slug or snail with salt or vinegar is not ethical or effective.
So how am I supposed to get rid of them effectively & ethically?
One way I’ve found a way to balance the need to ‘kill’ slugs and snails is to allow nature to do it for me. By attracting or introducing natural predators to the scene we can both remove the problem and feed something positive in return, whether its a family of native song birds or chickens!
Two ways to allow nature to defend your crops are:
#1 Raise or keep some poultry in your garden space like chickens or guinea fowl
By far the most effective way to keep all sorts of pests down in your garden or outdoor space is to raise some poultry, at the Backyard Farm we have 2 chickens who’s role is to scavenge the garden for pests like slugs, snails and beetles that may damage our crops.
This allows for maximum control over your garden space, allowing your poultry to scavenge where necessary turning those fat tasty slugs into eggs! It also keeps them off your growing produce.
Rearing poultry also tends to attract other forms of slug eating wildlife into your garden or outside space. In our experience at the Backyard Farm many of the song birds and some corvids will take advantage of the chicken feed when the hens are elsewhere in the garden.
This is another great advantage to keeping poultry, even if its just 2 hens like we do here. This method is also pet friendly
#2 Attract wild animals like birds to your garden to feast on the slugs
If you don not have the time, space or inclination to keep poultry then another full proof & nature friendly way of keeping slugs at bay is to attract natural wildlife.
Wild animals that feed on slugs include:
- Ground beetles
What birds eat slugs in the UK
- Song Thrushes & other song birds
- Corvids like crows and magpies
- Hawks & owls
Attracting any of these will help keep the population of slugs down in your outside space. It is a good idea to attract at least one nocturnal predator as slugs are also nocturnal. This is not essential but it will help in the long run, hedgehogs are the easiest to attract in most areas of the UK.
Song birds will also make light work of a large amount of slugs in the early hours of the morning. Attracting a variety of these is a great way to help reduce snail and slug populations.
How to get rid of a slug infestation in the garden
Slug infestations in the garden are a little easier to deal with, places that harbor these pests can often be remedied or removed with less stress or hassle than inside a structure like a house. To get rid of the slug infestation you need to do some detective work and find them.
If you have a concreted, patio or another from of stone flooring then you can use the same trick as you use indoors. Follow the trails left by slugs or snails using a torch, their trails will reflect the light and allow you to follow them.
The chances are you have been led to something like a rockery or pile of old wood in a damp corner, gastropods need moisture to survive so anywhere with a high moisture content will likely have a family of slugs in there.
Eliminating where the slugs are living and breeding is the only sure way to be rid of your problem all together, killing them one by one is a tedious and pointless exercise. If you do not want to remove the object causing an issue then you can still employ one of the two methods mentioned above.
Slug proof raised beds
Raised beds will likely contain some tasty treats for a gastropod a one point or another during the season & keeping them off a growing area is essential! Along with some of the above methods keeping the population of slugs and snails down, you can add another line of defense!
Bramble canes & egg shells as slug defense
Brambles grow wild and free across great swathes of Britain, these plants are covered in thorns. These thorns are great at deterring slugs and snails by causing great discomfort to them if they try to cross a bramble cane.
Find some bramble canes in a hedge row and cut them to round 30cm in length, lay these along the base of your raised beds or planters. For the ultimate slug defense, sure up the bramble canes with crushed eggshell. This works in the same way as the canes causing gastropods great discomfort when trying to traverse over them to a tasty snack.
Add into the mix some lavender and there is very little chance any snail or slug is going to make it to your vegetable patch. Lavender is a fantastic deterrent and companion plant. It deters slugs, snails and many other natural predators to your vegetable patch.
How to get rid of slugs in the house and porch
If you have a slug problem in your house or porch there is likely an underlying reason. Damp or a food source will keep slugs coming back or even settling in you house, porch or patio. The first thing to do is identify the source, where are the slugs coming from.
Once you know where they are coming from, you want to know why slugs are coming in? If the slugs are making their way into your house at night, you need to know what they are coming for. If you leave any food sources out at night then store them correctly, if you have damp then this will need to be addressed to help deter the slugs.
Last but not least you need to see how and where they are getting in, once you have identified this you need to close or reseal these access areas.
How to find where slugs or snails are getting in?
The quickest method to identify a slugs and other gastropods points of entry is by following the silvery residue left in their wake. By following this trail we can follow it to where they are getting in.
To do this you will only need a torch, using the light from your torch, look for reflections from the slime trails left by gastropods. Tilt and manoeuvre the light to cover every angle, once you find a trail follow it until you either find a slug or snail, or until you find their point of entry.
Once found, close off the entry point so it is slug proof, due to their shells snails are less likely to have made it into your house unless you have left a window or door open.
If you follow the above methods you will stop the slugs coming in, removing the need to kill them slowly with salt or vinegar.
What attracts slugs to the house?
Common things that attract slugs into your home are:
- Pet food
- Food scraps
- Spilt drinks or food stuffs
- Damp (they need moisture to survive and favour damp conditions)
- Easy access, block off easy points of entry
How to get rid of slugs indoors
By keeping what slugs like properly stored and kitchen sides clean, with all points of entry sealed off you really should not have any slugs left. If you do then you may have a bigger problem than just a few scrounging gastropods.
Slugs can become a problem where damp is involved. If you have a reoccurring slug or snail problem then you may have a serious damp problem somewhere in the house.
Slug infestations in the house should be dealt with or consulted about with a pest control specialist and builder.
Does salt kill slugs & snails?
Yes, salt kills slugs and snails… slowly and painfully! Salt kills gastropods by dehydrating them slowly from the outside in. This is not effective or ethical and should be avoided.
Does vinegar kill slugs?
Yes, vinegar kills slugs and snails… like salt, slowly and painfully! Only this time it is the equivalent to being doused in acid, again it is not effective or ethical and should be avoided.
How to get rid of snails & slugs with coffee
Coffee grounds are a great deterrent when it comes to slugs and snails. They do not like the smell given off by used ground coffee and they will saunter off to find an easier, less smelly meal! Cover the base of your plants and growing beds with your used coffee grounds to help deter these pesky critters!
Do coffee grounds deter slugs and snails?
Coffee grounds as a fertilizer
Another fantastic benefit when adding used coffee grinds to your soil as a deterrent to slugs is that it is also a great fertilizer! It really is killing 2 birds at once, coffee grinds add nitrogen directly to your soil very quickly (not immediately).
It also adds more organic material to your soil which will in turn improve drainage, aeration to the soil and roots along with water retention. Worms will also be drawn to the coffee grounds helping turn over the soil and grounds together.
Is there a difference between using used and unused coffee grounds in the garden?
Yes! Unused coffee grounds lower PH and make soil more acidic than used/washed coffee grounds. For its purpose as a slug deterrent we will be using used coffee grounds.
How do I get rid of slugs without harming my dog
Slugs can cause problems for dogs, lung worm can be contracted from slugs and snails if a dog ingests them or a toy that has had them crawl all over it.
For more information on lung worm see here
Any of the methods we’ve used here today are relatively dog friendly it is important to note that a small dog ingesting coffee grounds could be potentially fatal. If you have a dog and want to use any of the above techniques we would advise protecting your growing area from your pets.
Prevention is the best way to stop any pet accidentally eating something toxic, or your hard won produce!
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