Last Updated on October 31, 2021 by Phil
Wondering how to get rid of slugs and snails naturally in your garden without using chemical pesticides?
Below I go through the different home remedies and solutions you can use to finally rid your garden of these bothersome pests. All the while keeping your family and pets safe from any potential toxins from commercial products.
Along the way, I’ll also explain how to identify slugs and snails and what causes them to keep coming to your yard. This way you can prevent them from coming around in the future.
What Are Slugs and Snails?
Snails and slugs are closely related to one another. They are gastropods and are classified under within the phylum Mollusca.
The biggest difference between the two is that snails have the large, hard shell on its back. Whereas the slug looks like a snail with the shell taken off. Both are invertebrates, which means they do not have a backbone.
As such, they move like a slinky and have soft bodies.
Both snails and slugs are most often found in humid, temperate climates. As such, many will appear when the rains come.
Another interesting thing about snails and slugs is that they are hermaphrodites. That is, they have both male and female reproductive organs. As such, they don’t need to mate with another snail or slug in order to reproduce.
Instead, they will self fertilize, although the entire process is quite complex and elaborate with a lot of weird movements and dances. That said, how they reproduce will vary depending on the species.
Identifying Slugs and Snails
In addition to the shells on the back of snails and the soft, gooey slugs crawling on the ground, there are a few other ways to identify these pests.
Note that they’re not easy to spot during the day because they spend most of their time hiding under dark areas like rocks and other objects in your garden. They particularly like damp conditions, so places where water can pool or there is wetness are common hiding places as well.
That said, snails and slugs measure between 1 to 3 inches long and are often dark brown or gray in color. Some are dull orange.
The best sign of these creatures is the slimy trails that they leave behind. These are their secretions which you can use to trace where they’ve been. As such, look for slime on plants, surfaces and surrounding soil. Early morning is the easiest time to see the trails.
To monitor slug and snail activity, you can dig holes that are 4 inches wide and 6 inches deep. Cover these holes with a board and check for slugs in 3 days. If you see many of them in the hole, then it is very likely that they’re the ones causing damage to your plants.
Finally, snails and slugs lay eggs in moist soil or compost. As you’ll see in the next section, these pests can increase very quickly in number especially when it is cool and there is moisture around (which is what your garden provides especially later in the afternoon and through the night).
Why Is Garden Slug Control So Challenging?
Snails and slugs like lawns and gardens because both are plots of land that are well irrigated. From above, you already know they like rainy conditions. And, you regularly watering your yard mimics this environment.
Additionally, gardens are filled with plants, rocks and other things that gives them shelter from the sun and wints.
One reason it is difficult to control snails and slugs is that they self-reproduce. As such, they don’t need a partner in order to do so.
Additionally, the common variety garden snail can lay about 80 eggs each time. And, is able to lay eggs as much as 6 times a year.
Even without doing any math, you know that’s going to be a big number.
While it takes snails to 2 years to mature, slugs only need 3 to 6 months to do so. So, between them, they’re able to keep increasing their population fairly quickly.
Slugs feed on decaying plants and animals waste. Although some feed on living plants as well. Unfortunately, these can inflict quite a bit of damage to your garden. Thus, understanding which slugs to target first and how to get rid of them helps speed up the eradication process.
Another thing that can make it difficult to get rid of slugs is that they feed at night and during rainy periods. They do so because they do not have the extra protection of the shell on their backs like snails do. As such, they use the darkness of night and cloudy skies to help themselves stay safe from the sun.
As you would guess, they spend daytime in darker areas of your garden or under rocks and other objects for protection.
Since most of us gardeners will be looking for the cause of the problem during the day, the cause is often misdiagnosed as another pest in the garden.
Also, spraying with insecticides don’t work since both snails and slugs are mollusks not insects. Thus, you cannot kill them with these products.
So, unless you’re willing to go out and spend a couple of hours at night with a flashlight scouring your garden for active slugs, it is more challenging to get rid of them.
Plus, once you find a few, you’ll need to deal with these slimy creatures and pick them off by hand. Yuck!
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What Does Slug Damage Look Like?
Many slugs and snails feed on decaying matter and animal waste which isn’t much of a problem for gardeners.
But other species also eat leaves and stems which causes holes and other damage to your plants.
As a whole, snails and slugs prefer succulent foliage and flowers. So, they’ll go after seedlings and herbaceous plants. Fruits that are close to the ground are another popular target for these mollusks. This is why tomatoes and strawberries are among the most commonly damaged by these pests.
When they attack seedlings, they’ll eat the leaves and leave the midribs behind. You’ll likewise see holes in tomatoes and strawberries. Ragged leaf edges are another sign of slugs feeding on your garden.
Slime trails on plants, rocks and other surfaces tell you that it is time to hunt down these slimy creatures.
The silvery slime trails are a good way to differentiate snail and slug damage to those done by caterpillars, earwigs and other insects that like to chew on live plants.
How to Get Rid of Slugs and Snails Naturally
Now that you know what slugs and snails look like and why they can be very damaging to your garden, it is time to learn how to get rid of slugs and snails without using commercial products with toxic chemicals.
If you prefer watching videos to reading, here’s a quick instructional video which will show you the different methods to keep snails and slugs from your plants and seedlings.
Below are the descriptions to the different methods to get rid of slugs and snails in your garden.
Know Which Gardening Practices Promote and Control Slugs
Before you deploy barriers, traps and other more complicated strategies, I’ve found that it is always a good idea to change some of the gardening habits and practices you may be doing that causes slugs and snails to come by.
Here are a few simple changes you can make to deter or reduce their presence.
- Avoid watering later in the day. Moist, dame conditions at night are what attract these creatures. As such, you want to move your watering schedule to earlier in the day so the yard is drier come night time.
- Choose the right kind of mulch. Slugs like hay, straw and shredded wood among other things. So, if the mulch you use is made up of these things, they are more likely to come around. You can switch to compost or other types of mulch instead.
- Avoid wetting foliage. Watering your garden from above is the quickest way to cover everything. But, wet leaves is another attraction to these mollusk. So, using drip irrigation which targets the roots instead of the top of the plants reduces the prevalence of slugs and snails.
Slug Preventive Plants
Like all pests, slugs and snails like and hate certain kinds of plants. While they enjoys seedlings and succulents, they are adverse to plants with fragrant foliage. So, herbs like mint are a good choice.
Also, furry and fuzzy leaves are another thing they don’t like.
Another option to get rid of snails and slugs in the garden is to deploy or attract natural predators.
For snails and slugs, your want to attract birds, lizards, toads, frogs, snakes and ground beetles. If you have kids or want to stay safe, then keep the snakes out of the list since they’re the more dangerous ones to have slithering around under the bushes or grass.
But, the others don’t really pose harm to people so they’re safe to have in the yard or garden.
If you have a farm or you’re homesteading, chickens, ducks and turtles are likewise good options.
Stop or Limit the Use of Pesticides
Pesticides are something I try to avoid because of the chemicals they use. Of course, there are some organic ones sold in stores. But, you always have to check the label to make sure what ingredients are used.
Plus, it is very important to know the different kinds of chemicals that are not safe to use in order to avoid them.
The other problem I have with pesticides is they work like antibiotics or chemotherapy. That is, they blast everything. So, even the good bugs in the garden are hurt by these products.
Use 2×4 Boards
You can use any kind of board. But, 2×4’s are easy to get and you can easily lay them down as well.
In any case, the purpose of the boards are to cover small holes or declines in your garden. Since slugs and snails hide from the sun, they’ll go under the boards.
Come afternoon, when the sun is the hottest, you can turn the board over and you’ll likely find at least a few of these pests sticking to the bottom.
You can just easily get rid of them from there.
Slugs don’t like the texture of wools just as you and I don’t feel comfortable with it. As such, you’ll find pellets that contain wool that you can place around affected plants then water the soil.
The water will cause the pellets to expand and release the wool creating a mat of wool around the plant which keeps these pests away.
Copper reacts to the slime trails that slugs release causing a mild electric shock. As such, they experience keeps them away.
You can get copper tape and place it around plants that these pests like to bother to protect them from these critters.
Make a Slug Fence
You can create a simple fence around your plants. Something like transparent plastic cut out from an old water bottle that encircles a plant is enough to keep snails and slugs from attacking it.
Although I know many gardeners who create small electric slug fences that are powered by a 9 volt battery to keep these pests away.
The Beer Solution
Snails and slugs love yeast. As such, beer traps are something a few gardeners use.
All you have to do is place a small dish in the garden and fill it with beer. Non-alcoholic seems to work the best.
Snails and slugs will get attracted to the beer but in trying to get there, they’ll slip into the liquid and drown. So, in the morning you’ll see the dish filled with these gross looking creatures.
Organic Slug and Snail Bait
Slug and snail baits are a common way to catch and get rid of these creatures.
But, you’ll see a few variations available in stores. Thus, you want to check the main ingredient these products use.
Avoid those that are poisonous to animals. These include metaldehyde and methiocarb. These are potent enough to kill your pets and even cause serious harm to young children. In fact, 1 to 2 teaspoons can kill smaller dogs.
Instead, you want to look for safer, ideally organic products. The best option here is one that uses iron phosphate.
Alcohol is an easy home remedy for slugs and snails because it is able to penetrate the pest’s waxy coating. Once it gets through, it will kill it as the alcohol comes to contact with their body.
You can use both isopropyl and ethanol alcohol which are usually around 70% strength for those sold in stores. Although, the latter seems to be more effective.
All you need to do is mix 50% alcohol and water and use as a spray.
Closing Thoughts of Slugs and Snails
If you’re been having a hard time getting rid of slugs and snails in your garden, the tips above will help you fix this problem once and for all.
Best of all, you don’t need to use chemical pesticides that can harm your plants as well as animals or even your kids in the garden.