Is there any way to stop slugs naturally and safely without using harsh chemicals?
If you are experiencing cool, damp weather conditions, chances are you might also be dealing with slugs. Slugs are shell-less mollusks that secrete mucus for protection and to help them travel around.
While they might come across as harmless, slow-moving, slimy creatures, slugs can actually cause a lot of damage to garden crops and plants in your landscape if left unchecked. In fact, all of your garden plants from fruits and vegetables to annuals and perennials can become victims of slug damage.
Add to that fact that slugs can carry disease that can be transferred from plant to plant, and you have a disaster waiting to happen. Unfortunately, most home gardens contain the perfect mix of food, shelter, and moisture which happen to be a paradise for slugs to gather and reproduce.
Once you recognize slug damage in your garden, it doesn’t mean you have to immediately reach for the chemicals and harsh chemical sprays. Instead, check out these natural, homemade methods that work wonders to eliminate these slimy creatures.
How To Detect Slug Damage
Slugs are nocturnal, so all of their plant consumption and multiplying occurs during the nighttime. With the cover of darkness, they don’t have to worry about the harsh sunlight drying out their slime coating or the rise in temperatures.
It is important to know that not all slugs are dangerous to gardens. There are some varieties that live near compost piles and help to break down dead and decaying materials. However, this article focuses on garden slugs, which can certainly cause their share of damage!
Most garden slugs are gray or brownish in color and only grow between 1 to 3 inches long. During the daytime, they are hard to locate because they hide in damp and dark places.
Early in the morning, you can often find their slime trails near the base of plants or on low-lying foliage. Lettuce and other leafy greens, cabbages, beans, and tomatoes are their favorite plant victims, but as mentioned earlier, slugs will consume almost any type of plant.
Also, look for holes in your foliage and stems. They will tend to be odd-shaped and have ragged edges. Your small seedlings can even be completely consumed, almost as if they’ve vanished from thin air overnight.
How To Stop Slugs Naturally
From digging chipmunks to hungry rabbits, gardeners are always having to deal with different animals and insects. But even slow and silent pests like slugs can also cause major damage to garden crops!
While it might be tempting to reach for slug pellets sold in store, resist the urge. Not only will these pellets kill the slugs, but they will also poison any animal or bird that happens to eat the dead slug as well.
Instead, go for more natural ways to trap and kill slugs. The following methods work well at limiting your slug population and the damage caused to your plants. However, you might have to try a few of them to see what works best for your particular situation.
Just remember that persistence and early detection are key when it comes to managing slugs. Check your garden frequently to stay on top of any pest or insect issue. While doing a garden check might only take a couple of minutes out of your day, it will save you hours of work and heartache in the long run.
Melon Rind Traps – Stop Slugs Naturally
You can create a simple homemade slug trap by using melon rinds. After you’ve enjoyed a nice slice of muskmelon or watermelon, take the leftover rinds and lay them near areas in your garden where you notice slug damage.
Place the rind with the flesh down toward the soil and the rind up. Once morning comes around, check the rinds and you’ll likely have several hanging out on it.
You can then toss the rinds and slugs into your compost pile. Or consider giving your chickens a nice, cool early morning snack. (You can find other benefits of gardening with chickens here: “Gardening With Chickens – How Raising Chickens Can Help Your Garden & Flowerbeds!”)
Replace the rind traps daily until you no longer see signs of slug damage.
Beer Traps – Stop Slugs Naturally
Just like melon rinds, slugs also love fermentation gasses that are produced by beer or yeast. Unlike picky humans, any cheap beer will do the trick perfectly.
Choose a location that is on the outskirts or edge of your garden or raised beds. Sink the container down into the soil, leaving a small lip around the container to discourage other insects from climbing in.
Alternatively, you can use a very shallow dish and then fill it with an inch or so of brown ale. Again, the variety and brand do not make any difference.
The slugs will travel to the “homemade all-night bar” and will drown once they climb into the liquid. Be sure to remove any deceased slugs and replace the container with fresh beer each night.
Homemade Yeast Trap
While using beer is the easiest way to trap slugs, you can also create your own yeast-friendly solution as well.
To make, simply use one cup of water, 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey, and a half to one teaspoon of yeast. Mix well and sit in a container just like you would for the beer trap. Be sure to check the trap often and change the solution nightly.
Coffee Grounds – Stop Slugs Naturally
Coffee grounds are good for much more than just your morning coffee or an afternoon pick-me-up! Due to their sharp edges, the grounds will stop the slugs from traveling over any place you put them.
Simply sprinkle the grounds around the base of your plants. As an added bonus, the coffee grounds will also add small amounts of nitrogen and other nutrients to your soil.
Egg Shells – Stop Slugs Naturally
Similar to coffee grounds, egg shells can also detract slugs from climbing too close to your plants. This is due to the broken egg shells’ sharp edges.
To use, wash off empty egg shells in water and allow to dry. You can either crush and use them as is, or place them on a baking sheet in a 325º oven for 15 minutes to allow them to completely dry out. Then, gently crush the shells into small pieces.
Sprinkle the shell pieces in a circle around the base of each plant. The shells will start to break down eventually, adding nutrients back into your soil.
Hand Picking – Stop Slugs Naturally
While this method might take a little more manual labor, it is by far the best and most reliable method. After dusk or early in the morning before the sun rises, go out into your garden to inspect your plants. Choose a night that is warm and on the damp side.
Start with the area of your garden where you have seen slug damage and simply look for the slugs on plants. Pick them off and place them in a bucket to relocate to your compost pile or far away from your garden area (or, again, feed them to your hungry chickens).
You’ll need to hand pick the slugs for the next few nights. But you should quickly start to see a diminish in their population and damage.
Bonus Tips – Stop Slugs Naturally
Try to keep the low-lying foliage off of the soil as much as possible to prevent slugs from hiding and taking up residence. Prune up the first several inches of tomato and pepper plants. Keep the outlying grass around your garden as short as possible. Also, remove any dead foliage and weeds as soon as possible.
It is said that slugs do not like to cross copper, but the reasoning isn’t completely known. It could be that the copper creates a reaction to their slim coating. No matter the reason, create a border of copper using copper strips or tape. Fashion the tape like a collar around the base of the plants. This works really well with young plants.
Also consider attracting slugs’ natural predators to your property. Birds, lizards, and frogs all enjoy dining on slugs, so be sure to make your garden space welcome to them.
By following a few of these simple tips and tricks for making homemade slug traps and more, you will be on your way to a damage (and slime!) free garden in no time at all!
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