It is well known that slugs are widely disliked among gardeners, especially when they are invading your vegetable patch. It is true that slugs love to munch on your cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce – however, slugs are widely misunderstood creatures. Around 95% of slugs you won’t actually see nibbling on your plants as they live underground. Most slugs feed off decomposing plants, making them a vital part of our ecosystem. This is part of the reason natural slug deterrents are the best bet in getting rid of slugs from your garden.
Slugs are nocturnal creatures, only coming out at night to feed. They are lovers of dark, damp environments and are most active during the warmer more humid months; however you may see slugs around any temperature over 5 degrees celsius. Tell-tale signs include slime trails and irregular holes in the foliage of your plants. If the former is causing you bother in removal, white vinegar is a good solution.
Of the slugs that do feed off the plants you have lovingly grown, there are a number of things you can do to deter slugs naturally and organically. Read on to find out more about natural slug deterrents in the garden.
There are many benefits to choosing natural slug deterrents over traditional chemical pest control.
One thing to point out is that the use of slug pellets does not just affect slugs – it also affects the predators of slugs, including hedgehogs, ground beetles and frogs. The use of these slug pellets not only kill off these predators’ food source, but also cause them to ingest the poison present in the slug corpses they eat. Slug pellets can also pose a danger to any pets you may have.
Another is the effectiveness of slug pellets – although they are the number one choice for gardeners when it comes to slug pest control, they are not necessarily the most effective. They are said to only kill 10% of the slug population in your garden.
If you are gardening organically (and there are many benefits to doing so), slug pellets should not be used as they contain harmful chemicals that will disrupt the natural balance of your garden. With so many natural slug deterrents for your garden available, there is really no need to use slug pellets, unless as a very last resort.
Natural Slug Deterrents: Prevention
As mentioned previously, slugs thrive in damp conditions where soil structure and drainage is poor. Improving the soil in your garden may help deter slugs from making a home there.
One way to do this is by adding organic matter to your soil in the form of compost. You can find out more about how to compost here. You can also add leaf mould to your soil, which will improve its structure along with encouraging beneficial bacteria.
Creating a pond or water garden will help improve the drainage of your soil, as well as adding a beautiful extra feature to your garden.
Cultivating the soil in your garden involves breaking up and loosening it with a rake. Regularly cultivating will disturb slugs’ environment, leaving them more vulnerable to predators. It will also allow for the top of the soil to dry out more, resulting in limited movement for slugs.
Slugs thrive in dark, damp areas and make home in decaying plant matter, so keeping your garden clear from any debris will help deter them. Be sure to put any leaves and grass clippings into your compost heap instead of leaving it around. Additionally, be vigilant when tidying up any stacks of flower pots as you are probably likely to find a whole family of molluscs in there.
Choose Resistant & Trouble-Free Plants
Instead of waging a war against slugs once your garden is in full bloom, choosing plant varieties that are resistant to slugs may save you a lot of stress and time trying to deter slugs.
The following annuals and perennials are particularly resistant against slugs:
Vegetables that are generally disliked by slugs include the following:
Natural Slug Deterrents: Slug Repelling & Attracting Plants
Although many believe slugs will eat anything and everything in their garden, there are some plants which slugs will not touch with a barge pole. Try planting these near the plants they love to deter them from the whole area. Slugs tend to dislike strong-smelling plants, and plants with hairy foliage. Here are some examples:
You can also try planting varieties that slugs love away from your prize plants. This will distract them away from what you don’t want them to eat. Lawn camomile is a good one for this. Rub the leaves of the lawn camomile to further release the aroma that attracts the slugs to the plant.
Natural Slug Deterrents: Attracting Predators
As mentioned previously, the predators of slugs include hedgehogs, ground beetles, thrushes, frogs & toads. Encouraging these natural predators in your garden will help control the slug population. There are a number of things you can do to help attract these predators to your garden.
- Leave part of your garden wild
- Provide a hedgehog home
- Leave out a bowl of water for your hedgehog to quench their thirst
- Invest in a compost bin where your hedgehog can make a home
To find out more about attracting hedgehogs to your garden, check out our post on preparing hedgehogs for winter.
- Provide thrushes with suet and hulled sunflower seeds to initially attract them to your garden
- Invest in a bird bath near ground level, so thrushes have fresh water
- Thrushes prefer thick foliage to nest in rather than bird houses, so leave part of your garden wild to encourage them to nest
Frogs & Toads
The simplest way to attract frogs is to build a frog-friendly pond. There are number of things you can take into consideration in terms of attracting wildlife when building your pond:
- Frogs like tranquil water so there is no need to add a filtration system or aerator
- Build the pond with sloped sides so frogs can easily get in & out of the pond
- Don’t add any fish! Fish are natural predators of frogs and feed on their eggs and tadpoles
- Add a variety of pond plants
- Embrace the ‘wild’ of your pond and don’t keep it too clean
- Mulch your garden well and often
- Plant perennials where ground beetles can take shelter
Natural Slug Deterrents: Barrier Methods
You can deter slugs directly from your plants by creating barriers around them. Barrier methods come in the form of barriers that slugs cannot physically cross, and barriers that slugs could cross but would prefer not to due to discomfort and unpleasantness. Be sure your plants are free from slugs to start with before implementing either of these methods – the key is to trap the slug in the area away from your plant, not near it!
Slugs do not like to touch copper, as when they do, a chemical reaction occurs and they are given an unpleasant shock. This form of deterrent is available in the form of copper tape, copper rings and copper pot feet. Tape is useful to stick around the top of planters. Copper rings can be placed around small groups of plants.
Creating a barrier of broken eggshells around your plants will deter slugs, as they will dislike moving across the sharp and jagged edges. In addition, the eggshells add calcium to your soil as they decompose. Be sure the eggshells are clean and the inner membrane is removed before spreading around your plants.
Nutshells work in a similar way to that of above. The hard shells of nuts such as walnuts work best.
Not only is seaweed great for your soil, it is also a natural repellent for slugs. Slugs consist mainly of water, and the high salt content of seaweed will put them off venturing through it, even if there is food on the other side. Place the seaweed powder or fresh seaweed around your plants to ward slugs off. In dry weather, fresh seaweed will dry out and become rough, further deterring slugs from crossing it.
If all your efforts have failed, and slugs are still a problem, there are a few ways you can extinguish slugs you see in your garden. Be wary that doing this will affect the natural biological cycle of your garden and its delicate ecosystem, so it is only to be used as a very last resort.
Slugs are attracted to citrus. Leaving grapefruit halves around your garden and leaving overnight will attract slugs, and they will take shelter under the skin. In the morning, collect up the slugs and dispose of them in the compost heap.
Slugs love the smell of beer. Take a small container, such as an old tuna tin and fill it with beer. Slugs will take a sip and end up falling in and drowning. Be sure to place the container above ground, as otherwise it will kill other wildlife such as ground beetles, which are actually a predator of slugs. Although this method is effective, it will only trap slugs within a few feet of the beer, so a lot of beer traps are needed.
Overall, there are numerous natural slug deterrents available for you to try. If you try any of the above, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.