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How to stop slugs and snails eating your precious plants

Are slugs and snails having a feast at your expense?

It’s summertime and slugfest has started! In these day of enlightenment (or an awakening of common sense), it would be encouraging to hope that most people have sealed their poisonous pots for good. But how do you stop slugs and snails (not to mention vine weevils and lily beetles) from decimating your patch of paradise?

group of slugs Hedgehogs and frogs will be pleased to find these slimy creatures, but gardeners might not have the same affection for slugs and snails!

These garden beasties seem to have huge appetites. This, coupled with their great capacity for multiplying in large numbers, can decimate certain plants. Some of their favourite food, as you might already have discovered, include:

hosta green plant with yellow splashes on leaves Hostas are one of a slug's favourite food!

Hosta; Heuchera; Iris; Lupin; Sweet Pea; Gerbera; Delphinium; Dahlia Chrysanthemum; Marigold; Coleus; Petunia; Pansy; Lettuce; Cabbage; Cauliflower; Brussels Sprouts; Runner Beans; Strawberry; Spinach; potatoes.

snail eating a plant and flower Slugs and snails are surprisingly good climbers!

Nature's workers

Let’s not forget that these creatures are immensely useful. They can quickly turn plant material into compost. They also make excellent food for beetles, frogs, birds and hedgehogs. We wouldn’t want to see the end of slugs and snails because it would lead to the demise of many other creatures too.

hedgehog in garden A hedgehog is a gardener's best friend.

Try these deterrents around plants that are precious:

There’s a product called Slug Gone which many people find to be highly effective. The pellets are created using pure sheep’s wool and they are therefore both organic and safe. The pellets deter slugs and snails because wool is an irritant that they would prefer not to slide across. Just sprinkle the pellets freely around the plants that you need to protect.

roll of copper tape to keep slugs at bay Copper tape is a good slug deterrent when applied to pots and containers.
Hydrangea flowers in a copper pot Copper containers are rather beautiful in their own right too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, there’s the copper tape that is generally offered for sale in many different garden-related outlets and hardware stores. Slugs and snails would prefer not to slide across copper and it is particularly effective when used near the rim of pots and containers.

The same goes for granular or sharp sprinklings around plants. This could be crushed eggshells, sharp sand, gravel, sawdust or grit – they all create an uncomfortable journey for members of the slug family.

Traps

Then we have traps such as beer-filled jam jars or containers, sunk down into the ground. Slugs are attracted to the scent and they simply fall in and drown.

Beer pouring from a bottle into a glass Slugs find the smell of beer irresistible

Upturned skins of grapefruit, oranges or lemons make good traps, provided you remember to collect up the slugs and snails that gather under the skins.

A simple sheet of black plastic or board, placed onto the ground, also make good slug hiding places. Have a look underneath during daytime and remove any slugs that are hiding there. Be wary, however. There are sometimes rarer creatures such as newts, frogs and unusual snails that enjoy similar habitats and these need our protection.

model of frog holding a heart Please protect me! I'll eat your slugs but I need somewhere to hide.

Topical treatments

Salt, applied directly to a slug’s body, will cause it to froth and dehydrate, leading to a quick death.

Boiling water can also be applied, which will kill them almost instantly. Be careful not to pour boiling water on your plants or other mini-beasts though!

slug eating a plant. Sorry, slugs, but sometimes we do need to remove you, because we love our plants.

Nematodes are microscopic worms that seek out their slug hosts and enter the body via the respiratory opening. They secrete bacteria which kills the slugs. The nematodes can be purchased and watered onto moist ground which is known to be slug territory so that they can await their host’s arrival.

Plant species that slugs and snails don’t eat!

Blue Agapanthus aren't generally eaten by slugs and snails Slugs and snails won't generally touch Agapanthus because the stems and foliage is so tough.

There are many plants that are not attractive to slugs and if you don’t want your garden to be decimated by these little, squidgy blobs, you could consider planting species that have no appeal to our slimy friends. They include woody-stemmed shrubs; plants with tough or glossy leaves or stems and those with hairy foliage. They include Agapanthus, Bergenia, Eryngium and Antirrhinum; plants with toxic sap such as Euphorbia; most ferns; hardy geranium, Hemerocallis; Digitalis; Salvia, Sedum and Scabious.

basil herb growing. Aromatic herbs such as Basil are a great way to keep slugs and snails at bay.

There are also companion plants which might even help to deter slugs. These include herbs such as basil, garlic, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme. They also tend to steer clear of lavender and roses.

snail eating soft fruit raspberry Not every slug or snail is our enemy. Many don't touch the plants that we are so keen to protect. Some are rare and very beautiful.

Nature is out there for all of us to bond and work with. Enjoy being inventive to find ways around some of the most common problems that gardeners encounter.