How to Grow: Slug & Snail Controls

Learn how to control these slimy gastropods in your garden.

Learn how to control slugs and care for your vegetable and flower garden. Controls include non toxic, organic baits, traps, and some unusual techniques.


Hi I’m Charlie Nardozzi of the National Gardening Association. Today I’d like to talk to you about controlling slugs and snails in the garden. Slugs and snails are a plague in many gardens across the country especially in the spring and fall but even in the mild winter areas of the Pacific Northwest. These slimy critters are actually related to escargot but I wouldn’t want to eat one of these things. You’ll find them a lot of times in your garden on the leaves of basil, lettuce, marigolds, but especially on hosta leaves. If you’re wondering if it’s slugs or snails causing the damage on your hosta leaves, go out at night with a flashlight, turn the leaves over and a lot of times you’ll find them munching right underneath.

The key to controlling slugs and snails in the garden is understanding them. They love a cool, damp dark area so if you can plant your plants a little further apart, remove any mulch that’s in there and cultivate regularly around there you’re going to create a warm dry area that they’re not going to like and they’re gonna go somewhere else. That being said, there are many tactics you can employ to control slugs and snails. Here are three of the best.

The first one involves a barrier. Slugs are soft bodied little critters and they don’t like to crawl over sharp things so if you can get some crushed eggshells, sharp sand or crushed oyster shells and sprinkle them around your plants, they’re not going to want to cross that line.

For containers, a great barrier to use is copper flashing. Just stick the copper flashing along the top of the pot. Slugs are very watery and copper conducts electricity so when the slug comes up and tries to cross the copper it gets a little electric shock and goes elsewhere. Another method used is traps. Of course there’s a famous beer trap. Slugs love beer, but it doesn’t like them. You can use your homemade variety or you can use a commercial variety beer trap. Let me show you how to set it up.

You want to set up your beer trap right close to the hostas or other plants. Then you have you want to pour the beer into the trap so it’s about a half inch from the top. What ends up happening is that the slugs come over to get the beer and they reach in there and they fall in and drown. Once the trap is filled up with beer you want to cover it up and then move it close to where the plants are where the slugs are going to be. In the morning you’ll see it’ll be loaded with dead slugs. You might even get 40 or 50 of them.

One of my favorite ways to control slugs is with an organic bait. The best one to use is this iron phosphate bait. These are simply little pellets that actually have a slug attractant in them that they can’t resist. They come over and they start munching on them, but they also have iron phosphate in them. The iron phosphate is toxic to slugs even though it’s safe for birds for kids, animals and for wildlife. Simply take it and sprinkle it around your hosta plant or whatever plant you have, and you’ll see you’ll have much less damage. Of course, you’ll have to reapply it after a heavy rain.

So whether it be barriers, traps or baits, there’s lots of way to control snails and slugs in your yard.

Go here for more on slug and snail controls.

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