How to stop snails and slugs eating your plants

Habitat and Habits

Not all nighttime marauding is caused by gastropods. An easy clue to determine who’s causing the damage is by the telltale trail of shiny mucous they leave behind – if a slime trail is present, you know the culprit is a slug or snail.

Snails and slugs both belong to the mollusk phylum, and have similar bodies and biology. The primary difference between the two is that slugs are without the snail’s external spiral shell.

They both propel themselves with a muscular “foot” that continuously secretes a slimy mucous to help them glide, and both thrive in similar environments.

Both types of gastropods prefer cool temperatures and are most active at night, or on overcast days. On bright, sunny days, or when temperatures are high, they’ll seek cool, shady havens to beat the heat and bright light.

In cold weather, they’ll hibernate underneath any debris that provides shelter, or burrow into topsoil. But in areas with mild winters, they can be active year-round.

4. Employ Biological Methods (Predators)

One of the best, most natural biological methods is the use of predators.

For example, you can introduce chickens, geese, and ducks in your garden to feed on them. Other creatures that help are tortoises, turtles, frogs, toads, snakes, newts, salamanders, hedgehogs, beetles, nematodes, and birds.

You can also use predatory snails. These snails are attractive and do not carry parasites. You can introduce them in your garden; though in this case, you should not use other control methods, such as baits, traps, and pesticides.

If you want to get rid of gastropods in a fish pond, you can introduce a scavenging fish. Some recommended fish include loaches, catfish, and putterfish. These predators also feed on the pests, eliminating the menace completely.

Predator Slug

By La.Catholique on Flickr [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia

Video

What Damage Can Snails Cause?

For a small creature, snails can pack a big punch. Snails have a rough,  rasp-like tongue, which they scrape across the edges of plant leaves. The result is large holes and chips across the surface area of the plant, which can damage or even kill your greenery.

But that’s not all they do.

Here are a few reasons to get rid of snails as soon as you see them:

  • Snails reduce crop yield. If you have a flower or a  vegetable garden on your property, snails will eat your plants and reduce your crop yield. They’re particularly hard on leafy vegetables.
  • They can destroy water features. Snails and slugs are parasitic and can kill fish in decorative ponds and water features. Plus, these water-loving mollusks reproduce rapidly and can short your electronics and clog pond or pool filters and pipes.
  • They spread disease. Snails carry diseases and parasitic worms (including Schistosomiasis that can be dangerous for domestic pets and people. Having them on your property may be putting your health at risk.
  • They are unsightly. Nobody wants to pick a fresh leaf of lettuce from the garden only to find a snail. Snails are unsightly and disgusting and will make your yard or garden a less enjoyable place to be.

What repels slugs in the garden?

We believe that whenever you’re dealing with a pest, repelling them should be your first line of defense. After all, pests are only pests because they are eating your garden plants! When they aren’t eating your strawberries, slugs are an important part of the ecosystem—so let’s try to keep them that way.

There are multiple different ways of repelling slugs, so you’ll have lots of options to try to figure out what works best for your garden!

3 Ways to Naturally Repel Slugs (Preventative Meas

3 Ways to Naturally Repel Slugs (Preventative Measures)

Create a Barrier: Slugs crawl everywhere, and their soft, sensitive bodies do not like to crawl over anything that irritates their skin. Use this to your advantage by circling your plants with a barrier that causes the slugs to turn around and head in the other direction. Coffee grounds, wood ashes, sand, crushed eggshells, and diatomaceous earth (DE) all do this when sprinkled around plants—with DE being the most deadly. Another barrier option is copper tape or copper wire. You place the tape or wire around your plants or garden beds, and when the slug crawls across it, it is given a small electrical shock that is very uncomfortable.


Remove Garden Debris: If you have consistent problems with slugs, after the soil has thawed in the spring, you want to begin to remove garden debris like leaf litter or mulch. Slugs not only like to live in the garden debris, but they also lay their eggs in it.

Increase Populations of Natural Predators with Companion Plants: Slugs are a favorite food of snakes, toads, frogs, beetles, and other beneficial insects. Ground beetles are a common predator of garden slugs, and planting white clover in your garden can help increase ground beetle populations.

Signs Of Slugs in Your Garden

If you notice any of the following, you may have slugs or snails in your garden.

  • Irregularly shaped holes in plants, especially in new plants
  • Slime trails on mulch and plants
  • Chewed seedlings or seedling leaves
  • Small scalloped bite marks around the edges of plant leaves

Note: Snails and slugs typically like to wreak havoc on gardens in the Spring – before other insects come out. 

WD40

Ideal if you have pots or plants that’re higher up.

Spray the lubricant onto the outside of pots or trellises so slugs and snails will simply slide down when they fancy making a meal of your plants.

12: Gravel, Bark or Wood Chips

Gravel, bark, sharp sand and wood chips create a barrier for snails and slugs. It makes it difficult for the pests to get around and slide over the irregular, sharp surfaces. Adding this to your gardens can help reduce the chance of them being eaten by slugs and snails, and these top coats also look stunning in a garden. Wood chips and bark look great in natural styled gardens, while stone and sand looks amazing in modern style gardens!

Methods of control

The only sure-fire way to keep your garden free of snails and slugs is to destroy them. There are several ways to do this, or you can use natural deterrents to keep them away from your plants by making the garden less hospitable.

Poison

Scatter pellets or apply a snail gel around plants by hand, choosing an animal-friendly product to protect pets, native birds and lizards.

Bait

Set traps baited with fresh lettuce, citrus rind or stale beer, check them daily and squash the pests or drop them into a jar of salty water.

Shock

Use copper tape as a collar for young plants and pots, or as bed edging. Copper makes an effective barrier, as it gives snails and slugs a slight electric shock. This tape is about 30mm wide.

Catch

Search and destroy snails and slugs by hand-picking them out of the garden and killing them. If you can’t bear to squash or drown them, mix a solution of equal parts vinegar and water and pour it into a spray bottle for a homemade and eco-friendly pesticide. Spray the solution directly onto both snails and slugs to kill them, but be careful where you use it as vinegar is a herbicide and will also poison your plants.

Deter

Position timber boards on the soil near vulnerable plants and the pests will migrate to the underside where they can be easily removed. Clear away decaying vegetation and debris like rocks and leaf litter to eliminate daytime hiding places. Mulch also makes a good home for snails and slugs, so keep it less than 80mm thick.

TIP Don’t spread mulch until plants are well established and daytime temperatures are reaching 21°C.

Block

Lay barriers around plants, especially lettuces, to stop snails and slugs in their tracks. These soft-bodied pests will turn away from a sharp or scratchy barrier rather then crawl across it to get to the salad bar. Surround plants with strips of coarse grit abrasive paper or broken eggshells. Coir also works, as the tiny fibres stick to snails and slugs, making it hard for them to move.

15: Sacrificial Plants

Sacrificial plants, or trap plants, can help protect your garden by attracting pests elsewhere. If you are trying to protect an ornamental garden bed, for example, try planting some lettuce at the back or in inconspicuous spots. Snails and slugs love lettuce more than ornamental plants, so they are more likely to eat the lettuce than your garden plants.

Coffee

This tip is better for those who don’t have pets, as coffee can be harmful to them.

If you’re pet-free, you can put coffee grounds on the soil around any plants you want to protect.

As they hate the taste and smell, you can be assured no slugs will head onto your patch.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many ways to control snails and slugs in your home, garden, or water feature. A combination of methods might work best. Depending on your preference and other factors, you can choose the methods that suit you best.

What kind of damage do slugs do?

Slugs will eat any kind of foliage, but you’ll often find them doing the most damage to the tender leaves and stems of seedlings. Slugs will also take bites out of vegetables and fruits (particularly soft fruits like strawberries), causing unsightly crops.

How to Get Rid of Snails in the House

Snails in your garden are one thing – snails in your house, though, are entirely another. Nobody wants to spot a snail on a wall or floorboard or – worse yet – step on one in the middle of the night.

Here are a few ways to get rid of snails in the house:

1. Seal all Gaps

The first step to stopping snails is identifying their access points. Use a flashlight to spot dried slime trails and trace them back to entry points. Seal all gaps around windows, doors, and foundations, and replace weather stripping on doors. Use caulk or silicone sealant for small cracks and expanding foam for larger cracks.

Pros: Effective, affordable, safe for kids and pets

Cons: Does not get rid of snails already in your home

2. Use Bait

For best results, fill a shallow bowl with beer and place it anywhere you’ve noticed snail activity, such as underneath a refrigerator or behind potted plants.  If you have kids or pets, make sure to place the bait someplace they can’t reach or spill it. Check the bait trap frequently, and refresh with fresh bait if needed.

Pros: Effective, affordable, non-toxic, safe for households with kids and pets

Cons: You’ll have to set bait again and again to reduce your snail population

Frequently Asked Questions

Do slugs have a purpose?

Slugs can be beneficial to an extent because when they chew on and break down garden debris it converts to nitrogen-rich fertilizer. This in turn can enhance the nutritional value of the soil in a similar way that worm composting works. Slugs and snails are also beneficial as a food source for birds and other common garden critters like frogs, toads and snakes.

Should you kill slugs in your garden?

Like we mentioned above, slugs (in moderation) can serve some purpose for soil nutrition, however, they frequently become rampant and destroy gardens. Snails are also known for carrying diseases and parasites which can be a threat to household pets if they get ahold of one. 

Why are there so many slugs in my garden?

Typically, you’ll find a large amount of slugs or snails in your garden after it rains or after you’ve watered your plants. That’s because snails and slugs are moist creatures. They lose a significant position of their body weight by crawling around, and will therefore look for moist places to survive.  

Are slugs poisonous?

No, slugs are not poisonous. The only danger that slugs pose to gardens is that they eat the plants–making them more of a nuisance than a hazard.

Predators

Natural predators will also do their fair share in keeping slug and snail numbers down, provided you have a welcoming environment – which usually means no cats or dogs to chase them away.

Some predators known to feast on gastropods include frogs and toads, garter snakes, lizards, hedgehogs, moles, thrushes, blackbirds, magpies, and rooks.

Which brings us to our final tip…

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