Vegetable Garden

Slugs ~ 15 ways to deal with them organically

April 11, 2012

Slugs, slugs, slugs…. When we experience wet weather (which can seem like more than our fair share in Ireland), gardeners can be overwhelmed by slugs and snails. What’s the best solution to ridding our vegetable patches, gardens and borders of these slimy little creatures, without automatically reaching for the slug pellets? It’s the question I’m asked the most and everyone has their own answer.

Slugs ~ 15 ways to deal with them organically

However, before you start obliterating the garden of every last slug in sight, it’s important to know that not all of them are baddies that want to devour all our plants.

The green cellar slug (which we found with a mouth stuffed full of pizza one evening!) like to hang out on compost heaps and also enjoy a diet of mould and algae. The John Innes Centre have a page highlighting the most common in the UK (which often live in Ireland too) helping to identify slugs, and I’d recommend you take a peek.

Once you’ve established whether you’re looking at a Brown Field slug or a Budapest Keeled, what can you do to about them?

From beer to salt, copper to egg shell’s, I’ve heard lots of tips and advice over the years. Here are the most common fifteen:

Slugs ~ 15 ways to deal with them organically

No. 1 – Encourage predators

Birds, frogs, toads, Devils coach-horse beetles and hedgehogs all like to snack on slugs. Ducks and some hens enjoy snacking on them too, if you’re lucky enough to have them. Turning over soil will expose the slugs to birds in dry weather.  If you let your poultry roam the  garden but are worried about your seedlings and plants, covering the soil with horticultural fleece should be enough of a deterrent to keep them away.

No. 2 – Beer traps

Bury shallow plastic containers around your garden (take away containers are the ideal size) and sacrifice a drop of your favourite brew. If you can’t bear to give up your drink, pubs may give you something from the slop bucket if you ask nicely. Be careful not to fully bury the container though – leave a small ‘lip’ above the soil level so that beneficial beetles don’t fall in and drown. Alternatively pour some beer into a spray bottle and spray all the weeds. As the slugs like the beer so much the idea here is that they’ll eat the weeds, leaving your veggies alone. You’d have to question whether you want your garden to smell like a brewery though.

No. 3 – Egg shells

I’ve tried these and I personally didn’t notice a difference. However, egg shells are good for our soil given their calcium content so might be worth a try. Always wash egg shells first prior to this, (or adding to your compost come to that) as they can attract rodents. Collect and wash egg shells then heat in the oven to harden them. Put the egg shells in a food processor and blitz until small, then place a protective ring around seedlings. A friend swears by this! You could also use sawdust, sand or seaweed – all of which are might to hinder the slugs movements.

No. 4 – Copper

Mr G spent ages stripping the copper out of some old electrical wire a few years back, patiently stapled it around the raised beds and placed a slug in pole position to test out the theory that slugs don’t like copper. The slug smooched his way over the wire and straight into the veggie bed. The trick with the copper is to use lots – thick bands can be purchased at garden centres, or even better if your budget will allow, buy copper tools that discard tiny pieces into the soil.

Slugs ~ 15 ways to deal with them organically

No. 5 – Traps

If you don’t like to kill creatures of any description you can trap slugs safely. Cover an area with cardboard or black plastic before sowing. The slugs will all hide under it so that when you expose them a few days later you can pick them off. Slugs also like grapefruit so leave halved and emptied shells lying around (dome side up) with little doorways cut into them. The slugs will head into them, hiding away until you can  collect them up and add them to the compost heap.

No. 6 – Instant Death

If you prefer to permanently get rid of slugs the most humane method is to cut them in half causing instant death. It’s strange how we might feel squeamish about that, yet are ready to kill them by less hands on methods that might cause them pain. Other methods are putting boiling water into an empty milk carton, picking up the slugs and dropping them in. I’ve read that after a few days this foul-smelling solution can be watered onto soil which will detract other slugs from venturing onto it, but have yet to try it. I guess when you’ve seen slugs wipe out your entire seed collection the war is on.

Slugs ~ 15 ways to deal with them organically

Green Cellar Slug

No. 7 – Microscopic nematodes

‘Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodite’ also known as NemaSlug are available online that can be watered onto plants. They’re supposed to be very effective but the downside is that they’re quite pricey and will have to be re-applied after six weeks or so.

No. 8 – Iron based phosphate slug pellets

Slug and snail ultra pellets contain ferric phosphate which occurs naturally in the environment and are approved for organic production. They are safe for pets, birds, hedgehogs, bees and other common garden creatures. The little blue pellets

Regular slug pellets are usually made from poisoned cereals containing Metaldehyde or Methiocarb which (because they are food based) are also attractive to cats, dogs, birds and hedgehogs.

No. 9 – Caffeine

Slugs and snails do not like coffee. Sprinkling coffee grounds around plant bases will act as a repellent, as does filling a spray with cold, strong coffee and spraying slugs. That said, coffee grinds are best added to the compost heap as their slow release nutrients will help to improve the soil in the heap.

Slugs ~ 15 ways to deal with them organically

Slug Damaged Bean

No. 10 – Barrier Method: Bran or Seaweed Meal or Dust

This came out tops in a Gardeners World trial a few years ago. They placed a ring of bran (available in health shops) around each plant ensuring it didn’t touch the stems. As slugs are almost entirely made up of water, the bran had a desiccating effect which killed them. Salt would have a similar effect but as its toxic to all but a few salt tolerant creatures and plants, and not good for the soil it isn’t recommended.

In recent years I’ve been using seaweed meal which has been very effective. I’ve sprinkled it around the raised bed as an initial deterrent, and then added a circle around each seedling (keeping it away from the stem) for an additional barrier. Seaweed contains a naturally balanced range of minerals, trace elements, amino acids and vitamins which are great for soil microorganisms. You can also add it to your pet or animal feed as a supplement, but given its saltiness, it’s not a slug’s food of choice and they tend to avoid it.

No. 11 – Planting flowers and herbs

Social & Therapeutic HorticultureSome plants are known to repel slugs so placing plants such as Astrantia, Lady’s Mantle, Dianthus, Foxglove, Geranium, Peony, Lavender, Phlox, Alyssum and Lobelia, African violet, Strawberry Begonia and Gloxinia may help. It’s unlikely that anybody with a standard vegetable patch/allotment arrangement would go to this trouble but may be worth trying some. I can’t help but think how lovely a lavender hedge around my patch would look and smell though, and attract lots of bees and hoverflies in too.

Slugs ~ 15 ways to deal with them organically

Slug Protection

No. 12 – Start seedlings off indoors 

Once they’re a decent size of around 10cm or so in height, transplant them outside. If you’re unable to do this, place a cut-in-half clear drink bottle around seeds/seedlings until they’re bigger and stronger (leave the lid off to allow for ventilation.

No. 13 – Watering

Slugs prefer dark, damp conditions so if they are a problem in your garden or polytunnel, avoid watering in the evenings.

No. 14 – Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring compound approved for organic use and has many benefits for plants, animals and humans.

As a pest control, Diatomaceous earth isn’t as finely milled and its microscopic sharp edges can cut through and dry them out. It can be useful for slugs, caterpillars, ticks, vine weevils, flea beetles and maggots. It’s important to wear a dusk mask when applying so you don’t inhale it. Simply sprinkle onto plants after a light rain or in the morning when plants are still wet from dew. It can also be applied wet.

No. 15 – Garlic

Slugs don’t like the smell so you could try crushing a clove and adding it to the watering can, sprinkling the mixture over areas worse affected to prevent them nibbling.

Have you any sure-fire tips for saving your vegetables from slugs? Have any of these worked for you? 


  • Reply Móna Wise April 12, 2012 at 8:14 am

    We have very obliging ducks and hens thank goodness. We also plant a lot of garlic and use the coffee grounds – these methods combined keep us slug free. My Mum borrows my ducks every year once a week for the summer and it helps her keep on top of her shocking slug problem!

    • Reply Keith Raggett May 29, 2024 at 2:58 pm

      I have tried all these products from copper tape garlic juices bird friendly pellets beer traps wool pellets wd 40 what ever I use the slugs keep munching even going out late about 10.30 I don’t find many. putting pots over plant is a waste of time as they go ungrounded , I have given up and just going for shrubs next year. Even hanging baskets or wall baskets my plants have gone

      • Reply Dee Sewell May 30, 2024 at 8:07 am

        We’re really up against it with such a mild and wet winter/spring. Despite all the methods, I’ve lost a quarter of my peas this last couple of weeks. So far the daily late night walk with the torch is the most productive.

      • Reply Alex Woodland June 7, 2024 at 3:31 pm

        Tried the new organic slug killer. Absolute rubbish. An expensive con.

  • Reply greensideupveg April 12, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Ducks certainly seem to keep coming out tops as slug eaters Mona! Love the idea of borrowing some – will have to think on that 🙂

  • Reply Nenaghgal April 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Okay I am guilty of the chemical route because I am gone all day and never have time to get out into the garden but I will do my best to revert to beer method but slicing with scissors seems appealing too 🙂 Just kidding – they drive me bonkers and destroy all my beautiful lupines.
    While we are at it – help with those aphids on roses – please!! I’d like to try the non-chemical route if I can

  • Reply Roisin Markham April 12, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    great post – I was really repelled by the first photo but glad I kept reading very informative.
    I used to put the slugs and snails into my compost bin like a hotel for gastropods is that a good idea or not?

    • Reply greensideupveg April 12, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      Oh, didn’t mean it to have that affect Roisin! Maybe I’ve just gotten used to them. Lots of people do add them to the compost bin – I guess as with anything it depends how many you’re adding. I’ve been known to pick off over 200 slugs from the potato patch in one evening which might be a bit of an overload!

  • Reply Patricia April 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Super useful tips!!! So far the good old beertrap only works so well… we have a polytunnel so birds etc are not an option. Might try the eggshell-blend as those copper rims you can buy in selected garden centers do not work either – tomatoplant: goodbye.
    They are such a pest, even looking at the pictures made me go *eeeeek* 🙂

    • Reply greensideupveg April 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      Thanks Patricia, glad you found the tips helpful 🙂 I used to feel the same about them but have had so many plants nibbled, have no scrupples about heading out at dusk with my torch and plopping them into a carton of boiling water. I found a source of coffee grinds yesterday so am looking forward to giving that method a go too.

  • Reply Simon Jennings April 19, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Garden hygene is important, store old pots and trays etc. away from slug sensitive plants.
    Pathways between raised beds – I keep minne as clean as possible and occasionally refresh with a mix of ashs and pine needles.
    I find that my home-made weed killer also helps when applied to the paths

    Although more designed against caterpillars, nettle and seaweed tea with some garlic mixed in and sprayed helps later in the year

    • Reply greensideupveg April 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      Great tips Simon, thanks. Yes a garlic spray on the paths, edges etc would work a treat too. I have a link to the recipe for garlic spray here

  • Reply miss m April 27, 2012 at 2:25 am

    I found John Ó Máille’s method rather interesting. He squishes comfrey leaves into balls and places them every few meters. The slugs apparently love it. When they come out to feed, they gather on the comfrey instead of the crops. Pretty neat way of catching them. Will have to put it to the test. (Garrai Glas – episode 6).

  • Reply miss m April 27, 2012 at 2:29 am

    *John Dolan, sorry !

  • Reply Johnny Foley August 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    I wish I’d visited this site first, because I have just spent half the evening wrapping copper wire around my trees and raised flower bed, only to later watch the little bastards crawl right over it.

    My solution, for this evening at least, was to pick them off and crush them with a pliers. And the ones that weren’t near plants? Oh, they got blowtorched! Muhahahah.

    • Reply greensideupveg August 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Hehee, find hand picking them works the best for me… 🙂

    • Reply Lorna Brown May 16, 2024 at 8:53 pm

      Having a dog I didn’t want to use slug pellets . So this year I thought I was ready for the little blighters. Copper tape around pots & on rocks next to hosta’s, Vaseline, horticultural grit & regular trips out armed with scissors & a poo bag. We also have birds & plenty of frogs. Alas they had other ideas, my tall red lobelia started to shrink, was the best it had ever looked. Found a fat snail & 4 slugs in it over 3 days, 1 slug had buried itself in the soil. Repotted after checking for more & it’s now in sick bay . Going to try garlic spray next as spotted a slug on a hosta earlier.

      • Reply Dee Sewell May 17, 2024 at 9:33 am

        Good to hear you don’t use pellets, but yes, it’s been a difficult year for slugs and snails with the weather. So far my seaweed dust is holding out as a barrier around my seedlings, but vigilance seems to be the only real key. I hope the garlic works for you and we get another dry spell soon!

      • Reply Hels May 29, 2024 at 1:15 pm

        I have some repellent-drops into water and sprays on … fact one morning I went to the polytunnel to find a very happy slug sidling up the bottle marked *SLUG REPELLENT..and the cosmos and sunflowers were dead as dead could be..

  • Reply Hannah October 24, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I’ve just found this website after searching for slugs eating clothing and material. We’ve been getting slugs inside the house for a little while and no matter what we do we can’t seem to completely get rid of them, just seem to reduce the population (used beer traps, pellets, grapefruit, copper taping, salt and egg shells!), there is always a new slime trail every morning!

    The problem now is that I am noticing fabrics inside the house are being chewed and have holes, in particularly fleece type fabrics. Is this still the slugs?

    Many thanks for your help

    • Reply greensideupveg October 26, 2012 at 6:33 pm

      Hi Hannah

      I’ve never been aware on slugs eating fabric! We have the same problem with them in the house, they come out at night and I think they came in as a result of all the vegetables we bring in to wash. The best way we’ve found of reducing their population is to come down in the night and switch on the lights then evict them all. That doesn’t sound as bad as you may think… once the lights are out the tend to come out so doesn’t mean getting up in the middle of the night. Could it be moths or mice eating your clothes?

  • Reply One Green Thing: Winterizing my Garden - November 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm

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  • Reply Ena Ronayne April 27, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Dee I do hope you don’t mind but I’m half thinking of using this post within my notes for next academic year of hort students? Of course I’ll reference you and your blog. If you agree you’ll have saved me a huge amount of work?!?

  • Reply Shana eddy July 19, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Wow! So glad I found your site! I have been having problems with my grape tomatoes and the only thing I can find is these giant leopard slugs! Eeeew! I was just scooping them up with my fly swatter then flinging them at my neighbors car, but these tips seem good too! Might have to sacrifice the labatts tonight!

    • Reply greensideupveg July 19, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      Take it you don’t like your neighbour very much Shana!! Slugs will die happy tonight then 😉

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  • Reply Toni August 31, 2013 at 5:29 am

    I am also experiencing these un-wanted pest! The last few years I’ve been finding them in my flower beds. A few weeks ago I was locking up getting ready for bed and noticed one crawling out from under my window trim!! After a few minutes of freaking out and waking my husband to come a remove this slime-ball from the wall I shrugged it off as a fluke. Yesterday as I was watering my flower beds, I noticed one moving up towards my siding as if it had made this trip before! I ran in and got my salt shaker and gave it a salt bath. How do I get rid of these nasty little creatures once and for all? I refuse to share the inside of my home with a huge creepy slime-balls!!!!

    • Reply greensideupveg August 31, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of them once and for all Toni but hopefully some of the tips mentioned will help you tackle the slippery little pests.

      • Reply Toni September 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm

        Thank you for the reply and the helpful tips. I can handle coinciding with any of God’s little creatures outside my home but cringe at the sight of them inside. 🙂

        • Reply greensideupveg September 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm

          You’re welcome Toni. I know what you mean. I’m afraid we often see tell tale signs of the leopard slugs in the kitchen at night which I think originated from vegetables brought in and washed. A night time patrol once the lights are out sees them lifted out on a spoon and out the window into the hen coop 😉

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    • Reply Lydia June 2, 2024 at 4:26 pm

      Cutting in half, boiling water…unnecessary.. .egg shells or lime sprinkled around plant is all need. Don’t have to kill them. It’s not humane to cut it in half. Jesus. …

      • Reply Dee Sewell June 4, 2024 at 11:15 am

        I think the reason it’s said to be human is because it’s instant. There’s no good way to kill anything in my opinion. Like you, we use everything we can to deter them and failing that, we move them to the compost heap.

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  • Reply stephanie stewart May 25, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    The coffee grounds have not worked for me.

    • Reply greensideupveg May 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      I’m not entirely sure if they worked for me Stephanie but my Hubby has just found a large supply at his workplace so will try them again but in greater quantity. I’ve recently heard that mussel shells are supposed to be excellent – the combination of hard shell and saltiness so am hoping to try those soon too!

  • Reply Frances Kawala June 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Great advice in this article – many thanks! Also, I was lucky enough to be given a big bag of pistachios – those salty shells are still keeping the slugs off my favourite plants!

    • Reply greensideupveg June 14, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      You’re welcome Fran and the pistachios are a new one on me and a handy tip to pass on, thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply Mark O'Sullivan July 19, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Use Helix Tosta or Phasma to increase natural resistance to slugs.

    Using Homeopathy in the Garden

    • Reply greensideupveg July 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks Mark, that’s really useful to know 🙂

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  • Reply Rebecca June 10, 2016 at 6:15 am

    I found a very large Limax Maximus near my front steps last summer and I freaked. I’ll never leave my house barefoot in the dark again. Tonight I found three of them near my front porch and I want to burn my house down. I can’t even bring myself to scoop them with a long shovel to place them somewhere far, far away. I swear their large tentacle heads perk up and look at me if I attempt to get close. I desperately want to never, ever see one of these massive, disgusting slugs again in my life time. I have an underground well in my front yard and I think they like the dark dampness. Can I sprinkle salt on the ground or is burning down my house the only option?

    • Reply Dee Sewell June 10, 2016 at 7:58 am

      My daughter is terrified of them too so I know how you feel. I’ve recently discovered organic slug pellets which seem to be doing the trick so perhaps they’re a safer option than burning down the house

  • Reply Bloom April 6, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Coffee Grounds work well around your beds but needs to be topped after watering. A solution for this is under bed watering system also the plants love it. Something else to think about is a small electric fence attached to your raised grow beds 2 parallel wires not touching obviously 9 volt battery will work fine. Also not a option for all but vertical farming it won’t stop them all but it makes it a lot more difficult for them to reach your plants. Digging a pond and encouraging frogs into your garden small pond big impact.

    • Reply Dee Sewell June 8, 2018 at 11:44 am

      A friend closeby has a snail farm and that was her suggestion, electric fence! She uses one to keep her snails in. Thanks for your suggestions, ponds are fantastic for biodiversity and pretty to look at too.

  • Reply Kevin June 13, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    DON’T CALL A PEST CONTROL CONTRACTOR. SHOW THE SLUG INFESTATION TO AN OPOSSUM INSTEAD: When I bought the house, the outdoor patio was a very nice feature. At some point leopard slugs were introduced with flower pots brought from another location. These slugs, up to 5″ long and 1/2″ thick, invaded the tie wall surrounding the patio and the patio became an unpleasant place to be on summer nights. I tried various eradication methods suggested here over the next 8 years with no success. Six years ago, I noticed the first slugs of the season appearing in May. In the morning, I noticed animal poop that looked like digested slugs. This happened by chance with an opossum discovering the slug infestation. (I had been seeing opossums occasionally for years but apparently they had not discovered the slugs prior to this.) All the slugs must have emerged from the wall at some point with the opossum eating every last one of them. Within 2 weeks the leopard slugs were completely gone and have not returned.

    • Reply Dee Sewell June 14, 2018 at 8:44 am

      Wow, had to look up opossum as we don’t have them in Ireland, lucky you! Hope the slugs stay away.

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  • Reply Fluffysquirrel July 21, 2019 at 1:05 am

    How often would I need to apply the egg shells? Is it one and done?

    • Reply Dee Sewell August 9, 2019 at 5:48 pm

      Hi Patti, I’d keep doing it, the calcium would be good for the soil too.

  • Reply Bruce Martin October 6, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    We tried the bran around our seedlings and the slugs love it. When I go out at night I can pick off dozens of fhem wifh forceps and pht them in the green compost bin but I might as well leave them alone as they disappear by morning and do not return. Bran is a winner: non-toxic to plants and soil, easy to put around and cheap.

    • Reply Dee Sewell January 1, 2020 at 10:52 am

      Thanks so much for reminding me that it’s so effective, I’d forgotten! We’re moving our vegetable garden to the front this year and it’s like a holiday resort for snails.

  • Reply Stephan Grundy February 21, 2020 at 11:35 pm

    I regret to say that my experience with slugs differs wildly on some of these plants. They love basil most passionately…a barrier of a broad shiny copper ring plus coffee grounds plus eggshells did not deter them in the least from stripping newly set plants to the ground for five replantings in quick succession. Poppies of all sorts are a major snail attraction. I lose vs 80 to 90 percent of seedlings to snails and slugs every year, and nowhere see so many huge fat snails as on those poppies which survive to maturity. I live in Ireland, where the gastropod is the national animal, so I know them well. I am now training an SDS (special duck service) urgent response squadron…

    • Reply Dee Sewell February 22, 2020 at 8:52 am

      Stephen I feel your pain! We could be running a snail nursery here in the front garden in Carlow. I often catch them hanging on tightly to the Honesty. I have definitely found the best barrier to new pea seedlings in the polytunnel is by surrounding them with sacrificial tagetes plants. This year I’m going to try bran which came out number one in the Gardener’s World trials several years back.

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  • Reply Chrysi May 4, 2024 at 5:20 pm

    This is a very informative article!! When you recommend the use of coffee grounds, does that mean used coffee grounds after I’ve made my coffee or fresh ones? I’m willing to use either as long as I get rid of them from all my flower pots. Thank you.

    • Reply Dee Sewell May 5, 2024 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks Chrysi, and yes, used coffee grounds, though generally speaking they are best added to the compost heap. As mentioned, I’m having a lot more success with the seaweed meal/dust.

  • Reply Jan Martinez June 4, 2024 at 10:32 am

    I went out last night to look for slugs/snails and saw them all over my newly planted runner beans. They looked happy and it made me think, who was I to determine their life span? They’re on this planet for the purpose of clearing detritus. They cannot differentiate between a fallen leaf and a fresh new one, except new must taste better. Isn’t that our fault for planting things that appeal to them? Wouldn’t we do the same if we were a slug or snail? OK I can hear the uproar of dissenting voices…..what did I do? Well, I ground up fresh Cloves, (not Garlic gloves) added Peppermint leaves, added crushed Cinnamon and sprinkled around the runner beans. This also deters Ants. It has to be refreshed if its been raining but I find it work wells and the smell to us, is a delight.

    • Reply Dee Sewell June 4, 2024 at 11:14 am

      I fully agree with you Jan. The only time we remove slugs and snails is when they’re eating our veggies. It’s live and let live in the rest of the garden. Even when we pick them off the veg at night, we put them onto the compost heap. Interesting recipe to try, thank you.

  • Reply Jane June 8, 2024 at 9:43 pm

    The slugs in my garden will easily climb up pots left on the brick path, but not pots left on the gravel borders. So put your pots onto gravel or onto a gravel tray to protect them.

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