How to care for slugs

How to care for slugs

Seeing slug and snail damage in your garden? Here are tips on how to identify, control, and get rid of slugs and snails in the garden.

What Are Slugs and Snails?

Slugs and snails are very damaging garden pests that can be found throughout most of the world, most often in temperate, humid climates. Your garden is likely to have more slugs during a particularly rainy season.

Slugs and snails are not insects; they are soft-bodied mollusks. Slugs and snails are members of the phylum Mollusca, along with the giant squid, the periwinkle, and the steamer clam. Unlike seagoing mollusks, these landlubbers are equipped with a single lung. The main difference between slugs and snails is that the latter have an obvious shell, which is primarily made up of calcium carbonate.

Slugs and snails are hermaphroditic, with each individual having both male and female reproductive organs. As you would expect, their love life is complex. The common gray garden slug dances an elaborate, hour-long nuptial waltz before mating, while other species perform acrobatic movements while hanging suspended from threads of slime.

Identification

Identifying Slugs and Snails

  • Most garden slugs and snails are gray, dull-orange, or dark brown and 1 to 3 inches long. They will hide in dark, damp places during the day.
  • Many people are prompted to ask, “Where do slugs come from?” This is because they are hard to spot in the soil due to their dark color, but also because they only feed at night and hide throughout the day. If you realize you have slug and snail damage but can’t find the culprits, you’re not alone.
  • Slugs and snails will leave a slimy secretion where they have been, so even if you can’t spot them, you’ll know they are there. Look for slime both on plants and surrounding soil. It is easiest to see the trails of slime first thing in the morning.
  • You can monitor slug and snail activity in your garden by digging holes that are four inches wide and six inches deep. Cover these holes with a board, and then check for slugs after three days. If you see many of them, these might be the sneaky pests that are eating your plants!
  • Slugs and snails lay their eggs in moist soil or compost. Their populations can grow rapidly in cool and moist conditions.

Slugs lay their small white eggs in damp soil. Photo Credit: GrowVeg.com.

Slug Damage

What do slugs eat? They will feed on almost anything in the garden—look for holes and ragged edges on leaves and stems. The holes should have irregular shapes due to their file-like mouthparts. Small seedlings can be consumed entirely.

Slugs can digest tissues from most plants, but you might find them especially liking your beans, lettuce, cabbage, and tomatoes.

How to care for slugs

The slug damage on this pak choi plant is evidenced by its holes and ragged edges. Photo Credit: GrowVeg.com.

Control and Prevention

How to Get Rid of Slugs and Snails

  • You can create the perfect slug and snail trap by laying boards or pieces of cardboard on the bare soil around your plantings. Each morning, turn the boards over and scrape the hiding pests into large plastic containers. Cover and place in freezer for three hours. When frozen stiff, dump them on your compost pile.
  • Place shallow dishes of beer around the garden to lure the slugs or snails to a drunken death. Or mix water with molasses, cornmeal, flour, and baking yeast to replace the beer. These are both great baits that can help control your garden slug and snail population.
    • Some slugs and snails are a bit beer-resistant and might crawl out of the dish. If you find this happening, try creating a beer trap that they can’t escape from: Cut the spout end off a plastic beverage bottle just where it reaches the fattest diameter. Now, turn the pour-spout around so that it’s pointing inside the bottle and fasten it with staples or duct tape. Pour a little beer into the bottle (add extra yeast, if desired) and lay it on its side in the garden.

    How to care for slugs
    Photo Credits: GrowVeg.com. Prevent slug damage like this with the above tips for getting rid of slugs.

    • Alcohol kills these pests by acting as a surfactant, or wetting agent, that can penetrate an insect’s waxy coat of armor and kill on contact with the body. Isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) works fine and is easy to find, but be sure it doesn’t have additives. Ethanol (grain alcohol) seems to work best. Alcohol usually comes in 70 percent strength in stores (or 95 percent strength purchased commercially). To make an insecticidal spray, mix equal parts 70 percent alcohol and water (or, if using 95 percent alcohol, mix 1 part alcohol to 1 ½ parts water).
    • A spray of cold coffee can control small slugs, but it must completely drench them to be effective.
    • Some plants have been shown to do well despite being around slugs and snails. If you tend to see these pests and are having trouble getting rid of them, try planting astilbe, phlox, or mint to reduce damage.
    • Check out this video about controlling slugs and snails in the garden and this blog with more tips on how to naturally get rid of slugs.
    • Try this old-fashioned advice from The 1963 Old Farmer’s Almanac: A mulch of oak leaves is useful against slugs. To control slugs, our grandparents strewed leaves of lettuce, spinach, cabbage, or slices of raw potato in the garden. The night feeders collected beneath these materials, and the next morning they were gathered and eliminated. Frogs and toads are good consumers of slugs. Old timers, living by their wits, learned to make use of simple materials for insect control. They found that slugs do not like alkaline ground. Slaked lime, wood ashes, slag, sand, and cinders were useful against slugs.

    How to Prevent Slugs and Snails

    • It is helpful to rake your garden in early spring in order to clean up some of the moist debris that slugs and snails love, as well as to rake away any soil-borne eggs. Large wood chips also provide hiding areas for slugs, so try not to use them.

    Prevent slugs in your garden by getting rid of slug eggs. Photo Credit: GrowVeg.com.

    Slugs and snails are among the most common pests that can be found in gardens and on crops. They are specialists in eating leaves and fruits, and it can be difficult to get rid of slugs and snails from your garden naturally. Do you want to eradicate them but without the use of chemicals? Here at OneHowTo, we have some very effective home remedies against slugs and snails to share with you.

    If pesky slugs and snails are destroying your plants, the best way to get rid of them is to wait until it gets dark, put on some gloves and then catch them and toss them into a bag and then release them in a green outdoor space far away from your plants. This way you get them away from your yard or garden without annihilating them.

    How to care for slugs

    The smell of coffee is very unpleasant for slugs and snails, so spreading coffee on and around your plants will protect them from these pests. You just have to prepare a good strong cup of coffee and dilute it with water, then sprinkle well over the area where the plants are, making sure that the coffee aroma engulfs the area. This will keep slimy snails and slithering slugs at bay. If necessary, repeat a few times a week.

    How to care for slugs

    As with whitefly, another common garden pest, snails and slugs cannot stand the smell of garlic, so a garlic infusion will be very effective at warding them off.

    Add a litre of water and four large garlic cloves, boil for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Wait for it to cool, place in a spray bottle and apply it to the area and the plants you want to protect. You will see that the hungry invaders are kept well away from the area.

    This home remedy to combat snails and slugs is very simple. Surround your plants with coarse salt or cigarette ash. Both of these substances will prevent slugs and snails from invading your garden, keeping your plants from being eaten. Simple and inexpensive.

    How to care for slugs

    If your garden is overrun with slugs and snails you and require a more effective method of getting rid of them, then the solution is to prepare a trap for the slugs and snails.

    Take several plastic containers and bury them in different parts of the garden or orchard, then add beer. The smell of yeast and alcohol will attract snails and slugs, causing them to fall into the container, unable to escape.

    If you want to read similar articles to Effective Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Snails and Slugs, we recommend you visit our Gardening & plants category.

    How to care for slugs

    With its airy form and hundreds of tiny flowers in white or pink, baby’s breath (Gyposophila paniculata) provides your garden border with an interesting contrast to larger flowers and dense shrubs. It grows about 3 feet tall and wide in the standard size and about 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall in dwarf varieties. Baby’s breath is also excellent for cut flowers and for dried flower arrangements. Baby’s breath grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. It can also be invasive in some parts of the country.

    Care and Feeding

    Place baby’s breath in a spot in your garden that gets at least six hours of sunlight daily. Dwarf plants work well in containers placed in sunny locations.

    Water baby’s breath with a deep soaking every two or three weeks. The plant will tolerate somewhat dry soil and does well in drought conditions.

    Test your soil with a pH kit from your local nursery to see if it provides the slightly alkaline soil that baby’s breath prefers. Add lime to lower the acidic level or sulfur to make the soil more acidic.

    Fertilize baby’s breath once a month during the growing season. All-purpose fertilizers provide equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, indicated on the label with the ratio of each element, such as 10-10-10.

    Special Considerations

    Cut off spent flower clusters and stems after they bloom down to a set of two leaves to encourage more blooms throughout the summer. Cut off flowers, also called deadheading, at any point during the year but before the flowers go to seed.

    Push a staking grid into the ground in early spring when your plant is just starting to grow. The grid supports the airy stems of baby’s breath as it grows, and the new foliage will hide the grid itself.

    Line the bottom and sides of the ground around baby’s breath with 1/2-inch wire mesh to protect the roots of your plant from gophers. If gophers do severe damage to your plant, place it in a raised bed lined with wire mesh.

    Lay down a barrier of copper or diatomaceous earth to protect the plant from slugs and snails in early spring as the plant is coming up. Alternatively, handpick the pests daily, or use bait such as beer or those containing iron phosphate.

    How to care for slugs

    Slugs are soft, slimy creatures (snails without the shell) that can wreak havoc on your garden. If you have a problem with garden slugs, try to tackle the issue without the use of chemicals.

    How to care for slugs

    How to care for slugs

    The problem with slugs

    Slugs will eat just about anything in your garden. Though you might rarely see them (they are night feeders), these slimy little creatures can do some serious damage. When you see slugs, you can try to remove them by hand and kill them in a pail of soapy water. However, if you have a lot of slugs, hand-picking them will prove futile — you won’t be able to get them all. Follow these suggestions to help get rid of these garden pests without the use of toxic chemicals.

    Clean out your garden

    Slugs like to hide in damp places under grass clippings, rocks, weeds, wood and other items. Clean out your garden so that the only things that are left are the soil and your plants. If possible, tie up the plants to keep the leaves off the ground too.

    How to care for slugsBeer traps

    Slugs like beer. Therefore, you can place small containers, such as pie tins, buried up to the rim throughout your garden. Fill the containers with stale beer and the slugs will fall in and drown. You can then go around to the containers and remove the slugs.

    Copper barrier

    Some gardeners say that slugs will not cross copper. Therefore, you can buy copper strips from your local garden shop and place them completely around the perimeter of your garden. Of course, you’ll have to get rid of the slugs that are already in your garden first, but this method should keep the new ones from coming in.

    Coffee

    Caffeine acts as a natural pesticide. Spread coffee grounds around your plants to keep the slugs at bay. For live slugs, spray them with brewed coffee. Coffee is often as effective as more-toxic slug bait, and it’s much safer to use.

    Iron phosphate pellets

    At your local garden center, hardware shop or home improvement store, you can find iron phosphate pellets. Scatter these pellets throughout the garden and they will kill slugs within a week of ingestion. Though iron phosphate pellets are said to be safe for animals and humans, you should still take care to make sure your pets or children don’t ingest them. Iron phosphate slug and snail control products are sold under names like Sluggo and Escar-Go! These pellets have a component that attracts the slugs, as well as the iron phosphate to kill them.

    Chemical bait (avoid if possible)

    You can find a number of chemically based slug baits that are effective in killing slugs and snails. They are sold under a variety of different brand names and come in dust, granule, pellet and spray form. These baits use metaldehyde, which is a compound that can be toxic to birds, cats, small dogs and other animals. Try to avoid using toxic bait if at all possible. These baits are dangerous to your pets, and also shouldn’t be sprayed on or near edible plants.

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