Download PDF

I promised to keep this blog real by including some not-so-glorious garden pictures, those that convey some hard truths about gardening. I’ve written about losses, planting mistakes, and challenges. Today I am going to write, yet again, about overcoming the challenge of slugs for the chemically-averse, lazy gardener.

Arghh – slugs!!! Squishy, slimy, gross — and they eat my food!

As my garden has matured my success with seeds has declined. They sprout and are gone before one can turn around. By the day after this picture was taken, all evidence of seedlings is erased.

While bemoaning the loss of young edibles like lettuce and even Swiss chard, and many seedlings, I have received lots of suggestions on how to eliminate slugs. Most I knew about. Placing beer-filled cups around the garden sounds great. After all, I don’t mind sharing. Diatomaceous earth sprinkled in a ring around the vegetable garden is another good idea – in principle. And then there are copper barriers, egg shells, Sluggo, ducks, hand picking, decollate snails, and on and on (see UC Pest Notes for more information).

Well I have tried some of these. The problem with diatomaceous earth and other scratchy powders is that they wash away when it rains. Beer tastes good but is not very effective, according to UC Pest Notes:

However, these traps aren’t very effective for the labor involved. Beer traps attract slugs and snails within an area of only a few feet, and you must replenish the bait every few days to keep the level deep enough to drown the mollusks.

I have enjoyed gaining practice using chopsticks to pick and murder slugs, but it clearly goes counter to my lazy gardening philosophy. You really must keep at it; in the long run, it is probably a losing proposition.

Though it would be a whole lot of work to really eliminate – or even seriously reduce – the slug population with a set of chopsticks, I keep them handy because it is kind of fun. I know that this is not a very kind thing to do – for the slugs that is – but it is necessary, or at least that is how I assuage my murderous conscience.

Decollate snails sound ideal (check out this picture): Long term control by introducing a new non-native organism to eat an pre-existing and pestiferous non-native one. Biological control has been used with success for quite some time. The part that gives me pause is that they also eat other native mollusks that may be endangered. In all likelihood I don’t have any of these native critters but it worries me. I’m holding out, though this may be the solution.

Of course changing garden conditions would help. I could remove organic matter like logs and mulch but then where would I put my garden leftovers (you know, green waste)? I don’t water a lot but seedlings and vegetables need water, and it has been raining a lot.

So what’s left? How about covering the seedlings and young succulent plants until they toughen up? The snails and slugs have not been much of a problem for my mature plants, it is only the tender, juicy young’uns that suffer.


Now my neighbors can see me bending down, often at night when the critters are active, with chopsticks in hand – one can only wonder what they think. If that doesn’t convince them of my strangeness, then the cups, water bottles and yogurt containers that ornament my garden certainly will. Do you think my little sign helps explain?

Clear plastic containers not only prevent the slugs from getting at the seedlings, but they keep them warm and moist during the cool weather.


This is one of the Swiss chard plants that wasn’t completely eaten up. Wonder if I’ll ever get a meal out of it.

13 thoughts on “GO AWAY, SLUGS!

  1. Barbara,<br /><br />I heard to sprinkle oatmeal for the slugs, they like it. After eating it it expands and kills them. Not sure if it works.<br /><br /> No slugs yet with the cold frames full of 6-8 inch greens. Last year our chard got 6-8 inches tall and one night the deer ate all of it. This year the chard is 8 inches tall and under glass in a cold frame no derr getting it.

  2. Randy – that sounds wonderful. I&#39;m out there right now – well after I finish writing this – sprinkling oatmeal in the garden, in the rain. (I wonder how far I can push this before someone comes for me.) <br /><br />That&#39;s the thing about gardening, especially for food. It is so tasty that everyone wants some. Deer, though, can really be a problem!

  3. i&#39;m somewhat resigned to cosharing my little community garden plot with several bazillion slugs, so your post was of interest. i&#39;ll try oatmeal, too. what i&#39;ve been doing: every morning i pick up as many slugs and snails i can find.

  4. Arg, it&#39;s been a bad year for slugs, hasn&#39;t it? Hope things will ease up for you.

  5. You might try keeping mulch away from young seedlings, except a small amount of finely composted material. Also, plant on mounds for drainage. Toads are supposed to be the best predators to have around. Maybe they need a &quot;welcome&quot; sign!<br /><br />Talk about a lazy gardener. Last summer I just let my lettuce go to seed. Seems to work as well or better!<br /><br />I&#39;m rather

  6. I really like your idea of using plastic containers, especially during our cool season right now when seedlings could also use the extra heat and humidity. Not only do I have slugs, but also bunnies and a plethora of small rodents that love to snack on anything green and edible in the garden. I think the containers would be a great deterrent against a number of foraging pests until the seedlings

  7. Hehe, I hope your slugs can read! I have the same trouble here. Direct sowing anything is a big gamble, and if the slugs don&#39;t eat them, the voles certainly will! I start as much as I can indoors and transplant them out when they&#39;re a little bigger, and grow most things under hoops covered with cinched down floating row covers, using different weights of fabric in the different seasons

  8. My wife and I have to deal with snails. We don&#39;t have the heart to kill them. Does anyone have any idea of any reasonably accessible plac where they can be relocated where they will have a reasonable chance of survival, and yet, at the same time, will not be a nuisance to other people and whatever they are trying to grow or maintain?

  9. Anonymous

    You may want to check out slug shields. They work and last all season. Not for all plants, but a wonderful tool. I used them and recommend them. Also 100% eco-friendly.<br /><br />Good luck! I love your sign….

  10. I do cover my tender babies at night and use old Mason jars, half milk containers etc. By day I cover them with those green plastic (ugh) baskets that some tomatoes and shallots come in. Why by day? Sparrows love my tender greens and although I love sparrows, well, I already give them a good diet and I need greens for my family. Selfish?<br /><br />I use a pair of kitchen tongs to pick up slugs,

  11. Great suggestions. So far the containers are working. I just got done looking at the Slug Shield (http://www.slugshield.com/Slug_Shield.html). It seems like a good idea for larger plants but you couldn&#39;t put it on seedlings. Maybe it would work to just make a ring on the ground around the seeded area. <br /><br />Ross, garden snails and slugs are non-native pests and it is probably not a good

  12. Slugs are non native? Where did they come from?

  13. Lisa and Robb – the garden pest snails and slugs are indeed non-native. According the Pest Notes (http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7427.html) &quot;Several species of slugs also cause damage including the gray garden slug (Deroceras reticulatum,formerly Agriolimax meticulatus), the banded slug (Lehmannia poirieri), the three-band garden slug (L. valentiana), the tawny slug (Limacus

Comments are closed.