The only way to kill slugs

Mick on the next plot shakes his head. ‘You want to put some pellets down there, love,’ he says.

I decline as politely as I can. What I’d like to say is: ‘thanks for the advice, but I’d rather not poison my veg with those nasty little blue things that are harmful to kids, pets and the environment. If I wanted my veg served with chemicals I wouldn’t bother growing them, I’d buy them.’

Mick is right about one thing though. Slugs are a pain in the arse.  Slimy, repulsive and destructive, they deserve to be exterminated.

So if you want to do it organically, here are a few tried, tested and untested methods.

BEER TRAPS:  cut the top off a coke can, or sink a plastic cup into the soil, so the top is about level with the soil surface. Fill the can about three quarters full with beer then wait for the slugs to dive in.

PROS: the slugs drown in an alcoholic stupor.                                                                                                                                                                                CONS: apart from the obvious waste of beer, this is not so practical for large vegetable patches or allotments. You also need to empty out the dead slugs and replace the beer on a regular basis.

SALT: Sprinkle a ring of salt around the perimeter of your vegetables.

PROS: the slugs shrivel up and die – a kind of death by osmosis.                                                                                                                                        CONS: bad for the soil, not recommended.

BARRIERS: Spread egg shell, grit, or sand, around the edge of your veg patch.

PROS: natural and won’t harm the soil.

CONS:  despite claims slugs won’t slide over rough surfaces, I haven’t found this to be true. In my experience they will happily slither over barbed wire if there’s a lettuce on the other side.

slug protection cover

COVER:  cut plastic drinks bottles in half and place over young, vulnerable plants. Or use the top half of a propagator (like in the photograph.)

PROS:  slugs can’t gnaw through plastic, so tender seedlings are safe.                                                                                                                             CONS:  once the plants get too big you’ll need to remove the covers, rendering them open to attack again. But older plants may be able to withstand the damage.

COPPER: place copper tape (available from garden stores) around pots.

PROS: the electrostatic charge repels the slugs

CONS: expensive and not practical if you have a large patch, but good for sticking around the edge of containers.

NEMATODES: these are natural organisms, invisible to the human eye, which can be bought from garden stores and added to the soil when you water. They release bacteria which stop the slugs from feeding, so they die.

PROS:  safe and doesn’t harm the environment.                                                                                                                                                                            CONS: labour intensive, more costly than some other methods, best done early in the season when the slugs are young. I haven’t used this method, though am planning to try it next year. I have heard mixed reports of its success, so let me know if you’ve tried it.

But to really get rid of slugs there is only one solution (warning: don’t read on if you’re sqeamish.)

SCISSORS: yes, scissors. Simply wait for those menacing mollusks to appear. Then snip!

PROS: satisfaction of watching a slug’s innards squelch over sharp metal.

CONS:  you’d have to sit out all night to make a serious dent in the population. Risk of revenge attacks by animal rights activists.

So there you have some variable methods of controlling slugs.  There are others which I haven’t covered such as throwing apples down to attract birds (the theory is they will also eat the slugs) and spreading coffee grounds on the soil, though you’d need a serious caffeine habit to produce enough to keep slugs away.

My advice would be to try a combination of several methods and also to grow more plants than you need – that way if the slugs help themselves, hopefully you will still have enough to see you through the season.

Do you have a slug problem or have you found a successful way to eliminate them?

About Becky Dickinson

Mum of three. Writer, blogger, grower. Trying to keep my head above the compost heap.

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  1. There are SO many slugs this year! It takes ages for my son to cycle to school at the moment because there are loads of slugs all over the pavement and he doesn’t like cycling over them. Why are they even there?

  2. Annette says:

    …and I read that the British slug is underthreat from a foreigh super slug as a “super breed” of slugs has arrived from Spain,. Good-oh. It gets worse!! I have to say I’ve never had a conversation with the slugs in my garden to find out what language they speak.

    P.S. Cutting them in 2? That’s got to be somewhat less satisfying than a quality hard stamp with a foot (shoe on). Surely?

    • Oh no – we’re all doomed then! Stamping sounds good too.

    • Mandy says:

      Gosh if they have come over from Spain there’s no stopping them! I mean how on earth did they travel that far over sea , land……:-) We need more hedgehogs!!!!!!!!

  3. I do have a serious coffee addiction so I’ll give the coffee grounds method a go, much as I hate slugs I couldn’t cut them in half!

  4. Gwen Bramwell says:

    Oh my god – scissors?!?!? I loathe slugs but just couldn’t do it I think!

  5. We have been tempted to use pellets this year as everything we have tried has failed and we have no bloody plants left!

    • I know, it’s soul destroying. They have completely wiped out my lettuces, but I find they aren’t so keen on other ‘tougher’ plants like courgettes and tomatoes, though nothing is immune. I am now trying lettuces in copper taped containers to see if that works!

  6. This made me laugh! I can soooo empathise. We tried beer, but after 4 cans, I thought that was probably more money than the veg was worth.

    I’m liking the coffee idea though! xx

    • Just use some Bakers Yeast and a little suger to make a brew for your traps its alot cheaper!
      I am planning on digging a moat around my allotment about a foot wide!

      Anyone think a slug might burrow under a 30cmx30cm moat lined with plastic?

      I hope they cant !

  7. Lorna Claydon says:

    Our local BP garage ( which sells coffee too) leaves out free bags of coffee grinds for gardeners to help themselves,. Maybe you could cadge a free supply. I once visited a house which was mulched with free cocoa husks from the local chocolate factory- not a good idea for a chocoholic- the aroma almost killed me!

  8. Ask your local pub to save the contents of their slop trays for your beer traps. It may help if you provide some containers for the slops and offer some of your vegetables (if we ever get any this year).

  9. carrie-anne says:

    I am new to gardening and have a problem with ants slugs aphids and … Children … Lol!
    My son Broke a gala apple tree sapling :'( in half. When I dug it up there was two tiny slug like things clinging to what was left of the roots!!! No wonder it looked like a twig in the ground! Dose anyone know what it was and how to protect any other replacement trees I get!? I am a complete novice so any advise is probably news to me. Thanks 🙂 also read some where slugs live and breed under ground :/

  10. I’m thinking of putting the blighters to work making compost from kitchen waste and weeds. I just need to make a tank they can’t escape from. I’m serious. I could market it. The problem with it will be to separate the compost from the slugs. Any thoughts on that anyone?

  11. Try rough sandpaper stapled along the edge of raised beds..must be waterproof paper! !!!!

  12. michael says:

    thats so funny about the moat. imagine digging a moat around your allotment and filling it with beer to catch slugs. thats so funny, im laughing out loud. I was thinking about putting out some fish tails and trying to attract some sea gulls into my garden – im sure they would like slugs …although the fish tails may attract cats. Ill have another think about it…..

    • Micky-j says:

      Well I was gonna try that with the moat but that many alcho’s around me it would be full of the owt for a free drink

  13. Dobies are selling lambs wool as a slug repeller no sure if it works or if anyone has tried it.

  14. Michelle says:

    Most Coffee houses will give you the grouts for free – then at least your not spending a fortune on coffee!!!

  15. Here’s another one: nail on the end of a stick. Death by nail and easy removal at the same time.

  16. Don’t think seagulls like slugs. We live on the coast in Cumbria and despite having seagulls nesting on the roof (and I won’t go into the problems that they cause!) I’ve still been out in the garden for an hour dropping slugs onto the paving and covering them in salt. Don’t know what that will do.

  17. Muscovy ducks love them.

  18. I had a big problem with them in the house that I used to live in and they would come into the house at night. I laid sharp shingle the next one up from pea shingle in an area just outside my back door and that stopped the problem. However just got my first allotment and not sure how practical this would be on the beds.

  19. 95% of the slug population is underground. Plastic bottles etc may stop slugs on the surface getting to your plants, but it won’t stop those who decide to put their miner’s helmets on and take the scenic underground route!

    If you want to use slug pellets, look out for ones which contain ferric phosphate because they are reported to be safe around plants and wildlife and are even approved for organic farming use.

    I go for the multi-pronged attack by using ferric phosphate pellets, occasional night-time slug hunting sessions, and beer traps (which can be a mixture of bread yeast, flour, & sugar water instead of beer). I also protect plants which have prominant single stems by using copper. But instead of copper tape, I use copper pan scrubbers/ scourers. Just unroll the scrubber and cut it up into rings, which can be tied around the base of the plant stems. It’s better than tape because it stretches as the plant grows, and the jagged, wirey copper surface is even harder for a determined slug to cross than just smooth copper tape.

  20. Khaki Campbell ducks. These lovely animals are addicted to eating slugs. If you have space keep a couple of ’em on your allotment and they will sort everyone’s slug problems out. Seriously, check these beauties out.

  21. Edward says:

    In my view, the best way to get rid of slugs is to step on them full weight. It’s instant death so the slug feels no pain. They go off with a satisfying pop as their innards explode. Some may find it gruesome but it’s the kindest and quickest way to dispatch them. Any good stompers out there?!

  22. Linda Andrews says:

    These slugs are beyond a pain. I feel like sitting out with a shotgun! I keep a bucket of salty water and when I find them they get a swimming lesson.
    One thing that I have found very effctive not only against slugs and snails and aphids is Neem Oil which comes from a tree in India. Two teaspoons Neem two of liquid soap to gallon of warm water and spray that over all the plants. (You need warm water as the Neem will solidify)
    I used the mix on my broad beans – I never picked out the tops with great success.

    I use a backpack sprayer

  23. I have a slug problem, but I can’t be cruel to any creature. It’s not their fault that they exist, and they are just trying to survive like everything else! So I’m looking for a way to solve the nuisance, with out cruelty! If that’s possible. Any suggestions would be welcomed.

    • That’s a tough one Jaquie – I think your only option would be a barrier method that doesn’t kill them, so you could try copper. But it’s expensive if you need to cover a large area.

  24. Williamgal says:

    All the best

  25. I pick slugs early am and put them in a container with salt. Works great!

  26. Alice Sowerby says:

    I have tried raw wool straight from the sheep, huge quantities of it spread in a barrier. It did not work. Sorry. In fact they seemed to like hiding under it.

  27. KEITH says:

    two words, blow lamp.

    • KEITH says:

      went out in my garden last night when it was dark and counted over 50 dirty great slugs making there way towards me new plants. perhaps my previous comment on blow lamp was a bit over the top! still like it though. get some tongs, the ones you use for barbecues, pick up all of them and dispatch them to slug heaven, back to blow lamp!
      or bucket of water with salt in it.

  28. Dawn Turner says:

    Thanks for all your advice I’ll try it all!! Absolutely overun with the biggest slugs and snails I’ve ever seen. Also hundreds of tiny snails. I’ve only got a border garden but it backs onto open fields. I hunt them every morning and collect a bag full. Gonna try evening instead. .or as well. They’re spoiling the enjoyment of my garden. Dawn. West Yorkshire.

    • Hi Dawn, they’re such destructive creatures, I hope you can get rid of them! It would be shame not to enjoy your garden. Are you growing veg or flowers? To be honest, if you’re not growing anything edible then perhaps put down some pellets if nothing else works – you can get organic ones. I don’t use them because I mainly grow things to eat, but I think I’d be tempted if it was just flowers. Good luck!

  29. Edward Hyde says:

    The kindest way to dispose of them is the simplest. Stand on them and listen for the pop as they explode.

  30. Hi. There is an effective and simple tool to collect slugs.

  31. JAMES CONLON says:

    Pity thy did not eat the weeds that would be a wonder full job

  32. JAMES CONLON says:

    shame thy don’t eat the weeds that would be a job well done

  33. Attaract a hedgehogs to a allotment site with some dried mealworms and cat/dog biscuits…

    Also setup a hegehog house/feeding station.

  34. Chris Sims says:

    How about drinking the beer before filling the traps, if it doesn’t work at least you have had a beer and wont care as much,

  35. Everything has a right to live .how is a slug supposed to know what belongs to someone, it has to eat .before evolution we all just ate what grew, .how can anyone take a life just for wanting to eat .

    • I agree with you in almost all cases, except slugs I’m afraid, as unfortunately they don’t seem willing to share and I really do like to eat the things I grow.


  1. […] why am I going to the allotment? Because there are slugs to slay, strawberries to pick, beans to weed, leeks to transplant. Well, partly. But I’m also going […]

  2. […] On Saturday someone came along with a pair of scissors. […]

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