Ask a Gardener – Slugs

Wednesday June 29, 2016

What do you recommend for slug infestation in my flower garden? Dog-safe and bird friendly. I have been baiting with beer for a year and catch many but they are causing damage and out of control. I’ve heard Sluggo or possibly used coffee grounds? HELP! – Autumn

Ug! Slugs! The warm temperatures and afternoon showers of summer are perfect conditions for them. But there are some things you can do to get rid of those ugly sluglies, including the two you mentioned. We always like to recommend starting with the easier, least invasive controls first and working your way up if the problem persists. Cultural Control Slugs’ bodies are made up almost completely of water, so they need a wet environment to avoid drying out. Anything you can do to create a warm, dry environment in your garden will help deter slugs. Space your plants out and keep them pruned up to let the air circulate through the garden. Water your plants early in the morning so the garden dries out before nighttime when slugs are active. You might also consider a switch to a drip irrigation system to reduce the humidity and moisture from overhead watering. And always be sure to keep the garden clear of any dead leaves, plant material and other debris which makes for great slug hiding places.

Trap As you’ve found, trapping slugs with beer – burying a small container of beer in the soil up to its rim- can be effective. Slugs are attracted the fermenting yeast and fall into the dish. You can also try leaving a wet, rolled up newspaper out overnight to bait the slugs away from your plants. In the morning you can crush up the paper with the slugs inside and throw it away.

Repellants Ground coffee can work to repel slugs from your plants. It basically creates an abrasive boundary that the slugs can’t cross without hurting themselves. Crushed eggs shells, wood ashes, copper strips or copper sulfide work the same way. We also sell a product called Diatomaceous earth that can also be a very effective slug repellant and control. DE is finely ground sedimentary rock that also works by desiccating any slugs that come in contact with it and killing them. DE is approved by OMRI, the Organic Materials Review Institute, and great for use in organic veggie gardens.


Pesticide If the slugs are really getting out of control, Sluggo is probably your best bet. Sluggo is 100% organic, OMRI-listed and very safe to use around dogs and birds. Its active ingredient is iron phosphate, which attracts slugs and kills on ingestion. Just scatter the bait around the plants in the evening, just before slugs come out to feed.