Natural Slug Control at Chicago Garden

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One of the downsides of all the recent rain we've been experiencing are the pests and diseases that thrive in these damp garden conditions. One such pest is the common brown or gray garden slug. These are a type of mollusk related to clams and oysters and the damage they do in a garden is mostly cosmetic. They cut irregular shaped holes in leaves of plants but later in the season they can feed or ripening fruits and vegetables.

Since I don't use pesticides in my garden I combat slugs using a variety methods most of them cheap, organic and natural ways of killing slugs.

The first thing you should do is maintain your garden free of debris like fallen leaves and plants that are dying back. The shady and damp conditions caused by a messy garden help slugs thrive. If you mulch try not to use the really large wood chips because they provide good hiding places for slugs.

Attract birds to your garden that will eat garden slugs by planting trees and shrubs or placing a bird bath in your garden.

You can buy products at a local garden center like Escar-Go and Sluggo or make your own bait out of household items like beer and cornmeal. The beer trick has been used by home gardeners for a long time. Simply place beer in a container at least three inches deep around the garden where you have a slug problem. The slugs are attracted to the yeast and barley in beer, climb in and drown. Clear out the slugs and refill with beer. Place a couple of tablespoons of cornmeal in an empty jar and lay it on its side in the garden. Go out in the evenings and check the traps and empty them out.

You can also buy copper tape at a local garden center, which doesn't kill slugs it just deters them, and place it around your seedlings and plants slugs are prone to attack. This spring I happened upon a construction site and I asked the workers if they would let me collect copper scraps from around the construction site.

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I used the scraps of copper pipes as protective collars around some seedlings and didn't notice any losses due to slug damage. When slugs come into contact with copper a toxic reaction occurs between the copper and the slime that the slug releases, causing a small electrical shock that repels them. As you already may know, copper will develop a patina when exposed to the elements so clean it up by sanding it down to keep it clean and effective.

Diatomaceous earth is the sharp, jagged skeletal remains of microscopic creatures. It is often recommended sprinkled around garden beds because soft-bodied pests, like the slug, will crawl over it and get lacerated eventually die from dehydration. Diatomaceous earth isn't very effective when wet, instead of wasting your money on it try coffee grounds and crushed egg shells.

I wish I could say my aversion to insecticides came from wanting to make a difference or protecting the environment, but the truth is I like to take pictures and bugs make great models. I will not have much to photograph if I'm spraying for one type of bug that will incidentally kill other bugs in my garden.
 

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Make your garden hospitable to predator bugs like, lightning bugs, that not only add interest and life to your garden but also help keep pests under control.
 
My favorite method of controlling slugs in the garden is just to pick them by hand and throw them into the middle of the street where they will get run over by cars-- if the birds don't spot them first. If I'm feeling particularly sadistic I'll collect them in a container and cover them in salt and watch them dissolve. A gardener once told that their preferred method of slug torture was to impale them on bamboo skewers and setting them along the fence where the birds could munch on them.

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Slugs, consider yourself warned.

Comments

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  • I like the copper pipe trick. I haven't had a big slug problem this year, but last year it seemed like they were into everything.

    Slugs gross me out, so if I can avoid dealing with them, I do. Can you believe I've never done the salt on a slug thing? I think I'm the only one :-)

  • In reply to ColleenV:

    You've never done the salt trick? Oh man, it feels so good to see them squirm and put them close to your ear to listen and imagine the little slugs crying.

  • I hate earwigs! And they scare the heck out of me. About the only thing I can do is squish them with a long-handled stick.

  • Ringing plants with dryer lint also deters slugs-- apparently the fibrous lint prevents them forming the slime trail that helps them move. I've also used lures to draw slugs away from the plants I like-- I've found that planting hostas and wild violets throughout the garden draws the slugs to those delicacies and away from my precious vegetables.

  • In reply to naxn:

    Xan,

    I didn't know about the lint trick, that's awesome. Thanks for sharing that tip.

    And Sydney, that's very nice of your to offer up your lint. :0)

  • In reply to naxn:

    Ugh, slugs! Last month, a few days after picking maple helicopters out of the garden, my left ear got all irritated. After a couple of days I was sure I felt something crawling in my ear. I 'investigated' with a q-tip, and found a small slug in my ear. I hated them before, and hate them even more now.

    I'll definitely give dryer lint a try. Thanks Xan!

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    Oh-My-God! That is so gross and creepy SSGardenGirl. Reminds me of the time I was a kid and was woken up from a nap by feeling like I had water in my ear. I remember being half asleep wondering why I had water in my ear since I had not been swimming. Anyway, I hung my head off the edge of the bed because I figured gravity would do its thing and the water would leak out. When I felt the water leak out I looked on the ground and saw that it wasn't water but an earwig. I've hated them and have been afraid of them ever since.

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    yup, I thought it was pretty gross and creepy too! I'm not sure which is worse - a slug or an earwig. They're both creepy bugs and I hate it when either one of them gets on me in the garden. Next year when I pick out the helicopters I might have to wear earplugs.

  • I've got plenty of dryer lint and no garden so no slugs. Anyone need lint?

  • Good thing it only got as far as the waistband before it expired! It's bad enough getting a bug or mollusk in one's ear. I shudder to think about where else they could potentially end up.

  • Hi CCWriter,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I'll try to work on a post about squirrels.

  • I was looking for an nature friendly product to kill slugs and snails (kind of an oxymoron huh?). Most of the organic products are marginal at best. I want an organic product. The baits attract the snail and then take few days to kill them; mean while they are laying 20 to 100 eggs a day. I found this one product doing a web search. It popped up at www.snail-n-slugaway.com. I see their product advertised on their website, but I don't see a way to purchase it from a retailer or on-line. It looks pretty promising, but I can't seem to find someone who actually is selling it or knows much about it. It looks like it could be an organic way to effectively deal with snails and slugs; it says its and an ovicide too. That is quite appealing to me. So my question is, do you know anything about this product, is it a product that you would use?. I would really like to test it out, but I can't find any place to buy it. Any help you could give me with this would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

  • In reply to IBSmiley:

    Hi IB Smiley,

    I've never heard of that product. I usually just use the home remedies described in post above.

  • I've got plenty of dryer lint and no garden so no slugs. Anyone need lint? Barrier Termite

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