How to Get Rid of Slugs in the Garden

If you’re struggling with how to get rid of slugs in your garden without creating a toxic zone for other beneficial organisms, we’ve got some tips on ways to bring slugs under control without resorting to chemical solutions. Hungry slugs can severely injure ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables so keeping them under control is important.

What are Slugs Good For?

close up of a large brown slug crawling over a leaf
Slugs have a place in the world and serve a purpose in the larger ecosystem. Birds, earthworms, toads, newts, frogs and other creatures feed on slugs. That’s why it’s important to avoid using toxins to fight garden slugs if possible. Those toxins can be passed along to the creatures that eat slugs, potentially causing them harm.

Why You Should Get Rid of Slugs in the Garden

a hosta plant with holes in most of the leaves caused by slugs feeding on the foliage
Garden slugs chew on plant leaves, fruits and flowers creating irregularly-shaped holes. If enough damage is done, plants become weak and may die. Slugs are especially harmful to seedlings. The damage they inflict can also reduce the yield of a vegetable garden.

How to Kill Slugs Without Using Chemical Baits

a woman using a pair of tongs to manually remove slugs from a flower garden to dispose of the slugs
You can get rid of slugs in the garden without using potentially harmful chemicals. First, make the environment less hospitable to slugs by reducing excess moisture and letting in more sunlight. Slugs thrive in moist environments.
Water your plants at their base rather than using overhead watering methods that leave excess moisture on leaves. Water in the morning so that the sun dries the ground during the day. Trim low tree branches that may be shading existing plants.

Methods You Can Use for Garden Slug Control


Set up Slug Beer Traps

a dish set flush with soil is being filled with beer from a brown bottle to create a slug trap
Slugs are drawn to beer. Pour some in containers that are about six to seven inches (15 – 18 cm) deep. Fill them to within about an inch (2.5 cm) of the top and bury them so the tops are level with the ground in several locations in the garden. Slugs will fall in and drown when they try to drink. Check your traps a few times each week. Clean them out and refill them when necessary.

How to Get Rid of Slugs and Snails with Coffee

a white ceramic bowl containing egg shells and coffee grounds
Slugs hate caffeine and enough of it will kill them. They also dislike slithering across abrasive material. Coffee grounds are abrasive and, unless you drink decaf, they contain caffeine. Sprinkle them around your plants. Another option is to brew up some strong caffeinated coffee, let it cool and pour it around the plants the slugs are eating.

Make a Slug Trap with a Wooden Board

a wooden board that has been flipped over and is now lying in the grass revealing multiple slugs that were crawling beneath the board
Lay some boards or shingles around in the garden. Slugs will gather under them overnight. In the morning, simply pick up the material and kill the slugs.

Use Birds to Keep Slugs Under Control

a robin in the grass with a worm grasped in its beak
Although they may peck at your fruits and veggies too, setting up a bird feeder and perhaps a bath nearby will draw in birds that enjoy a tasty slug now and then. Having some frogs, non-venomous snakes, toads and turtles around will help, too, so don’t run them off if you have a garden slug problem.

Manually Remove Slugs and Dispose of Them

a gloved hand holding a slug plucked from a vegetable garden with tomato plants and a bucket in the background for disposing of slugs

If you have the stomach for it, you can pick slugs off of your plants and crush them or drop them into a bucket of soapy water to drown.

Deter Slugs with Diatomaceous Earth

a hand holding a garden trowel containing a scoop of diatomaceous earth with a garden in the background

Diatomaceous earth will scratch the underside of slugs as they try to slither across it, thus it makes a good slug repellent when applied to your garden soil. Crushed eggshells can also be used.

Don’t Use Salt or Vinegar for Garden Slug Control

a slug on garden soil has been coated with salt resulting in it's death
“Yes”, pouring salt on a slug will kill it, but you shouldn’t do that in or near your garden. Although it also kills slugs, applying vinegar for garden slug control is also a bad idea. Both salt and vinegar can be absorbed by your plants and result in damage or death.

Relatively Safe Chemical Bait for Getting Rid of Slugs

brown gloved hand holding a scoop of iron phosphate pellets used to kill slugs in the garden
Iron phosphate is considered safe to use around animals and children, but it will kill slugs in the garden. Simply sprinkle it around the plants if your non-chemical methods don’t do the job. Slugs will eat the iron phosphate and the chemical will damage their digestive systems. They’ll stop eating your plants and die within a week.

Natural Slug Control

close up of a brown toad in the garden
In most instances, you will not need to use potentially harmful chemicals to kill garden slugs and keep them out of your garden. Just use the recommended watering methods, let the sunshine in and try a few low-toxicity options before resorting to harsher chemicals for garden slug control. It’s always ideal to let nature take its course and strike a balance that allows all plants and creatures to coexist.
A fun way to bring in a natural slug predator is by placing a toad house in your garden. You can make your own toad house with our simple instructions. A toad house provides shade and shelter to these helpful garden friends!
DIY toad house in a shady garden made from a plastic bowl, pebbles and grout

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