London (change)
Today 19°C / 10°C
Tomorrow 15°C / 9°C

Controlling slugs and snails with copper


by Adam Pasco

This season I've discovered the versatility of copper in my battle with Britain's No.1 garden pest...


Adding copper tape to a terracotta pot, to deter slugs and snailsIt comes as no surprise to me that slugs and snails have been voted the most-hated garden pests in the Gardeners' World Awards. Surely no garden in the country can be immune from their devastating activities, unless it's a garden covered in concrete!

Slugs are everywhere, although they hide away pretty well until my back is turned, then come out in force to feed. By sheltering during the day and emerging under cover of darkness, they escape my attention as well as that of many wildlife predators. The occasional hedgehog makes it into my garden at night, and they love to feed on slugs.

However, gardeners who treasure their hostas (and other plants) know all too well just how much damage slugs and snails can do at night. I'm keen to garden without resorting to pesticides where possible, so I don't use slug pellets. This season I've discovered the versatility of copper in my battle with Britain's No.1 garden pest. It's been found that copper rings and tape provide an effective barrier across which slugs and snails refuse to cross.

Copper rings were placed round the base of  'at risk' perennials and hostas in borders early in the year. These rings push down into the soil, then sit proud to form a barrier. At first they stick out like a sore thumb, but as plants grow they've been hidden from view. Sticky-backed copper tape can be applied right round pots (as shown in the photograph above).

I'm not exactly sure of the science behind this, but apparently when a slug or snail tries to slide over the copper tape or barrier it receives an electric 'shock' (or tingle), which forces it to turn around and go elsewhere. From my initial trials this year it appears to work. Hostas protected in this way in pots and borders look perfect, while some plants that I did not protect have become the inevitable slug food!

With this success behind me I'm now going to explore how to protect raised beds of lettuce and salad leaves from slugs. If I begin with a slug-free bed, then attach a copper band round the timber edges, perhaps I can keep the slugs out.

In the meantime I'll continue to welcome in the hedgehogs, frogs, toads, beetles and birds that all play a vital role in pest control in my garden.



Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Controlling slugs and snails with copper
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

Gardeners' World Web User 06/07/2009 at 10:57

Hi we have a house Olive Grove Farm in Italy with 3 walnut trees. Although they start out ok towards the end of the summer (if they are still on the trees, the nusts are all black. Someone told me I can spray with Copper Sulphate solution is this correcct or can you suggest something better.

Gardeners' World Web User 06/07/2009 at 12:15

Hi Adam - I use copper tape around the top of my raised beds and it seems to work - I also use a beer trap as a back up just in case - inevitably the grass grows up the side of the beds or a stem overhangs and the odd slug or two gets in - or perhaps they have other ways of breaching the defence ! but touch would the veg hasn't been devaststed by slugs in the past two years. The tape needs renewing - must get round to that.

Gardeners' World Web User 06/07/2009 at 21:23

COULD ANYONE TELL ME,WHERE COULD I GET A PRE MADE PLASTIC ROUND POND WIDTH ONLY 20IN,DEPTH 20IN.I HAVE LOOKED ON THE NET..I CAN FIND A POND BUT BIGGER THAN 20IN..WHICH I DONT WANT[SPACE IS A PROBLEM],I WISH TO PUT ANOTHER SMALL POND IN MY GARDEN.....

Gardeners' World Web User 06/07/2009 at 22:28

Hi I need advice on a raised bed im makein.I want to grow some climbers onto my garage wall, the raised bed will sit on conceret i'm wondering will this work for me at all or will it become waterlogged. please advise. KK.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/07/2009 at 09:28

keelykins - it should work as i did just that many years ago and now have a grape-vine, honeysuckle and an understory of campanulas in my raised bed on concrete. The edging is limestone rock and the soil is over a foot deep. I think the vine, which gives me loads of luscious sweet grapes each year, has probably broken up the concrete now.

See more comments...