Making a beer trap

How to stop slugs eating young plants

We reveal the best ways to stop slugs eating young, vulnerable plants like hostas and delphiniums.

Slugs are active all year, but they’re a particular problem in spring, when there’s plenty of young growth for them to eat.

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Tell-tale signs of slug damage include irregularly-shaped holes in leaves, stems, flowers, tubers and bulbs and potatoes, and silvery slime trails.

There are many options for controlling slugs, including going out at night with a torch and bucket to pick slugs off by hand. However, if you combine a few methods, starting in spring and you should keep them under control.

Protect all seedlings, new growth on most herbaceous plants, and all parts of susceptible plants, such as delphiniums and hostas.

Discover six ways to stop slugs eating young plants, below.

Organic slug pellets, made of ferric phosphate, are just as effective as non-organic ones but are less harmful to wildlife.

1

Use organic slug pellets

Pellets made from ferric phosphate are approved for use by organic growers and are just as effective as non-organic ones but less harmful to birds and other wildlife. Scatter the pellets on the soil as soon as you can before tender young growth appears.

Buy organic slug pellets 

Avoid using slug pellets

2

Water in biological control

Microscopic nematodes that infect slugs with bacteria and then kill them, are an effective biological control which is watered into the soil. Apply in the evenings when the soil is warm and moist, from spring onwards.

Buy nematodes from Amazon

Watering young spinach plants

3

Use copper barriers

Copper barriers are effective slug deterrents – if a slug tries to cross one it receives an ‘electric shock’, forcing it back. Put copper rings around vulnerable plants, or stick copper tape around the rim of pots.

Buy copper rings from Dobies

Buy copper tape from Amazon

Hosta shoots protected by a copper ring
Hosta shoots protected by a copper ring

4

Let them eat bran

Slugs love bran and will gorge on it. They then become bloated and dehydrated, and can’t retreat to their hiding places, making them easy pickings for birds. Make sure the bran doesn’t get wet, though.

Sprinkling bran around lettuce seedlings to fend off slugs
Sprinkling bran around lettuce seedlings to fend off slugs

5

Mulch with grit

Slugs find horticultural grit uncomfortable to travel over. Mulch around the base of plants in the ground and in pots – it looks attractive and helps keep compost moist and weeds down.

Buy horticultural grit from B & Q

Mulching around parsley with horticultural grit
Mulching around parsley with horticultural grit

6

Use beer traps

Make a slug trap using cheap beer – they’re attracted to the smell. Do this by sinking a beer trap or container into the ground, with the rim just above soil level. Half fill with beer and the cover with a loose lid to stop other creatures falling in. Check and empty regularly.

Buy beer traps from Amazon

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Making a beer trap
Making a beer trap

Eryngium, agastache, scabious and Verbena bonariensis
Eryngium, agastache, scabious and Verbena bonariensis

Slug-resistant plants to grow