Slug

How to stop slugs eating young plants

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

Slugs and snails are active all year but they’re a particular problem in spring, when there’s plenty of young growth for them to eat. Tell-tale signs of slug damage include irregularly-shaped holes in leaves, stems, flowers, tubers and bulbs and potatoes, and silvery slime trails. In this article, we share our tips to get rid of slugs and snails in your garden.

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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 and start in spring, 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.


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In this video guide, Monty Don reveals how he tackles slugs and snails, both by encouraging wildlife into the whole garden and by creating a small slug-free zone where he grows his most vulnerable young plants. Get lots of tips for getting rid of slugs and snails organically, in this short video:

Ways to stop slugs eating young plants:


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

Get rid of slugs with 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

Making a beer trap
Making a beer trap

Slug-resistant plants to grow

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

In the first instalment of this two-part video from 2012, Carol Klein looks at some of the plants most loved by slugs and snails, such as hosta and Kirengeshoma palmata. She also recommends some plants to grow that they’re less fond of eating, such as hellebores:

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In the second part of her practical video, Carol Klein recommends more plants that are resistant to slugs and snails. Her choices include astilbe, agastache and penstemon: