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 are irregularly-shaped holes in leaves, stems, flowers, tubers and bulbs, and silvery slime trails.

There are many options for controlling slugs, and if you combine a few methods, you should keep them under control if you start the process in spring.

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

Organic slug pellets, made of ferric phosphate, are just as effective as non-organic ones but are less harmful to wildlife, or you can try nematodes. You could also try going out at night with a torch and bucket to pick slugs off by hand.

Discover four more 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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

Use beer traps

Make a slug trap using cheap beer – they’re attracted to the smell. Do this by sinking a half-filled container into the ground, with the rim just above soil level. Cover with a loose lid to stop other creatures falling in. Empty regularly.

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Making a beer trap
Making a beer trap
Eryngium, agastache, scabious and <em>Verbena bonariensis</em>
Eryngium, agastache, scabious and Verbena bonariensis

Slug-resistant plants to grow