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  • Writer's pictureRose Deakin

Natural and free ways to deter slugs and snails

If there is one thing I can almost guarantee I will get asked about when we have market stalls, it is slugs! Whilst I won't be able to do any market stalls for the foreseeable future it makes sense for me to write down what I have learnt over the years about slugs.

Image Credit: Andrew Martin via Pixabay (link on image)

Slugs seem to be that garden pest that really drive people crazy. They hide in the daytime and at night, while we sleep, they manage to sneak out and devour our lovingly planted vegetables. It is an emotive topic amongst gardeners. How do you tackle the common slug? One thing I won't do here is advocate killing them, although in my younger days I was a fan of a beer trap until it came to emptying them! So I decided I needed to learn more about these creatures if I was to tackle them humanely.

So here are some facts about Slugs that will hopefully help you! I have looked up many of them again to fact check myself, my poor memory sometimes leads to me spreading fake news! So there are links for some of the following, no Wikipedia but don’t expect peer reviewed journals despite my PhD background!

Slugs are lazy…

Well maybe not lazy perse but they like the easy route so anything you can do to make it harder for them to move will hinder them and hopefully make them give up!

Slugs move on the slime trails they secrete, this makes the ground smooth for them to move on.

But did you know they share their slime trails? Imagine them like little slug motorways, super highways for slugs to move as fast as possible! The solution, if you see a slug trail, break the trail.

I am sure I read once that slugs have an internal GPS and even if you move them they will find their way back. I have been trying to find a good source for this fact but I am struggling. Has anyone else come across this? I have found an article about snails which states you need to move them at least 20 metres away from where you find them to stop them returning.

Some say you should water in the early morning so the ground isn’t too damp at night when they come out, as I am not a morning person this will never be me!

There are many easy ways to use food waste to combat slugs such as broken egg shells and coffee grounds. However, it has been suggested that the egg residue may actually attract slugs to the shells. Some people suggest baking the egg shells in the oven to clean them or that the rain will wash away the residue. Methods for crushing vary from the basic method using a rolling pin to an electric blender. Technically, it is actually illegal to use coffee grounds in the garden in Europe, as its not on a certified list of pesticides from the EU. But don't worry, I don't think you will be prosecuted!

I will never recommend any artificial pesticides and I encourage you to find a natural solution. One of the top recommendations is often to create a pond area to encourage more frogs and toads into your garden. But if you don’t have space, just creating habitat they will enjoy will bring them in. They love living under stones and damp wood piles. When I first moved into my house I found the area where I had planned my veg patch had been filled with lots of old bits of concrete and under some of these were toads so I had to relocate them.

My go to solution is wool. As I mentioned before slugs move on their slime, but anything super dry is difficult for them to move on and wool is one of those materials.

I source my wool via friends who have recipe box deliveries. It is used as a sheet material by many companies to insulate cold produce in their boxes. I cut up the wool either into strips and place in grids around the plants or I cut it into smaller pieces and place them as collars around the plant. It does seem to help hold moisture around the plant too. I use old jute sacks in a similar way as some of the ones we get are not suitable for upcycling into planter bags.

There are natural options you can buy online. You can buy wool pellets to put around your plants. There is also a brand called SlugLess who make straw based pellets. But I will always recommend a reclaimed option, which is also then free!

One brand I know who make the wool insulation is called WoolCool. My mum kindly sent me some amazing smoked salmon from Chesil Smokery which came packaged in WoolCool sheeting. I have been using this as my garden kneeler during lockdown and it will eventually be used around my plants. I am looking into how we could source wool sheeting for our Crop Club customers or how we could change our packaging so you receive wool with every order.

I hope that helps, I know there are many ways to combat slugs. If you have any of your own suggestions please comment below.


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