You can stop these leaf munching machines.

Recently, I read that these nasty little creatures have like 2700 teeth. Thank heavens they aren’t meat eaters! There are 40 different types of slugs found in North America but only three of them are commonly found; Gray Field Slugs, Common Garden Slugs and in the Northwest they have the Black Slug that can grow to a mammoth six inches in length.

I’m sure any gardener, no matter how novice or expert, will whole heartedly agreed that slugs are disturbing on so many levels. There is one additional bonus to having a drought garden. Slugs don’t like arid conditions! Unfortunately, hostas are not at their finest baking in all day sun without a good deal of moisture. In the warmer regions of the US, it was beyond impossible for even sun tolerant hostas to survive the solar intensity.

No one wants hosta leaves that look like Swiss cheese!

While hostas seem to be the number one slug attracting garden plant, they do heartily enjoy feasting on the foliage of a number of other flowering plants. For the most part, you will find slug damage occurs in the moist, shady areas of your yard… namely the place that hostas flourish. The effects of these slimy pests are also found to be rampant in the vegetable garden where tomatoes, cabbages and beans are only part of slug population’s vegetation feast.

The bold, luscious leaves of hostas are so addictive to plant lovers. It appears they offer a unanimously tasty treat to all manner of wild critters as well. If you aren’t battling Bambi, it’s the rabbits and if you are saved from the first two pests, you will without a doubt have problems with slugs. You’ve probably seen several homemade methods for getting rid of slimy slugs in your flower garden and vegetable gardens too.

Organic Slug ControlBeer in a shallow pan …

If you are going to do this, make sure you buy the cheapest brand of beer. Beer works really well, but you’ll have to keep replacing it in the pans. Rain and irrigation dilutes it. High temperatures cause rapid evaporation. Best results come from putting out fresh brewery traps early every evening. You’ll want to empty each pan readily, as the slug corpses can start smelling pretty ripe after a day in 90°F temperatures. Not recommended for weak tummies! The beer must be replaced every day as soon as leaves emerge to be effective.

Rock salt used in mounded lines as a slug barrier …

Slugs cannot live after they have traveled over a pile of salt. The fastest way to kill a slug is to pour salt on them. They quickly dry right up like a worm on a hot sidewalk. However, hostas and many desirable plants are highly sensitive to salt burn foliage damage, so caution of placement, and keeping the salt in place all season is recommended with this DIY slug control method. BUT salt melts, and runs into the soil with normal irrigation and rainfall. Too high of a sodium content in your garden soil can be harmful to many ornamental and food garden plants. If it gets too intense, everything will get burnt.

Sand and gravel slug deterrent …

Slugs are slimy because they travel on the mucous beneath them. They are highly capable of traversing gravel to get to the feast on the other side. Sharp sand can be effective, as long as it remains in place. Slugs have a hard time being mobile when that gooey fluid they ride on is clogged up with cutting sand. Every heavy rain, or stiff wind that comes along will make it necessary to keep constant watch over your sand berm barriers. All it takes is one slug to break through and you’ll have holey plants until the following spring.

Container growing to raise plants above soil level …

I hate to burst your bubble, but slugs will climb up the side of pots and containers. This is not an effective slug control method at all. They’ll truly adore the moist shade the pot gives them and can enter the pot through a drainage hole, and slime their way along the edge to hosta heaven up above. They don’t mind a little mud.

Partially submerged container grown hostas …

Yes, hostas do adore moisture, but they still need drainage. This method I’ve seen bantered about is not what I would deem wise. While it may be true that slugs cannot swim, your container cannot drain at all if the bottom 2 inches is below soil level! This will cause two serious health problems over long periods of time.

  1. Root rot, which will ultimately kill the hosta plant, and many others.
  2. Poor drainage can cause fungus to attack your hosta foliage that is unsightly, and will continue to reinfect new leaves without good anti-fungal applications to both soil and foliage.

Common garden slug

Nematodes as organic slug control …

Using beneficial soil nematodes is far more popular in Europe than it is the US. These are microscopic worms that feed on other insects and wormlike soil dwellers. There are a limited number of places to purchase beneficial nematodes online. I would recommend you make sure you get the right nematodes for your climate. There are different organisms for cold and warm growing zones. Nematodes are effective for about 6 months, and do an excellent job at controlling not only slugs, but all manner of undesirable pests – like fleas, cutworms, army worms, caterpillars, and more. Beneficial nematodes are not cheap, but they do work well, and van rid your yard and garden of far more pests than slugs.

Sluggo brand biodegradable slug bait…

This slimy plant pest control product is applied in early evening in a sprinkled area or individual plant treatment. The slugs eat the granules and feasting ceases immediately. It takes three to six days for them to die after ingesting the bait. Not a pretty picture if you are plagued with a lot of slugs. This slug bait contains things found in fertilizers and is safe for your pets. Sluggo is effective if you keep on top of reapplication, and is perhaps more economical than other commercially sold slug control methods.

BugGeta Snail & Slug Killer…

There are two Bug-Geta formulations. The original BugGeta product controls slugs and snails. BugGeta Plus controls a lot more undesirable garden pests. Both are long-lasting products from Ortho, but the Plus version also does away with cutworms, army worms, earwigs, and more. Sprinkle it around and water the granules in and the slug population will be a historical occurrence in no time at all. Heavy rainfall and irrigation will cause you to have to reapply it more often than the package states. Under normal rainfall it works 1-month per application by drying out any soft skinned pest rapidly from the outside in. One thing to note: BugGeta contains the chemical Bitrex, which is extremely toxic to other animals, and fish.

Deadline Force Slug & Snail Killer…

Granules are easy to apply, and definitely not messy, but they might not be as effective as you want them to be. Having to wait 3-6 days for the perpetrators to pass on could lay a hosta garden to waste. Deadline kills on contact. It also does not highly toxic Bitrex, which brings us to another cautionary note: Metaldehide, a chemical in all these slug control products, creates a dust in dry applications that is toxic if inhaled. Deadline is not granular – it’s a thick liquid, and doesn’t present the possible hazard to the applicator that sprinkling granules does. Due to it’s super thick consistency it doesn’t readily wash away in the rain, or under irrigation. Like all slug baits and killers, this one needs to be reapplied at least once a month, depending on how wet the weather is.

Many gardeners report that Deadline Force Slug & Snail Killer is far better than granular slug control applications. It’s easier to apply, attracts them to it, and kills the varmints almost instantly. You can’t do much better than that, at least not unless you decide to grow only plants that slugs and snails would never eat. Why cut the beauty of your garden short when one thin line around the planting laid down every month or so does away with these destructive little creatures? If you experience excessively wet weather, it’s wise to reapply a week or two earlier.

Effective slug control can also be done with plants.

Beautiful reblooming Astrantia drives away slugs! Plant them around your hostas. The slugs hate they way they smell. Astrantias thrive in full sun to part shade.

Astrantia Star of Summer

Astrantia Star of Summer

Astrantia Roma

Astrantia Roma

Astrantia Snow Star

Astrantia Giant White

 

It’s the longest lasting natural and organic slug control, and the least hassle, not to mention being gardening smarter. There are more ornamental perennials, shrubs, annuals and blooming bulbs that drive slugs away. Learn more here: Plants Slugs Don’t Like To Eat

Slug images courtesy of photogirl7. Beer trap image courtesy of Tony Austin.

This post was updated April 24, 2015.