How to deal with slugs in the garden

Lawn Care Tips | Posted on January 27, 2020 at 3:02 pm by

Not many gardeners welcome slugs in the garden, even though they can have their benefits for composting or as a source of food for hedgehogs and other garden visitors.

Unfortunately, slugs can also carry diseases that are harmful to domestic pet dogs and cats, they leave an unpleasant trail behind them, and they can be catastrophic to your foliage and freshly laid turf.

If your lawn is under attack by tens of thousands of slugs – as it is believed the average British garden is – there are a few methods you can use to tackle them without resorting to poison.

In summer 2019, the government’s ban on metaldehyde slug pellets was overturned by the courts due to the way it was implemented.

But if you still don’t want to use slug pellets, especially outdoors where other wildlife could come into contact with them, what are the natural alternatives?

Salt

Salt is probably the first thing most people think of when dealing with a slug problem in the garden, and it can be effective at reducing slug numbers.

However, it’s not the most humane method and it can be bad news for your soil quality, especially if you have a large slug infestation over a long period of time.

Think very carefully before dumping large amounts of salt on your lawn and flowerbeds – the effect on new turf and bedding plants could be even worse than the slugs’ tiny chomp marks.

Copper

Copper tape has become a more popular option in the past few years. Manufacturers claim it creates a sensation similar to a static electric shock that repels the slug.

Results can be mixed but if you want to try this technique, rolls of copper tape can be bought quite cheaply.

For maximum effect, use tape with a higher copper content and make your barrier at least 5 cm (2 inches) wide.

If you want to spend a small amount more for the best tape for the job, don’t head to the garden centre, but go to your local music shop, where electric guitar insulating tape tends to be wider, thicker and contains more copper.

Dry surfaces

This is one to think about when designing your garden and especially when planning patios, decking and so on.

Slugs love wet surfaces but find it more difficult to cross dry patches. Use materials that dry more quickly after rain and you can create natural slug barriers.

Less porous surfaces are the way to go if you want to try this technique, whereas porous natural materials like wood can stay damp for longer and create slug highways.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t use natural materials in your garden, of course – but carefully planned dry barriers combined with copper tape could be effective in controlling where the slugs go.

Ultimately, many gardeners learn to live with slugs and some even build slug-friendly flowerbeds to try and lure them away from their vegetable patch intended for human consumption, and give the slugs a feast of their own to enjoy instead.