How Can I Keep Slugs Away Without Killing Them?
Slugs and snails are Garden Enemy No. 1, munching through fruit and vegetables in the dead of night and leaving a slimy trail as their calling card. In years gone by we’d have reached for the slug pellets or salt, but there are less deadly alternatives which are better for your crops, your garden and the other animals that live in it.
What's wrong with slug pellets and salt?
Slug pellets work by attracting the slugs, and not all of them will die. More seriously, slug pellets can kill birds and hedgehogs if they eat them. Any method which kills a pest will keep predators away, which means that when the pests come back, there’s nothing to stop them.
As for salt, it will kill slugs, but it will also kill your plants! It’s often more effective to try organic methods which will encourage a healthy balance in your garden.
Encouraging animals that eat slugs and snails is the best method of natural pest control. So create an environment they’ll love, and those predators will be queuing up at the slug buffet. You can encourage birds and hedgehogs by leaving food and water out for them, and beneficial insects like centipedes and carob beetles by making a ‘bug hotel’ with plenty of stones, leaf mould and rotting twigs. If you have a pond, try to encourage frogs as they are a major slug predator.
Slugs can’t crawl over sharp surfaces such as gravel, crushed eggshells or coarse sand. Spread these around the base of your plants. You can also buy copper tape which is very effective (it emits an electric charge which slugs avoid) to stick around the edges of pots and raised beds; or barrier gel. Some people use broken seashells, but they can be a nightmare to get out of your soil afterwards.
Plant something the slugs love, like lawn Chamomile, far away from your edible crops and the slugs will eat that instead. Leaving cut fruit out for them also works as a distraction.
If you go out at night with a torch, or on a wet day, you can pick off the slugs (look for the slimy trail of devastation, under plant pots and large leaves) and relocate them. Collect them in a box or jar, go for a long walk and release the slugs far from any neighbouring strawberry patches or allotments. You could even leave them by a pond to feed the ducks.