Despite their destructive habits and overall “ick” factor, snails and slugs are anything but formidable. In fact, there are so many creative ways to repel or kill them that you might have a hard time choosing just one.
Commercial snail and slug killers work, but they're dangerous and can harm the “good” creatures in your garden. Save money with one of these easy home remedies instead.
1. Give them a bath
Every time you go out in the garden, bring a little bucket with a few drops of dish soap mixed in. Pick off any soft-bodied pests you see, throw them into the bath and dump out their remains the next day.
The small amount of dish soap prevents snails, slugs and even caterpillars from escaping.
2. Get them drunk
If you're going to kill the slimy little guys, you might as well let them die drunk and happy.
Set out saucers of stale beer, making sure that the pests can find their way over the ledge and into the dive bar. They'll be naturally drawn to the yeasty smell of the beer, then fall in and drown. Don't use this method if pets or young children are present.
3. Put out a tiny barbed wire fence
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around vulnerable plants and walk away. It's like putting out a bed of microscopic razor blades and shards of glass, so snails and slugs will do their best to steer clear of the stuff.
Use this trick sparingly, though, since it can slice away at “good” bugs and critters too.
4. Just add salt
It might not be the kindest or cleanest method, but salt really does kill slugs and snails by drying out the mucus coating their permeable bodies.
Sprinkle a very small amount, since it doesn't take much to harm nearby plants. But if a slug is close enough to kill with salt, you'd be better off picking the thing off by hand.
5. Put out a banana trap
Choose this method if you'd rather not touch the snails and slugs at all.
Leave a banana skin, grapefruit peel or melon rind out near affected plants at night, and dispose of the peel - critters and all - in the morning. Use a shovel to avoid getting slimed!
6. Tangle them up
If your furry friend is shedding a lot, put that hair to good use and spread it around the base of affected plants. The fur will stick to slugs’ and snails’ mucus coating and keep them from getting much farther.
7. Don't bring home hitchhikers
Slugs often enter the garden by hiding out on nursery plants. When purchasing, thoroughly inspect each plant, also checking the debris or dead leaves on the soil surface. Remove any snails, slugs and other stowaways.
8. Clean up dead leaves
Dead leaves in the garden are usually a good thing, because they provide a natural habitat for lots of little critters that benefit your soil and plants.
But if you have a slug infestation, dead leaves have to go. Whether you throw them on the compost pile or bag them up just to play it safe, a tidy garden will at least help you get a handle on the snails and slugs.
9. Attract natural predators
Just as there are lots of ways to kill slugs and snails, there are lots of animals who will happily take them off your hands.
Attract snail-eating frogs, toads, lizards and even snakes (most are harmless) by providing hiding places, like stones or logs in or near your garden. You might even choose to keep those dead leaves, if you're going this route.
Include native plants, bird feeders and birdhouses to attract snail- and slug-eating birds. It takes a while to build up a diverse garden, but you'll have fewer pest problems in the long run.
10. Grow something else
It isn't what you want to hear, but if your garden is brimming with slugs and it seems like nothing can eliminate the slimy plague, consider growing plants they won't eat.
Besides, a garden with big pest problems is a garden that is out of balance. Diversify!
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Originally published July 28, 2016.