Dealing with Slugs and Snails in an Organic Garden

Written by Bill   Date Posted: 24 February 2017 

Slugs and snails will be part of a healthy ecosystem in many gardens and having some will usually be a fact of life. That said, you will have to control populations if they are too large. Slugs and snails can cause a lot of damage and are a particular problem for young plants.

 

Short Term Control

In the long term, making sure the garden has a balanced ecosystem will keep the numbers of these pests down. In the short term, there are some measures you can take to protect your plants:

  • Slugs and snails are found in greater numbers after dark. Go to the garden with a torch and remove them by hand to keep numbers down. Removal is not a long term solution as getting rid of them can create a vacuum that can cause a population boom and make the problem worse in the long term.
  • Protect seedlings by covering them with cloches made from cut off plastic drink bottles or similar. Give larger plants collars made from plastic drinks bottles or similar.
  • Encircle beds containing vulnerable seedlings with copper tape or copper electrical wire and/or put a barrier of crushed, cleaned and dried egg shells around plants (this will only work in dry conditions when egg shells are sharp). Wood ash also works as a barrier in dry conditions, though could make soil more alkaline and should only be used in moderation. Some say that sheep's wool can also be used as a barrier around plants.

Traps For Slugs and Snails

If you have a bad population imbalance then you will probably have to trap and kill some slugs and snails.  One popular trap is a bottle half buried in the soil with two holes cut in the side, half filled with beer. (Put a stick leading out of the bottle to allow other creatures to escape.) Slugs will enter, get drunk and drown.

Any moist damp places will be hiding places for slugs and snails. Look in these spots and you will see congregations and be able to establish the scale of the problem.

 

Plants To Repel Slugs and Snails

  • Chives (placed or tied around plants)
  • Rosemary
  • Anise
  • Fennel


Attracting Predators To Eat Slugs and Snails

The most effective way to control slug and snail populations in your garden is to make sure that you have predators around to keep their numbers down.

Predators of slugs, snails and their eggs:

  • A range of different wild birds. (Attract as many birds as possible with feeders and nest spots etc.)
  • Lizards and other reptiles.
  • Some Frogs and Toads.
  • Some small mammals
  • Chickens: Chickens should eat slugs and snails. Allowing them to range into areas where they are found will help reduce numbers (though watch out as they will also tend to eat and scratch up seedlings). You can also throw any slugs and snails into the chickens' area when you find them. Just make sure you worm chickens regularly.
  • Ducks and geese also eat slugs

Related blog posts:


Integrated Pest Management for Home Gardeners

Author: John Mauger   Date Posted: 22 June 2017 

Integrated pest management is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, etc.

Read more


Starting an Organic Garden

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 1 March 2017 

At first the prospect of starting an organic garden can seem daunting to the novice gardener but once you have a basic understanding of standard terms and techniques, you'll quickly find that going green in your garden is simple, healthy, and fun.

Read more


Controlling slugs and snails

Author: Rowan   Date Posted: 27 September 2012 

With spring rains and warmth providing perfect conditions for eating and breeding, you need to get on top of snails now before they start laying their eggs. You don’t want the shock of coming out one morning and seeing all your little seedlings decimated!

Read more


Recent blog posts:


How to Grow Giant Pumpkins: A Short Guide for Enormous Results

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 6 June 2018 

Pumpkins are an impressive crop, bringing colour & drama throughout summer and autumn. But if you want your gourds to be real talking point, size matters. The lessons learned by competitive pumpkin growers can give your fruits a healthy boost in stature.

Read more


A Beginner's Guide to Crop Rotation: How It Works and Why You Should Use It

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 30 May 2018 

Crop rotation is all about keeping your soil as naturally fertile as possible, as well as reducing the problems of pests and disease. This article explains the benefits and offers a beginner's guide to getting started.

Read more


Why You Should Plant Nasturtiums in Your Garden

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 17 May 2018 

Enjoy the beauty and benefits of nasturtiums by planting them in your garden. These pretty plants are easy to grow, edible, and a great companion plant.

Read more


9 Reasons to Raise Your Plants from Seed (and 3 Slight Drawbacks to Bear in Mind)

Author: The Seed Collection Pty Ltd   Date Posted: 8 May 2018 

Every gardener needs to decide how to start their home-grown plants off in life. Is it better to raise them from seed, or to buy ready-grown seedlings? This article covers the many advantages of sowing seeds, along with a few minus points to consider.

Read more


Thinking of Taking Up Gardening? 8 Convincing Reasons You Should Start Today

Author: Jennifer Charlotte   Date Posted: 1 May 2018 

Getting started with gardening is perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome. You might think the amount of knowledge you need is off-putting, but it's not as complicated or difficult as it seems. Here are 8 ways it can bring benefit to your daily life.

Read more


View all blog posts

Comments (1)

By: on 4 March 2017
You say chives repel slugs and snails but I've found small black slugs seem to love my garlic chives. I often find them on them early in the morning and they do a fair bit of damage. My slug problem is quite bad and one method I've found very helpful (with added advantages) is to grow the seedlings in sleeves cut from 2L milk bottles. I line up the sleeves (which are approx 90ml high after top and bottom are cut off) in large plastic nursery trays lined with shadecloth on the bottom, fill with seed raising mix and when the seedlings are planted out I just lift the sleeves up and leave them around the seedlings until they've developed to the stage where the sleeve needs to be removed. Another advantage of this is the roots don't get disturbed at all as long as they're planted before they start coming through the bottom. The seedlings get a flying start from having plenty of room to grow roots and not being disturbed at planting time and the slugs and snails never climb the plastic sides. The only downside to this is the large amount of seed raising mix I go through but I've turned that into another advantage. I take soil back from the veg garden and mixing sand, coir and seived compost with it to make my own mix. As my soil is very clayey this has the added advantage of gradually building up sand levels in it. I'll be interested to try the rosemary, anise and fennel you suggest. Cheers Lin