How to Win the Slug War in Your Garden


Once in your garden, these little beasts eat everything that you were growing to put on your sandwich. We may have some solutions to eradicate these criminal elements.

Nicole Buckler reports.

 They are the mortal enemy of lettuces, herbs, flowers and anything nice that you will ever grow in your garden. They eat plants faster than they can grow. So how do you get rid of them without poisoning your entire garden with nuclear strength pesticide and making it look like it has been swallowed by an atomic winter? We may have some answers.

There are plenty of slug repellents around in garden shops. But these are not ideal due to the fact that they can harm other wildlife and are not safe for little kids who put all sorts of highly gross things in their mouth. And pets are in danger too if they swallow it. Another problem is that a lot of these commercial slug and snail repellents are less effective after rain, which is when these pests are busy having a party on your lovely lettuce leaves. So it is better in a home garden situation to dig out your inner hippie and go organic.

You do need to figure out your slug battle plan if you plant anything even vaguely edible. Slugs love to eat young and tender leaves, which is why your new baby lettuce is in the most danger.  So protecting these little younglings against the slimy menace that is slugs is a mission most serious.


This is particularly good advice for Irish gardens. Put on your wellies and go down to Bray or wherever you live and pull out some of the slimy little gifts from the sea and put them into a bucket. The good news about seaweed is that is it great for your garden, adding many excellent nutrients to the soil. But slugs can’t stand it. One reason is that it is salty. And salt is a slug’s mortal enemy. But you also have to be careful that not too much salt gets into the soil, otherwise your plants won’t be happy and will join the slugs in heaven.

The best way to approach it is to create a circle of protection around the plants by putting a ring of seaweed around the base, without actually touching the plant. As an added bonus, when the seaweed dries, it will be both salty and very rough, something slugs cannot stand. And it might be a little pongy, but it is safe to both humans and animals. And if you are lucky your lettuces might have a slight taste of nori. Mmm.


Salt is to slugs like Kryptonite is to Superman. It will kill them pretty much right away, and horribly. But if they are really driving you up the retaining wall, then you will have to don your wellies, grab a torch, and go out with the salt canister. Again don’t go too mad with the salt because you could end up poisoning your plants.

Stay on target and the salt will take care of your slug assassination needs.


If you are of a more compassionate nature, then one thing you can do is relocate those slimy feckers via car. That is. Go out and pick them all off your garden, put them in a container, and drive up into the mountains, and throw them enthusiastically into large shrubs. You will cut the breeding population down and no living creature has had to die horribly on a cross of salt.


Slugs are attracted to beer. And who isn’t? So let’s not set out the best beer usually reserved for guests. Be sure to use the cheapest nastiest beer you can find in the most horrible dark and cob-web-covered convenience shop that exists in Ireland. The customer service person will think you are a vagrant, but in a war setting (that is, man v. slugs) you must do what it takes to achieve victory.

So obtain a wide long container of some type, dig a hole, and bury it up to the top in the soil. Find a way to prop some sort of rain cover over it so the rain doesn’t dilute the beer (for example, a cover propped up with sticks, so the slugs can still have access.) The slugs will think there is a party in your garden and slide right in. They will drown but hey who doesn’t want to go out with a bang. If you must kill an entire species in your garden, do it nicely, with booze.

Overturned Items

If you surround your vege patch with overturned items like pots, old ice cream containers, Chinese takeaway containers etc you will find that the slugs have crawled under them and have suctioned themselves to the bottom. Then in the morning you can pick them all out and drive them up the mountain. Or if you are already battle-hardened you can mix them with salt and watch their little souls go to heaven.

You could also put an offcut of wood around the garden bed. The slugs will crawl under these during the day to hide before becoming a night-time menace. So just upturn all of the wood offcuts before dark and feed them to the duck in your local pond, they love them!


While the thought of using perfectly good coffee grounds horrifies me, it is in fact a good method of keeping the slugs at bay. However sacrificing your coffee stash for a slug may be a drug too far. Just be careful not to use espresso and not too much coffee because it can cause problems for some plants.


When slugs touch copper, a chemical reaction occurs which is horribly toxic for the slug. The slime creates an electric current and produces a massive electric shock for poor little sluggy. The good news about using copper is that it works whether it is wet or dry, and hot or cold, and little sluggy doesn’t die horribly. He just oozes off to find something else to decimate. The copper has to be at least 2 inches wide to be a full deterrent to Mr Sluggy.

If you take yourself down to a hardware or garden centre, you can even buy it as a tape. Ideally you could prop your plants on a table and wrap the copper tape around the legs of the table. We would like to see Mr Sluggy work out how to get to your lettuces without taking a ride on a bird.

The other way to use copper tape is to make a raised bed for the veges and put the copper tape around the side of the bed. There are some specialised products available in gardening stores, like small fences made from copper that you can erect around your plants. Copper is expensive though so this may not be a viable option if you have a large garden bed.


The first tip many people offer is to not water your garden at night. Slugs love the water and just ski right on into your lettuce bed.

However this tip is hilarious in Ireland; where no one has to water there garden ever, as Mother Nature does it for us all day long. Relentlessly. Incessantly. But if we ever did face a lovely drought, then don’t water your garden at night. Ha ha ha ha ha we don’t know any Irish person EVER who has watered their garden at night. Well, that hasn’t been attacked by badgers trying to eat the slugs anyway.

Get Some Badgers

Badgers happily eat slugs and snails. But they also eat dogfood too. So if you want them to eat your slugs, be sure to not leave Fido’s bowl out for them. But badgers will eventually let you down by digging a big hole in your garden and fumbling around and crushing your lettuce. Okay let’s scrap the badger idea.

And if all else fails, give up and go to the farmers market. You may even get a nice coffee to go with your lettuce. And a cupcake. What lettuce?


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1 Comment

  1. The salt is so brutal. I get why people don’t like slugs, but slugs are much less harmless to us then we are to them. We slaughter 1000 of them and they do nothing to us, and the truth is that slugs, unlike other critters, can suffer. I would use coffee grounds or copper. And maybe you could plant a non-valued gardens for the slugs but you use the main one which is surrounded by copper for yourselves.

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