Gardening: Slugs and Snails – What To Do?

Cary, NC – In our last gardening column, we talked about bugs in your garden but neglected to discuss slugs and snails. So now, take a deep dive with us into the world of gastropoda.

Can They Hurt?

When planting your garden, you may think about what pests are attracted to what plants. But when it comes to slugs, there is not much they will not eat. With snails, they mostly focus on leaves (and snails will even eat other snails, particularly their shells). But still, this means you may not want either.

And slugs and snails come out at night and hide in dark, damp areas so they are harder to get rid off than bugs and birds and mice who may be easier to see.

Can They Help?

Now this question depends on what kind of a garden you are trying to cultivate. Some people go for a natural garden, where wildlife come and go and it is more about seeing flora and fauna intermingle than growing specific plants and flowers.

In that case, snails and slugs are very necessary. While they may eat your plants in that garden, they are also prey for many other animals you might want to see. If you want hedgehogs and birds and such to stop by your little natural garden, you need to have these slimy creatures present.

How to Get Rid of Them

Preventing snails and slugs from getting into your garden is going to be tough, particularly if you do not want to use pesticides. The best thing to do first is to look for any hidden spots all around your garden where these creatures may hide. This could be anything dark such as under a deck or porch, hiding in the dirt, fence posts, etc.

One trick is to lay out a sturdy piece of wood and prop it up about an inch off the ground. You will then find snails and slugs stuck to the underside and you can move them somewhere else or just destroy them if you are so inclined.

Make sure there is not a lot of moisture and shelter around your garden too and you and lure them away with bait. Sprinkle iron phosphate around, as this is not poisonous to your pets or birds out in nature. Some people have also had success with filling a pan up with beer, which attracts snails and slugs to then drown in it.

You can also try drawing a barrier around your garden with broken egg shells, diatomaceous earth or even Vaseline, as these will deter the pests. And if you really want to go all out, introduce garter snakes to your garden, as they love to snack on snails and slugs. Or there is the decollate snail, which will eat other snails but not harm your garden.

Hopefully this will get you on the path to a protected garden. Or if you want a natural garden, you now know what a boon snails and slugs can be.


Story by staff reports. Photos by Andy Powell and Joi ItoGardening content on CaryCitizen is sponsored by Garden Supply Company on Old Apex Road in Cary.

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1 reply
  1. Mary Ann
    Mary Ann says:

    My poor impatiences, rabbit ears, wondering petunias, just about anything are (this year suddenly from no where) are getting devoured by snails, slugs, it seems small brown wolf spiders are getting in on the act also!!! I tried the beer thing they didn’t go near it! I pulled a small Dahlia out of the dirt to which my husband had planted about 3 in. in the dirt where this year a puddle has started forming which is new and in the hole was water coming out of the dirt from the side of the walls of the hole! I even saw this white thing with a triangler shaped head in there- this was at night, I was using a flash light! Oddly enough I saw this worm like thing on the opening page of the aol when you first get on line I just happened to click on it out of curiosity-I then maybe 2 days later saw this thing in my groiund!! It had been raining for what seemed to be 3 days here-but now this is on DRY dirt!!! HELP!! I never in the past ever had such a bad time with my plants. I put salt in the 2 holes where I pulled out the Dahlias. Please wriite back with a suggestive helping response soon. God Bless & Thank you.

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