How to Get Rid of Slugs in the Garden

Protect Plants With Natural and Homemade Slug Control Methods

How to Control Slugs in the Garden

The Spruce / Joules Garcia

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $15

Slugs in the garden hide under leaves in moist pockets and will eat almost anything they come into contact with. Garden slugs are especially damaging to vegetable and berry crops because they eat both the leaves and the fruit. Plus, damage can happen before you even know there's an infestation, though chewed leaves and slimy trails are telltale signs. To rid a garden of these pesky critters, some gardeners turn to homemade solutions while others use commercial treatments for more serious infestations.

Garden Damage Caused by Slugs

Here are the signs to look for that will let you know you have slug damage. As soon as you've identified slugs in your garden, start treatment.

  • Look for holes and ragged, irregular edges on your plants' leaves.
  • Check for bites taken out of fruit.
  • Examine plants and surrounding soil for a slimy secretion.
  • Watch for little white eggs in the ground.

Slug Habits and Biology

Slugs in the garden can be treated at any time during the growing season, but it can be hard to know when they're present. They camouflage against the brown soil and hide out in damp, dark places during the day. 

Mating season for slugs usually takes place from mid autumn to mid winter when the soil and compost are cool and moist after hot, dry summer weather. Two to four weeks after mating, and well into late winter, the slugs lay spherical pearl-white eggs in the damp soil. The slugs will hatch in the springtime.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Gardening gloves
  • Spray bottle
  • Granular garden spreader
  • Dust mask
  • Pruners
  • Drip irrigation system (Optional)


  • Salt (optional)
  • Water (optional)
  • Bottle of beer (optional)
  • Diatomaceous earth (optional)
  • Organic commercial slug bait (optional)
  • Copper wire, mesh, ribbon, or tubing (optional)
  • Slug-resistant plants (optional)
  • Citrus leaves or rinds (optional)
  • Cabbage leaves (optional)
  • Newspaper (optional)
  • Wood (optional)
  • Flowerpot (optional)
  • Ivy (optional)


Materials and tools to control slugs in the garden

The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

How to Get Rid of Slugs in the Garden

  1. Dehydrate Slugs With Salt

    Home gardeners try all sorts of unusual remedies to rid their gardens of slugs. But this salt method often works the best.

    • Mix a strong solution of salt and water in a spray bottle. You don't have to be precise about measuring the salt, as long as it's still discernible in the water.
    • Spray the slugs at nightfall. The salt solution will dehydrate the slugs within hours.
    • Come morning, wash any residual salt spray from your plants to prevent damage.
    Diatomaceous earth pellets poured into garden to prevent slugs

    The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

  2. Trap Slugs With Beer

    Some gardeners also use a bottle (or more) of beer to attract slugs. This functions as a homemade trap and takes a few days to work.

    • Open the beer, and drink or pour out most of the contents. Leave just enough so you can lay the bottles on their side and beer won't spill out.
    • Place the bottles around your garden during the day. Lay each bottle on its side, pressing it into the ground so the opening lies flush with the ground. At nightfall, slugs should start entering the bottles and they will drown.
    • Leave the bottles in place for several nights.
    • When the bottles are full, remove, empty, and recycle them.
    • Repeat if necessary.
    Brown beer bottle pouring beer in garden to prevent slugs

    The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

  3. Control Slugs With Diatomaceous Earth

    Diatomaceous earth is made of the fossilized remains (silica) of small aquatic organisms called diatoms. Critters ingest the silica, causing them to dry up from the inside, but it is safe for humans and pets. Here's what to do:

    • Check the weather, and wait for a dry day to treat your garden. Make sure there's no rain in the forecast for at least 24 hours.
    • Wear a mask and gardening gloves.
    • Sprinkle the diatomaceous earth in various spots.
    • Do not sprinkle it on plant leaves.
    • Wait several days for the slugs to ingest the diatomaceous earth.
    • Repeat if necessary.
    Brown slug with shell near white diatomaceous earth powder on garden soil

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  4. Bait Slugs With Organic Products

    Commercial slug control products should be used only for major infestations. Some traditional formulas can be extremely toxic to pets (and humans). Organic products are typically safer to use.

    • Purchase organic slug bait at your local garden center. Many products are made of iron phosphate, which is toxic to slugs but much less dangerous for humans and pets.
    • Treat your garden on a dry day for the best results.
    • Around dusk, put on your gardening gloves, and fill your garden spreader with the granules. Follow the product's instructions to determine the right amount for the area you're treating.
    • Slugs will consume the product at night when they go underground and will shortly die.
    Organic slug bait pellets poured into red garden spreader

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  5. Discourage Slugs With Landscaping

    • Divide, thin out, and space plants adequately for better air circulation that will help keep the soil dry enough to dissuade slugs.
    • Prune lower leaves and branches to allow more light into the plant and soil.
    • Plant slug-resistant plants, such as ferns, peonies, and lamb's ears, though there's a long list of annuals, perennials, and ornamental grasses to consider for shade and partial shade gardens.
    • Focus on landscaping with trees and shrubs, which slugs tend to leave alone.
    • Grow a drought-tolerant garden that thrives in drier soil to minimize the need to water and to maintain moist soil.


    Slugs love to nibble on seedlings and young plants, so watch even resistant plants for signs of slugs until the plants are established.

    'Red Charm' peony bushes with large red blossoms and buds

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

  6. Water in the Morning

    • Water your garden in the morning. That way the soil will have time to dry before the slugs are active in the evening. Slugs can travel through moist soil, but dry soil makes it tougher for the pest.
    • Water the roots. Do not water from overhead to avoid moistening leaves, flowers, and fruits.
    Garden hose spraying water over garden plants to rise salt solution

    The Spruce / Almar Creative

  7. Use Drip Irrigation

    Drip irrigation is a good way to discourage slugs. This type of system slowly drips water only at the soil line and keeps foliage dry. A spraying type of sprinkler will encourage more moistness and humidity and attract slugs.

    Closeup of a DIY irrigation system in a flower bed

    The Spruce / Jayme Burrows

  8. Introduce Natural Slug Predators

    Use birds and animals to naturally control slugs. For example, backyard chicken farmers can let their birds roam free to eat slugs and other pests that accumulate in the garden. You can even train your chickens to eat slugs by tossing some inside their run.

    Here are other slug-controlling critters:

    • Beetles
    • Fireflies
    • Toads
    • Turtles
    • Birds
    • Chipmunks
    chipmunk in a garden

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

  9. Draw Slugs to Other Areas

    For a humane way to eliminate slugs, lure them away from your plants with items they prefer. Here are a few ideas:

    • Put old citrus plant leaves or moistened citrus rinds in areas further from your plants to draw them away. For example, scoop out a half of grapefruit, turn it upside down, and place it away from your garden.
    • Place cabbage leaves in areas further away from your plants to attract slugs.
    • Damp newspapers placed far from your plants and in the shade will also attract slugs.
    • Provide spots for slugs to rest away from your garden such as an overturned flowerpot or piece of wood placed in a shady area.
    • Plant ivy in a shady spot far from your garden to draw slugs away from your plants.
    english ivy

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  10. Build a Copper Barrier

    Add copper wire, mesh, ribbon, or tubing as an effective way to combat slugs. The copper reacts with the bug's slime and delivers an electric charge to the creatures making it so they can't climb over the barriers. Here are areas to place copper:

    • Around planters and pots
    • In perennial beds


    If you have old pennies that date pre-1980s, they have plenty of copper in them. Place them around your garden or glue them onto pot rims.

    Tips for Controlling Garden Slugs

    • Turn mulch: Be sure to consistently turn over your mulch all year long to expose slugs and eggs.
    • Watch pesticide use: Be sure to avoid using chemical pesticides that kill the eggs of beneficial slug predators like fireflies. 
    • Try other barriers: Slugs don't like crawling over sharp items like crushed eggshells. They also dislike coffee grounds and wood ash sprinkled near plants.
    copper wire
    Andrés Aparicio / Getty Images
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Slugs in Home Gardens. University of Minnesota.

  2. Control slugs now as they lay eggs to hatch in the spring. Oregon State University.

  3. Slugs in home gardens. University of Minnesota.

  4. Slugs in home gardens. University of Minnesota.

  5. Slugs in Home Gardens. University of Minnesota.

  6. Keep Copper Pennies? American Numismatic Association.